My name is Juliane Kästner. I was born in the summer of 1973 in Dresden. To answer the first and most frequently asked question right away: No, I do not know, if I am related to Erich Kästner by birth.
„Poor Knights“ and „Be Ready – Always Ready!“
I come from a family of impoverished aristocracy and of entrepreneurs, divided into two ideological camps of convinced communists and of “evil capitalists”. These two camps naturally led to interesting encounters, tensions, and intense discussions within the extended family.
I often spent my summer holidays with my grandparents and when driving around the different places of the region, the two of them commented their destiny with “This villa… or this factory… or …. once were in the possession of our family.” We were dispossessed.
My Childhood Between Arts and „Little Rascal“
Dresden is a city of arts and my parents made sure they became our second nature. I still remember very well all the numerous classical concerts, operas, ballets, theatre plays, and operettas.
The German Democratic Republic promoted sportive talents and so I was cast for the classical ballet. I passed the examination at the famous Palucca University of Dance and due to the fact that I was still quite very young at this time, I was affiliated to the preparatory class. But at the medical checkups it turned out, that my pelvis is not suited for the profession of a dancer. Altogether, I was dancing classical ballet for ten years, lastly at the Palace of Culture in Dresden. Since I felt unchallenged at this ensemble, my parents decided to sent me to a school of music. And at this school it came to light relatively quickly, that I had not been able to read music at all, but that I had been playing by ear all the time.
From the arts to the little rascal. My grandparents were not only important persons of trust in my life, but also taught me all kinds of useful things. So I learnt how to read before I entered school – in old German lettering, for instance. I experienced many adventures with my grandfather, but was not allowed to tell about my grandmother about it … not too many details. As one of the most important person in my life, my grandfather also taught me four important things: to have courage, to use imagination, to be humorous also in difficult situations and to take risks, if necessary. So their was no reason to cry over my bloody knee as a result of being caught nibbling from neighbors cherry tree and of the immediate need to escape – fast and undetected.
Marx and Engels: Interpreted and Translated into Reality
My parents taught me to form my own opinion, to think independently. Despite of the fact, that both of them were constantly put under pressure, refusing to enter the party. I observed the life around me, formed my own opinion and expressed it. My father was summoned to the school director and admonished to raise his children in the socialist way.
Due to different reasons, my parents finally made the application for an exit visa and for our emigration to the Federal Republic of Germany. My family was under special supervision by the Ministry of State Security (Stasi) the following three years. At the age of 14, two officers of the ministry were permanently following me. I had to learn to escape them to be able to apply for an international call in one of the specially provided phone cabins at the main train station of Dresden and to inform my aunt in Munich on the current situation of my family.
As I was joining a peaceful protest at the Church of the Cross in February 1988 with my parents (which took place under the pretext of the memorial of the bombardment of Dresden at 13th February, 1945), the protesting people were infiltrated by officers of the Stasi. We slowly walked over to the ruins of the Dresdner Frauenkirche, carrying candles in our hands. To make sure that at least one parent would return to the family, we separated. My mother and I went home using public transport, my father took the car.
We were merely able to speak openly when going outside and taking a walk, at home we have been intercepted. Our letters to and from Munich have been opened and read. Some neighbors and remote family members have been acting as informal collaborators. Unimaginable, difficult events followed.
We received the permission to leave the country in December 1988 towards Munich, each of us with a suitcase and the status of a political refugee.
Less than a year later Berlin’s wall came down, in the midst of our preparations moving to Switzerland, where my father’s professional path lead us to.
Switzerland – Chosen Homeland & Refuge for Artists and Revolutionaries
In the meantime, my family was specialized in emigrating. We used to live in three different countries within one years time. In Switzerland we now started to re-build our lives in December 1989. Since we had moved in the midst of the school year, I still finished one semester at the advanced school (“Bezirksschule”) in Grenchen, the forth educational institute within 12 months for me.
At the beginning I had some difficulties understanding Swiss German. In the math lesson, an equation with one unknown was written on the board. The teacher was asking something I just could not understand. So I thought: “All right, then.” I solved the equation in my head, raised my hand and said: “x=7”. The entire school class burst into laughter. My classmates told me after the lesson, that the question of the teacher referred to the first step solving the equation. My classmates used to practice unyieldingly with me and so I understood each word after six month from one moment to the other.
My Storm and Stress Period
At Solothurn I joined the commercial high school. To create a balance to the pure patriarchic world of student associations, we founded the women student association Adrasteia Solodorensis. I was baptized in one of the fountains in the old city centre of Solothurn on the name “Athene”, goddess of arts and wisdom, symbolically accompanied by an owl. The for-men-only student associations enthusiastically invited us to their numerous events (“Chränsli’s”).
To supplement my pocket money, I used to work in a pub even now or then or I assembled electronic cabinets during my holidays . I soldered, laid and connected cables. To finance my Interrail holidays, I worked in a care home for the elderly. I accompanied a men on his journey through dying. He told me, that he had been working hard all of his life, that he therefore had almost no time for his wife and children, that their lives just passed by – little shared by him. And that he deeply regrets all of this. Most of all, not to have lived a fulfilling life. I was very grateful, that this men shared his thoughts and feelings with me. As a young person I got the impetus to stand back from time to time and to question: Am I still on the right path in life?
I studied business administration at the University of St. Gallen. And I belonged to the group of students who had several jobs in parallel to finance the studies. So I was working as scientific assistant and intern at the Institute of Media and Communications Management. I corrected the 310-page doctoral thesis of my boss, worked in a research project, financed by the Swiss National Funds, and made my first experiences in management consultancy… next to uncountable hours at the copying machine, copying books for my PhD candidate. No one seemed to make a full cost pricing, comparing it with the purchase price of the particular book.
Gambrinus was a jazz club in St. Gallen and my second home. As waitress and as regular guest I was enjoying endless concerts, given by the owners of the club who were touring around the world for decades or by a band of the local jazz school (whose trumpeter always was red in his face when getting sight of me), but also by international stars of jazz such as Kevin Mahogany.
My Professional Path
My professional life started 1999 as a project manager, followed by functions in the strategic and operational management in the IT and financial services industry as well as in energy/industry.
I was responsible for profit and loss of my organizations, for coaching and the further development of my directs, for the governance of the project business and for customer care, for the partner management, for communications, marketing, pre-sales, finance management, for the continuous improvement of the units or company-wide with the implementation of a new management system. Together with my team I achieved the market leadership in Switzerland and increased the productivity of the profit center by empowering my directs and by working based on agile practices.
As Head of Project Management in two successive companies I for instance managed projects in crises, implemented cross-national project management systems, project portfolio management and communities of practice, or I was coaching project managers and functional managers in 13 locations. Concurrently I was acting as expert examiner in information engineering at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.
In the recent past I supported companies on their journey in the digital change as Transformation Manager and continued my longtime intense engagement to deal with alternative management and leadership philosophies but also with the development of the technologies and our society.
My Avocational Engagement
Over the last few years I was committing myself consistently to the protection of animals, but particularly for human beings of different age and background in Switzerland and abroad. I participated in a research project for whales in Southern France. As a mentor and coach I supported young women with migration background in their career choice, prepared them for the business world and supported them in the search of an apprenticeship place and in the application process.
During my sabbatical I was living for three months in Nepal and for three months at the Seychelles.
In Pharping, Nepal, I was teaching novices and monks of a Tibetan monastery in English language and in sciences. I was coaching the supervisor of the monastery in leadership, implemented a structure to enhance hygiene and health as well as a medical care for the novices and monks in co-operation with the local hospital.
On the island groups in the Indian Ocean I was working in a research and nature conservation project in protected marine reserves. We carried out dives several times a day to survey the recovery of hard corals and the reef fauna and provided the government of the Seychelles with the research results.
Back in Switzerland, I founded the Non-Profit-Organization LIGHTEN THE WAY and acted as president and member of the managing board for several years. The NPO was based on a new model of a cooperative, self-determined development aid. In 2013, I therefore completed the CAS “Foreign Affairs and Applied Diplomacy”, an education, provided to the public outside the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs for the first time in Switzerland.
I have been living in a dictatorial and a democratic state, in a developing and in a developed country, in various cultures with different norms and values.
Due to my personal and professional background as well as to my experience, I deal as a blogger with dogmas and beliefs.