Juliane Kaestner“Poor Knights”* and “Be ready – Always ready”** 

My name is Juliane Kaestner. I was born in the summer of 1973 in Dresden. I come from a family of impoverished nobility and of entrepreneurs, divided into a camp of convinced communists and a camp 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 fate with: “This villa or this factory once belonged to our family.” We were expropriated.

Childhood and Art

Dresden is a city of arts and my parents made sure they became my second nature. Already as a four-year-old, I benefitted from art galleries, concerts, operas, ballet and theater performances.

The German Democratic Republic has been fostering talents and so at first 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 young at this time, I was affiliated to the preparatory class.  In further medical examinations, however, it turned out that my pelvic bones are not appropriate for the profession of a dancer. I have been dancing classical ballet for a total of ten years, most recently at the Palace of Culture in Dresden. Since I was not challenged at this ensemble, my parents sent me to a school of music. And at this school it appeared relatively quick, that I could not read music at all, but that I had been playing by ear all those years before. At the same time, my talent for drawing has been discovered and fostered. I enjoyed the creative work until we were asked to design propaganda posters.

Marx and Engels: Contrued and Implemented into Real Life

My parents taught me to form an opinion by myself, 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 several times and admonished to raise his child in the spirit of socialism.

For various reasons, my parents finally made the application for our emigration to the Federal Republic of Germany and the following three years, we had an intense relationship with the Ministry of State Security. As a 14-year-old, two ministry officials accompanied me as soon as I left the house.

We were merely able to speak freely when going outside and taking a walk, in our apartment we were tapped. Our letters were opened and read. Neighbours and some distant family members were working as informal collaborators for the ministry. Inconceivable, severe events and times followed.

In December 1988, we finally received the permission to leave the country for the Federal Republic of Germany, with a suitcase in hand and the status of political refugees. Less than a year later, the Berlin Wall fell, in the midst of our preparations for moving to Switzerland, where my father’s career took us.

My family was now a veritable specialist in emigration. We lived in three countries within a year. In Switzerland, in December 1989, we started all over again to re-build our lives and I visited the fourth educational institution within twelve months.

Storms and Stress Period

At the Kantonsschule Solothurn I attended the Business High School. To create a balance to the purely patriarchal world of student fraternities, we founded the women’s fraternity Adrasteia Solodorensis. I was baptized in one of the fountains in Solothurn’s old town on the name of “Athena”, the goddess of the arts and wisdom.

I studied business administration at the University of St. Gallen. To finance my studies, I worked as a scientific assistant at one of the institutes of the university. The Gambrinus was a jazz club in St. Gallen and my second home. As a service employee and regular guest I dived into the world of jazz.

Career and Volunteer Work

My professional life began in 1999 as a project manager, followed by activities in strategic and operational management. I was responsible for the profit / loss of my organization, the coaching of the employees entrusted to me, the governance of the project business and customer care, partner management, marketing, pre-sales and financial management, the continuous development of the units or the introduction of new management models company-wide. Together with my team I achieved the Swiss market leadership by delegating responsibility and working based on agile principles.

In my roles as Head of Project Management, I took over projects in crisis, introduced PM systems and communities of practice cross-national, or coached project managers and managers in 13 locations. As transformation manager, I supported companies on their way to digital transformation and continued my long-term commitment to intensively deal with alternative management and leadership philosophies, but also in general with the development of technologies and of our society.

Again and again I dedicated myself freely to the protection of animals, but above all to people of different ages and backgrounds. I participated in a whale research project in southern France. As a mentor and coach, I advised young women with a migration background in their career choices and prepared them for the working world.

During my sabbatical, I lived in Nepal for three months and in the Seychelles for three months. In Pharping, Nepal, I taught novices and monks in a Tibetan monastery in English and natural sciences. I coached the supervisor of the monastery in leadership and introduced a structure to promote hygiene and health. On the archipelago in the Indian Ocean I worked in a research and conservation project in a protected marine reserve. We dived several times a day to study the recovery of hard coral and reef fauna and provided the results to the government.

Back in Switzerland, I founded the non-profit organization LIGHTEN THE WAY, which was based on new models of cooperative and self-determined development aid. For this I completed the further training “Foreign Affairs and Applied Diplomacy”.

Today I am an independent entrepreneur.

Blogger and Artist

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 and to my experiences, I deal with development topics from politics and society as a blogger and an artist.

* Translated directly, but also meaning a dish similar to french toast

** Translated salute of Ernst Thälmann Pioneers