“Saving the World with Tech”: Interview with Dr. Julia Freudenberg

Dr. Julia Freudenberg, an accomplished business executive, is recognized for her commitment to digital education. Since 2017, she is leading Hacker School as CEO. Appointed to the “Young Digital Economy” advisory board in 2020 by the Federal Ministry of Economics, Julia guides discussions on digital transformation. A vocal advocate for young tech enthusiasts and female empowerment, she directs Hacker School’s mission to make IT accessible to youth through engaging methods. Collaborating with industry, schools, and policymakers, Hacker School aims to educate one million children by 2030, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

How did you join Hacker School?

I first crossed paths with the founders of Hacker School as they were on the brink of securing funding from the Hamburger Integration Fund. Given my background in volunteering with refugees, I couldn’t help but share my insights, particularly with Andreas Ollmann. I pointed out that the initial plan he had in mind wouldn’t quite hit the mark. It was a bit audacious on my part, but the very next morning, Andreas gave me a call, proposing that I take the reins myself. In a laid-back environment, the founders and I found common ground and decided that joining forces to make a positive impact on the world, or as we saw it, to save the world, was the way forward.

You’ve won a lot of prizes recently – congratulations! Which prize made you the happiest? 

Each award holds significant value for us, enhancing our visibility. Personally, I take immense pride in winning the Future Pioneers Award in the Future Technology category from WELT and Business Insider. Winning the award for technology as Social Ed Tech – “das war mal geil”! The WIN (Womens IT Network) Award last week was amazing too: to be voted CxO Woman of the Year in IT by the readers is really cool.

Is Germany a country for female founders? What is going well and what is still needed?

Undoubtedly, there’s an extra mile to tread when it comes to boosting female participation in the economy. The underrepresentation of female founders highlights the need for additional efforts. From my perspective, cultivating Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills proves instrumental in truly shattering the glass ceiling.

What are the advantages of being a female founder?

Certainly, navigating the entrepreneurial landscape as a woman poses unique challenges, but it’s wise to leverage the cards you’re dealt. I find strength in combining diverse qualities, being a female CEO: hands-on, cheeky and holding a Ph.D. It’s a dynamic blend that I consider quite cool. In my view, every aspect brings its own set of advantages. I see it as a significant advantage as a female CEO to be able to express my unique qualities in different areas.

What digital skills do founders need today?  

In today’s landscape, founders benefit from a broad spectrum of digital skills. The more, the better. A solid grasp of data literacy is crucial. Having proficient knowledge of data literacy, effortlessly interpreting key information, and efficiently integrating artificial intelligence (AI) for process optimization are absolutely crucial skills. Therefore, possessing a well-rounded skill set in digital proficiency and data literacy is an absolute necessity for launching a successful company.

We think you are a great role model in the tech startup scene. Do you have a role model as well? 

Certainly, I do have role models, and one notable figure is Claudia Plattner, the president of the BSI (Federal Office for Information Security). She serves as a significant inspiration to me, embodying bravery and determination to make a positive impact in Europe and fortify Germany in terms of cyber defense strategy. Claudia fearlessly explores different areas and stands up for what’s necessary. As I continue to mature in my journey, I aspire to emulate her admirable qualities.