The career path of a contemporary eclectic
by Elizabeth Willoughby
When Philipp Krüger received his law degree from LMU, he had no idea it would take him to a UN peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, to producing documentaries, and to collaborating with top global thinkers in American administrations. "One thing just led to another."
LMU-Alumnus Philipp Krüger, chief executive officer of explorist Inc., operates his software start-up from New York's "Silicon Alley". Mixing and mingling where the ICT action is, in the thick of Manhattan's melting pot, his company provides a platform to create, share and manage projects from mobile devices, but pigeonholing him solely as a "techie" would be a mistake.
With Philipp's interests in so many things, he simply followed them and entered the doors that opened. His first opportunity was provided by LMU's Professor Bruno Simma, an inspiration and mentor to Philipp and a judge at the International Court of Justice for nine years, who recommended Philipp for an internship at the UN in New York.
Soon after the internship began, the desk officer for the UN mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) had an opening for a legal counselor. This led Philipp up to the 37th floor, one below Secretary General Kofi Annan, to give advice on actually occurring problems.
"I always thought that the UN cafeteria was a miniature image of the post WWII world, with people from all nations, cultures, beliefs and professions interacting, collaborating, negotiating and patiently waiting in line for their lunch."
Working for UNAMSIL meant coordinating military and civil activities including legal assignments and political and field office missions. Philipp worked on policy development and implementation in areas such as smart sanctions to deal with blood diamonds and disarming rebels without using force.
"The best incentive is if there are real local jobs that pay," he says, "and to create a new identity for these young men that so far have identified themselves only as fighters. The root cause of armed conflict is often high unemployment and/or social inequality paired with corrupt leaders that exploit ideological tensions." For Philipp, this experience fundamentally changed his understanding of foreign affairs. "Theory is one thing. The realities on the ground are another."
While in Sierra Leone, Philipp was approached by a journalist and agreed to write a piece on the illicit diamond trade in Africa for Der Spiegel, one of Germany's leading weekly news magazines. This opened a door to the world of media for Philipp – from writing for print media to producing television documentaries. But international affairs was still on his mind.
"I felt like a kid in a candy store."
Deciding to get more background information to apply to his UN practical experience, Philipp enrolled in economic and international affairs theory at Harvard University's Kennedy School, and two exciting years spent with inspiring personalities followed. From Karl Kaiser he learned that in foreign affairs perception is as important as fact; Joe Nye demanded personal opinion and the defense of it; and Larry Summers explained to him macroeconomics so that it actually made sense.
At the same time, Philipp participated in a disruptive innovation MIT Media Lab in which he tested a cloud where people can collaborate on projects – the digitization of the workplace being the natural progression after digitizing content (think Google and online magazines) and shopping (i.e. Amazon and eBay). Along with a Sloan School of Management G-Lab, which focused on emerging markets and strategies for companies to go global, these led naturally into his next venture – the founding of explorist Inc., a platform to create, share and manage projects from mobile devices.
Grateful for the advice acquired from so many great minds, Philipp felt compelled to give something back. He joined New York's Big Brothers Big Sisters, where adults mentor children facing adversity. Their influence will hopefully change children's lives and futures for the better.
Philipp shares his professional expertise as well, by way of his involvement with the "German New York technology accelerator program". GNYA aims to create German global leaders in technology by exposing them to the US market. One of the firms GNYA brought over just won the New York Next Big Idea competition. It had previously been sponsored by LMU's EXIST program designed by Professor Dietmar Harhoff, who's work on entrepreneurship at LMU is something Philipp greatly admires. Philipp also remains connected with LMU through its alumni programs, German University Alliance events and "German Center for Research and Innovation" conferences that showcase scientists from LMU.
From peacekeeping to media to technology, the common thread throughout Philipp's career is in connecting and empowering people, an approach to life which often leads him to reflect on his former mentor and ponder, "What would Professor Simma do?"
Originally published at insightLMU, September 2013
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