25-year-old Anis Hussein Alaji moved from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to London and then Denmark, pursuing a Master's degree at Roskilde University. He is now settled in Copenhagen, working as a postgraduate at Danfoss.
Anis Hussein Alaji was a part of the Young Professionals in Denmark (YPD) program in 2016-2017. YPD is a career development programme, led by Copenhagen Capacity, for international students to gain skills and knowledge on how to successfully land a full-time job after graduation and to meet and interact with Danish-based companies looking for international talent.
Last summer, Anis graduated from his master program at Roskilde University and shortly after that he started the Postgraduate program at Danfoss, a Danish engineering and technology company employing more than 28.000 people.
Tell us a little about your background
"I'm from the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. At the age of 19, I moved to London to pursue a Bachelor's degree at University of Gloucestershire at their London Campus. After graduating from the bachelor I still felt a sense of adventure and researched options around Europe, and I found Roskilde University where I last year graduated with a Master's degree in Economics and Business Administration. Now, I'm a postgraduate at Danfoss here in Copenhagen."
Why did you choose to come to Denmark?
"Mainly because of my studies, but also, during my years in London I got to know some Danes and when they were going back after the graduation, they convinced me that Denmark would suit me as well. "
What do you think about Copenhagen and Denmark?
"Copenhagen is a very interesting city. It's of course not a metropolitan city like London but still fast-paced and dynamic. I love the festival culture in Denmark and Roskilde Festival is really the highlight of the year for me. Perhaps in contrast to many people, I actually like Jylland and Fyn because of all the small and charming cities such as Aarhus, Silkeborg, and Svendborg."
How did you find the process of adapting to Denmark?
"It was harder to adapt to Copenhagen than to London. In Denmark, people do speak English quite well but in social gatherings, Danish will still prevail. When I arrived four years ago, the Danish courses was still given for free, which was nice, but it takes a lot of effort from yourself to breakthrough friendship circles. With that said, it was easier adapting to London because I had friends from Ethiopia."
So, how's your Danish?
"Not fluent haha, but I'm not horrible, I can have small talks and conversations here and there."
Is there something you wish you knew before coming to Denmark?
"I would say that that is how Denmark sometimes is advertised in the wrong way. Since Danes know English well, you get the impression that English will be mostly used, but that is not the case. Even though workplaces have English as the main language, Danish will still be used in social gatherings and that is something I wish I would have been aware of before."
How did you first get in contact with the YPD program and why did you apply?
"I first came across it at Roskilde University where it was advertised. I looked it up and reached out to some people and then I decided to apply! I decided to apply because I wanted to figure out ways of how I could break through here in Denmark and find positions that could bring value to my CV, both student positions and internships."
What has the YPD program given to you?
"It has been a great experience, it has increased my network extensively both with internationals and Danes. It has also provided me with great exposure to companies present at Copenhagen Capacity's events. The connections might not have led straight to a position but by meeting companies you will gain an understanding of what they are looking for and you can further align your application to that."
Would you recommend it to other international talents?
"Oh yes, definitely! Unless your dead-settled to leave Denmark, which I wouldn't recommend, then you should apply, because it is a very valuable experience."
What is your role and your main responsibilities at Danfoss?
"I'm a postgraduate, which means that I work in Danfoss full-time for 2 years on a project basis. I've been working here eight months now and I'm currently on my 2nd project. As a postgraduate, I have a lot of opportunities to explore the various Danfoss segments and business units. Danfoss values us and invests a lot of money so that we go through steep learnings and eventually assume managerial roles. It's a lot of expectation and responsibility which is quite a thrilling challenge for us. Currently, I'm working for Danfoss Power Solutions as a Postgraduate in Strategy and Business Development. We are developing the Asia-Pacific regional (APR) strategy. In this project, my responsibilities are in the work stream of customer research and organisation capabilities that enable us to reach our growth expectation for APR."
How is it working at Danfoss?
"It's going great! As a graduate, Danfoss really focuses on our exposure to senior management. The management wants a fresh perspective and that enables me to question conventional practices and I'm able to bring forward my own ideas. At Danfoss, you are not just disregarded as a graduate. You are expected to speak your mind, explore opportunities, and focus on learnings along the way. You get more responsibility as a graduate than a lot of other employees here."
How was the recruitment process?
"It was tricky, as the recruitment process for a lot of graduate programs are. I got help from Djøf, a union representing members who study or work within a lot of different areas, such as law, economics and strategy. I could really recommend taking advantage of their service, giving you feedback and guiding you through how to write an application that fits the position you want to apply for."
Why would you say that it is important for companies to acknowledge the value of international talents? And not only hire Danes?
"It's a no brainer! If you want to go beyond being a local Danish company and expand into the global market, you will need international talent. International talents that also have been educated at Danish Universities have much more leverage because they have experience of the Danish system - from school and also from the normal day to day life."
"I have a little more than one year in the graduate program, after that, I will sit down with the managers at Danfoss and try to see where in the company I would fit the best and where I could contribute the most. Danfoss has a retention rate of 95% for the graduates and I really hope to stay here in Denmark. I know people are complaining about the weather here, but I have really enjoyed it so far. It would be very convenient for me to stay here after finishing the graduate program. "
Would you encourage other international talents to come to Denmark for studies and work?
"Yes, definitely. For studies, it's a great option. Initially, you may think that Denmark might not have that many international people studying here, but it does. For example, there is the Erasmus program and at Roskilde, I met people from all around the world. Also, Scandinavia is quite different compared to other countries around the world, so it could be interesting for international talents coming here. For work, you will find a lot of interesting work areas that are quite unique for Denmark, as well you have a lot of international companies here like Novo Nordisk, Maersk and Danfoss of course. Additionally, the Danish startup environment is very present, just look at CSE - Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurs!"
We all know it's hard finding a job here in Denmark as an international, is there something you would like to say to inspire international talents to keep pushing for a job here?
"Yes, it is definitely hard! At the end of the day, it comes down to your ability to be patient and persistent. You can do 99 applications that won't go through, but that 100th could give you the opportunity. It will never be a straight set out plan, but it's up to your ability to keep pushing until you open that one door. You must understand that every door that is closed is an opportunity for another door to open. That happened to me, I encountered many closed doors, but when the door finally opened at Danfoss, I knew that my patience paid off. It's never going to be easy, but at the end of the day it will work out one way or the other."