From Berlin to Brussels on a humanitarian mission

Tim Gillmair has a word of advice for Hertie School graduates. “I really encourage others not to be too demanding if things don’t work out straight away, but just to keep looking,” he says. “It is very important to enjoy the moment.”

A native of Bonn, Tim acquired his Master of Public Policy in 2015. He spent a summer looking for jobs while working as a waiter in a Berlin restaurant serving Black Forest German cuisine. It was, he says, a great time, although his future was uncertain and the friends he had made at the Hertie School were leaving the city. “There was a bit of a void -- that puts you into a melancholic frame of mind,” he says.

“I was looking for a job in Berlin because I really liked it,” he says. “It is good to have some kind of vision, but it doesn’t have to be the only way to go.”

Fate took Tim to Brussels instead. On his second application attempt, he landed a traineeship at the European Commission and has been in the Belgian capital since March 2016. His traineeship was at the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, where his unit organised a conference for young Europeans from EU member states and the Western Balkans.

He is currently an external consultant for the European Union’s Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection. Since August 2016, Tim has assisted the international relations and policy coordination team. His team is engaged in follow-up work on the World Humanitarian Summit, convened in Istanbul in May 2016 by the United Nations to also tackle new challenges related to the refugee crisis. The EU has pledged 100 commitments to make humanitarian assistance more effective and humanitarian work less dangerous.

Tim and his team have been assessing how the European Union is faring on fulfilling the various pledges it made at the Summit. The EU has just recently uploaded its self-reports on progress to a UN platform that can be accessed via www.agendaforhumanity.org.

Humanitarian aid is an area that Tim would like to stay in. “I am fascinated by the topic,” he says. “As a possible professional evolution, I could imagine going in depth into one region to understand how humanitarian crises are approached. I am still at the beginning of my professional life and have a great deal to learn.”

He is currently on a limited contract filling in for someone on maternity leave, but envisages staying in Brussels, a city he has grown to love – more than he expected when he first moved there.

“I enjoy the European feel and meeting people from different member states,” he says. “It can be difficult to get to know actual Belgians, but I am sharing a flat with a Belgian and that is for me a nice balance, it helps to understand that there is more to Brussels than the EU.”

Tim’s languages – English, German, French and Spanish – have proven a major asset in his Brussels life. “French is really important,” he says. “Not so much for official work, but for the networking. There are French native-speakers in my unit and it is nice to be a part of the conversations that happen in the workplace, especially when you are new.”

He has slight regrets about not taking the development course at the Hertie School because it would have been useful for his current work, “but you cannot foresee everything,” he says. His masters was in general good preparation for working in EU institutions, he believes. “I hadn’t worked in the public sphere before,” he says. “The classes at Hertie prepared me to develop a mindset to work in a big bureaucracy.”

The international community at the school also broadened his mind beyond Germany – valuable for his new European environment. “You learn that not everyone has the same approach, and that variety is very enriching. I really enjoy working together with colleagues from all over Europe .”