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The Workplace is Flat

When Hannes began working in Denmark, one big surprise was the lack of hierarchy in the Danish work culture that creates unique opportunities for people, especially early in their career, he says

Hannes Koopman(Germany)

Before: PhD at Leibniz Universität Hannover and Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe, Hannover, Germany
Now: Geoscientist at Engineering Consultancy COWI, Vejle, Denmark

Being a geologist, Hannes wasn’t too surprised by the Danish landscape: Kilometre after kilometre of open fields. Sand dunes. Beaches. And, with an average elevation of just 31 meters above sea level, the countryside is flat.

Very flat.

What he didn’t expect was the other kind of flatness in Denmark; the flat management structure so characteristic of many of the country’s workplaces.
"If I had stayed in my research position in Germany, the road to a professorship would have been long, but in essence the only career goal ahead. In my current job, though, the next step seems much closer," he says. "I think that is because of the non-hierarchical approach here in Denmark. My department leader is in her early thirties and in spite of her age already has a team of 20 people. That would be nearly impossible in Germany, where leadership positions typically require many years of experience."

Hannes, who is a geo-scientist, works today at COWI, a large engineering consultancy, where he works on international projects with an English speaking team. He says even the process of finding his current job demonstrated how flat and open the work culture in Denmark can be.

"When I started looking for jobs at larger companies it seemed overwhelming at first, because how do you get in touch with big companies and find your way to the right people ?" he says. With some perseverance, however, Hannes discovered it was possible to call companies and ask to be put intouch with the right person.

Hannes and his wife, Nina, own a piece of the flat landscape, too. The couple bought a country home near Billund, right in the middle of the Jutland peninsula, close to where Nina works as an industrial designer at toy-maker LEGO and a half-hours drive from Hannes’ office in Vejle.

"Even though we live in the countryside, we feel it is still close to the rest of the world. Because of the number of internationals working at LEGO, we have made friends from all over there were 20 nationalities represented at a party we held recently! A Danish couple who are one of our neighbours have even become “re-serve” grandparents for our daughter, Ida, who was born in Denmark in 2015," he says.