Hometown Love: Julia Wissel on Hamburg’s Smart Mobility Transformation
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Andrew: Nice to see you again Julia! Isn’t it crazy that it’s been three years since you’ve left Berlin to move back to Hamburg? Tell us about how the move worked out for you.
Julia: It’s actually crazy that you say it’s been three years already, time flies. How has it been? I have to say that I have zero regrets and that it worked out really well. I mean, Hamburg is home for me, Hamburg means family for me and from a professional perspective, it’s been a very cool ride so far. The new skills I picked up along the way and the fact that my network exploded since moving back, has been a very positive experience overall.

Andrew: What was the catalyst of you moving back to your hometown? Was there anything in particular that made you decide it was worth getting used to Hamburg’s infamous weather again?!
Julia: I would say it was multiple things coming together, both personal and professional. I had been in a long-distance relationship for a very long time and we kind of decided that it was time to live in the same city again and chose the city as we are both from Hamburg. At the same point in time, I was looking for a new professional challenge after having worked at a marketing agency in Berlin for 1,5 years …

Andrew: With the best colleagues ever?
Julia: Haha! With THE best colleagues ever, where I learned so much in such a short period. But, I also wanted to make the shift and switch from the agency side onto the corporate side. I wanted to take the next step and move away from marketing and develop more into the tech side of things. So I found a gig in that field and it all worked out nicely.

Andrew: Can you tell us about that next step?
Julia: I wanted to get even deeper in the topic of data; how to gather, structure and apply them at scale. Then, I joined a data and analytics team at New Work SE , which is namely known for it’s professional social network Xing, the German equivalent of LinkedIn. I joined them as a junior, and for some people it looked like it was a step down as I was already at a much higher level at my previous job, but for me it was an entry into something completely new. So, it was quite new, and I took it on as a great opportunity.

As you know, I studied communications, worked in marketing, did a detour within analytics and data, and now, I am a product owner. For me, this combination of these rather diverse professional experiences helped me become a more well-rounded decision maker.

Andrew: Can you tell us what you do now?
Julia: I found a new challenge after one and a half years at New Work SE. After being the analyst, advising others on business matters, I wanted to apply my skills in a field where I can make the decisions myself.

I joined MOIA as a product owner, a job usually found within software development that just came about in the past couple of decades. That means I work with developers, designers and others to build products that people will love and ultimately make for a profitable business case. I am basically responsible for defining a mission for the team and steering projects to make sure we reach that goal. We always ask ourselves questions that help us optimize products one step at a time.

Andrew: What was the motivator for you to pick MOIA as your next stop? Was it a conscious choice to get into mobility?
Julia: Definitely! I really wanted to do something that had a purpose, something that has a big impact. At some point in time, you’ll get to a level where you have two options: become a specialist on your topic (in my case: analytics), or a generalist. Being curious about so many different topics, always wanting to learn something new, and looking out for chances to take up a new challenge, I knew I was one of the latter kind.

I’ve always said that there are three things I would consider moving into: smart cities, health tech or mobility. Sometimes, the puzzle pieces just come together as roughly the same time, MOIA just started their operations and I had to reach out.

The latest addition to Julia's mobility options in Hamburg © Julia Wissel

Andrew: Just want to touch upon Hamburg again, can you tell us about the city’s efforts when it comes to electric vehicles and smart mobility in general?
Julia: I would say the city took big steps toward that direction the past few years. They have had a lot of focus on electric mobility in general from public transport, the amount of ridesharing companies present in the city on top of MOIA, and the vast amount of options from scooters to e-bikes. They all really focus on electric solutions that is fostered by the city itself, they are really pushing for a more climate friendly eco-system when it comes to the different modes of transportation we have.

The city’s goal moving forward is to have a form of transportation available to everyone withing five minutes, wherever they may be within the city, by 2030. They want to provide an umbrella of providers, both public and privately held, that can provide a flexible way to get you from A to B.

Andrew: Is there someone who is specifically spearheading this movement within the city’s government?
Julia: Yes, it’s worth saying that Anjes Tjarks, one of our senators, has been an energetic advocate of smart mobility for the city. Very eager to change things, he as one example pushed for the Jungfernstieg, which is one of the city’s big main streets, to become completely car free. That, as one can imagine, was no easy task.

Andrew: What would you say are things the city still needs to tackle in order to make the 2030 goal a reality?  
Julia: I think there are a couple of things. Public transport is one. It is no secret that public transport in Hamburg is quite expensive compared to other cities in Germany. If you really want it to be more inclusive and for the mobility system to work, you will need to make that part usable for everyone. That topic is very critical.

Another topic is bike lanes. Hamburg has big aspirations to make the city more bike friendly, but we still have a lot of work to do on that side if we want to make that happen. That is a place where we will still need to put in a lot of investment if we’d want to move forward in that topic as a city.

The third one would be collaboration. There has been a lot of strides taken the last few years in that sense. We need more of that between the politicians, institutions and private companies if we would really want to change mobility, in order to improve the quality of living in our city.

Andrew: If you could put a pulse on the city, how are electric vehicles and this ecosystem perceived by its citizens?
Julia: Let’s take my father as an example, even he who is already 70, recently got his first electric car. I never thought I would see the day he got an EV as I remember discussions to the tune of “who needs electric cars”, “it’ll never happen” and that all changed within a short period of time. I think when the skeptics see use cases and the infrastructure clearly improving, they are willing to give it a try. And trying is the first but very important step to changing behavior – which is what we need.

Andrew: What kind of car did he get?
Julia: He has the BMW i3. He had to get the fancy sporty edition. I’ve driven it and I must say that I had to get used to it, but it is a joy to drive it! Whenever I can, I also pick the i3 whenever it is offered by carsharing companies as I do enjoy driving it.

Andrew: What about your generation? How are they with the developments in mobility in Hamburg?
Julia: As for my generation, it’s a super broad mix. We still have friends who don’t even have a driver’s license. Living in a big city with fairly decent public transport, they obviously take advantage of all the non-car based offering the city has. As for those who do drive, they appreciate the number of electric vehicles available to them.

Andrew: As for you, do you own a vehicle?
Julia: No, not at all! As someone who believes in MOIA and car sharing in general, I simply don’t need one. I must also say that I don’t exclusively use one provider as in many use cases, you simply get whatever is available to you right then and there. There’s simply no excuse if you are a young, healthy and fit couple who lives in a city and who don’t have any kids! That’s at least my personal perspective.

Andrew: Has the pandemic altered your usage of the different services available to you in Hamburg?
Julia: For sure! I used to take public transport everywhere and every time. I never had issues getting anywhere because of its great network. Covid-19 changed that, we’ve been more averse from taking public transport and have been using all the carsharing services the past few months.

Andrew: If you did get the chance to pick any electric car, which dream car would you pick?
Julia: I really love the vintage feeling of retro designs being brought back to life. But I find the nostalgia in old designs having a modern twist and brought to EVs really cool. Independent of me working at MOIA, I really like the looks of the new ID.Buzz which is the electric age’s take on the classic Volkswagen Bus.

Andrew: Thank you very much for your time Julia, ‘til next time!
Julia: My pleasure!

© Julia Wissel

Photos courtesy of Julia Wissel.