Thaksan Sothinathan

McKinsey & Company | RWTH Aachen University, University of Cambridge, IIT Madras @ Düsseldorf, Germany

Thaksan is a RWTH Aachen Master student in Electrical Engineering and Business Administration, with time spent abroad working in Thailand, studying at IIT Madras and currently conducting his master thesis at the University of Cambridge in the field of AI and Intellectual Property. After completion of his studies he will start his professional career in management consulting with McKinsey & Company. Besides, Thaksan will strengthen his contribution to societal development as a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum in the Düsseldorf Hub.
He is passionate about Integration / Migration, the Energy market and the general field of Digital Transformation and (Business Model) Innovation. Furthermore, he is a strong advocate of the Karma principle, thus believing in the power of exchange, feedback and mentoring, which he can e.g. realize as an ICU scholar within the QX network or as a scholar of the German National Academic Foundation.
Thaksan defines himself as a “Tamil Sauerländer”: His parents originally came from North-Sri Lanka; he was born and raised in the Sauerland in Germany and he is happy to live and thrive in both cultures.

QX: Thaksan, you just came back from the MBA World Summit 2018 in Cape Town where you participated as one of our ICU scholars of 2017. How was that like?

Thaksan: This trip to Cape Town and the MBA World Summit 2018 was a fantastic experience. It was a great opportunity to further bond with my fellow ICU scholars beyond the Summit itself, to get to know top-talented, inspiring and motivated MBA students from the worlds leading business schools and to have an impact in the Cape Town or rather South African community. It was a blast to learn from the other participants on such a high level and to be able to support and interact with local entrepreneurs in Philippi Village, taking part in their current challenges - a truly phenomenal experience! A big shout out to the QX crew for putting together this event with such sustainable impact - for us ICU scholars, the other summit participants and the local entrepreneurs in Philippi, Cape Town.

QX: 2018 will be a new exciting chapter in your story. After finishing your Master studies, you will join McKinsey & Company. With your diverse and superb educational background, you most certainly had the choice, why did you go for the consulting track?

Thaksan: At the end it was a combination of several different reasons, let me give you three points.
First, the people: I was able to get to know a lot of my future colleagues in several occasions professionally and personally and I just simply liked them. I am looking forward to working together with smart, motivated, fun and supporting people in a trustful environment, actually pretty similar to QX ;-)
Second, the work itself: It allows me to leverage my experience and education to dive into a variety of interconnected aspects of economic life, to gain new insights and deepen my understanding of different sectors, functions and companies on a top level - with diverse cultures, demographics and challenges. No day will be like the other, no project like the other and no team like the other - an ever changing and challenging environment I want to work in and put in the best of myself!
Third, the conditions: I thought about doing my PhD right after my master studies and also had different offers, but with McKinsey I get the opportunity to work and still pursue my plans. The company supports PhD/MBA plans not only with an open and unbiased Leave option, but also monetarily and with its network. McKinsey helps you pave your way.

QX: In 2017, you not only were selected as one of our 10 first ICU Scholars, but also as an Indo-German Young Leader. Tell us more about the initiative behind that!

Thaksan: I was selected as one of the German delegates to the Indo-German Young Leaders Forum and its first flagship conference. This forum is a new platform for bilateral exchange of the young and rising generation of India and Germany. 25 Indian and 25 German young leaders with diverse backgrounds come together to discuss and work on a variety of topics with decision makers from both countries (business, politics, science, media and culture). The goal is to initiate dialogue and projects and to strengthen the bilateral relationship. I met many inspiring people, shared/heard fantastic ideas and see great potential in this bilateral relationship. I am eager to support (and maybe initiate) upcoming formats and invite everyone to do the same, check out for example http://ginsep.co.
The Indo-German Young Leaders Forum got officially endorsed by Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Modi, is supported by a number of renowned personalities from both countries and counts several distinguished ministers, well-known business representatives, and prize-winning researchers in its Advisory Board. Further, the initiative is officially supported by the Indian Embassy in Berlin and the German Embassy in New Delhi (https://igylf.org).

QX: If you had to highlight one thing next to your soon-to-be professional career as a consultant, what are you passionate about in life right now?

Thaksan: Definitely Integration and equal opportunities. Our German community is facing several challenges in this matter and I am trying to take part in overcoming these constraints. Therefore, I e.g. co-founded the biggest Tamil-German student network in the German speaking countries to foster exchange, support and mentoring; I volunteer as an Ambassador for the German National Academic Foundation, where I help to bring school students with a migration and/or non-academic background into universities and scholarships and recently, I became a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, where I will soon help to set up a related local initiative in the Düsseldorf hub. So if you are interested and/or know someone, who knows someone, let me know!

QX: Throughout your life, you were shaped by two cultural worlds, Tamil-Indian and West-European. What impact did that have on you?

Thaksan: I am currently enjoying the best of both worlds, let it be values, family and friends, culture, music, language or food. I love calling Germany my home and yet I will never forget my Tamil roots. But this balance act or rather this (integration) journey was/is not always easy. It makes me appreciate what I have and always puts things into perspective. It makes me walk that extra mile and never stop learning and growing.
Looking ahead, this journey will hopefully empower me to empower others and continue to give me the urge to pay it forward - it can be as easy as one contact, one phone call or one little proof reading and has already a great positive impact. Hopefully my efforts will evolve into exciting new initiatives I might start, consequently further connecting both worlds I am living in.

QX: If we’re sitting here a year from now looking back at 2018 what do you hope to be able to tell me?

Thaksan: As one chapter closes, a new chapter is opening in my life: Looking back at 2018, I want to be thankful for the wonderful and enriching times I had in Cambridge, Aachen and Chennai with my studies and my activities and I want to be satisfied about my decision to settle in Düsseldorf: Not only in terms of my work or logistically speaking, but also regarding my family and my new activities as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper in the local hub.
Ideally, I will tell you about my first positive impact and lessons learned within the company, how my family is doing and we would discuss, how the new Düsseldorf Global Shaper initiative could evolve and become even better in shaping the community.

QX: What is your personal Vanity?

Thaksan: I have a great passion for music and I am a musician myself - from Classical and Indian music to HipHop, RnB and some good electronic deep house. Thus, music always gets me going. This is kind of awkward, but my personal Vanity might be getting truly pumped listening to Drakes „Started from the Bottom“ and „All the way up“ by Fat Joe & Remy Ma :-)

QX: Thank you for the talk!