Sandro Gafner: «I am helping to build something new»
05.04.2023 Sandro Gafner completed his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Management Science at BFH in summer 2022. He was taken on by Powdience, a start-up that offers clients data-based personas, in October 2022. We interviewed the 25-year-old to find out how that all came about.
Mr Gafner, how are you enjoying the world of work?
I’m loving it! I enjoy being able to apply the inputs from my studies in the real world. In my day-to-day work, I am able to make a lot of connections to my time at BFH.
BFH sent me off into the world of work with a huge box of tools. What has proven most valuable is the work I did on specific projects, in which the disciplines of engineering, computer science and business influenced each other in practice. At Powdience, when we consider, say, whether an application programming interface (API) is suitable or not, I have both the technical and the commercial insight for this question. So an API might well be ideal, but too expensive at the moment. I learned to speak both languages during my studies, which is a very useful skill in my working day.
You have been working for Powdience since October 2022. How did you get the job?
Powdience is a start-up whose roots are at BFH. My former lecturer, Professor Bramwell Kaltenrieder, launched it four years ago with Mike Schwede. Together they announced a project for a bachelor’s thesis at BFH. I applied and subsequently wrote my paper on Powdience. We worked together closely during this time and also got to know each other personally. After I graduated, the two company founders offered me a permanent position. The University of Applied Sciences collaborates closely with the business community, which leads to valuable contacts with companies that can also be useful for your personal career. And anyway, as a student it is valuable to be confronted with concrete issues straight from practice. If my solutions can help a real company, that is much more satisfying to me than getting a good grade on a paper that then disappears into a drawer.
What was your bachelor’s thesis about?
Personas are models of customer subsets represented by a fictitious person. Personas help companies to better understand their customers. Most of the time, they are created very intuitively and so are not very accurate. Powdience has developed a solution to offer companies personas based on data. For this, the start-up used Facebook’s application programming interface (API). In my project thesis, I investigated how personas can be created based on Google Analytics and how the solution can be integrated into the Powdience app. This involved creating a prototype and developing a Python program that processes a website’s Google Analytics data to create personas.
Also: will Powdience use Google Analytics in future?
Yes, as one of several options. My bachelor thesis was a piece of the puzzle for the solution we have now developed. However, in order to find out as precisely as possible who a company’s customer is, we do not want to rely exclusively on Google Analytics and social-media data. Which is why we want to further enrich the underlying methods, maybe using data from internal company advertising campaigns, for example, or general, personal statistics. That is certainly a big advantage that Powdience has over other providers.
Are there other advantages?
Many companies create personas and then do not actually work with them. At best, someone prints out the results and hangs them on the wall. In the Powdience app, staff can share personas very easily, which makes them easier to work with. What’s more, the data from campaigns flows back into the persona, so it always stays right up to date. We also want to show companies where they have potential for new customers. This involves people whom they do not yet address, but who might theoretically have an interest in the product or service. Because we rely on different data sources, our solution is not dependent on a single large provider such as Google.
You are a Junior Product Owner at Powdience. What do you particularly like about this job?
My task is to develop the idea of Powdience further. That in itself is very exciting. I conduct a lot of interviews with professionals and potential clients, especially SMEs. I want to find out what their problems are, what they need and where they need help. This enables us to constantly improve our offering. I am also really lucky to be working for a start-up. It is a world that already fascinated me during my studies.
What makes this world so special?
The variety! I could not imagine working every day through a to-do list that hardly ever changes. Here I am helping to build something new. That is very fulfilling. Our team is small and I am able to contribute my ideas. I am very lucky that the two founders are experienced and successful entrepreneurs. They coach me, and as a recent graduate there is a lot I can learn from them.
Which BFH training modules were most valuable to you?
At BFH, I learned to program in Python. It is a programming language that I use a lot in my day-to-day work. From this point of view, it was a huge advantage that 50 percent of the degree programme was in English. When I am programming something and need sources from the internet, they are usually in English. I also learned a lot in the Data Science module, which was about analysing data and creating insights from data. Of course, all the modules that had to do with start-ups were particularly exciting, such as the Entrepreneurship module or “Kickstart your idea”. There we created a business model, validated it and built a prototype.
Would you like to launch a start-up yourself in the future?
Yes, absolutely. But at the moment the focus is on Powdience. That is my priority. But every now and then I have interesting ideas that I write down and would like to develop at some point. I want to follow my own path, build something up and take responsibility. The thought has appealed to me for a long time.