With the grand opening of the 42 Berlin campus a month away, we wanted to begin sharing a behind-the-scenes look at some of the incredible people making the launch possible. Who better to begin with than Viola Sommer, our Operations Lead for 42 Berlin?
Viola ensures the schools runs smoothly thanks to her involvement in HR, recruitment, networking, financials, office management…you name it! Viola aims to diversify tech and hopes to build a campus in Berlin that offers flexibility and accommodation for all different needs. She hasn’t always worked in the tech and education industry, though — read on to discover the amazing path that led Viola to 42 Berlin (and the one thing she wishes she could go back and tell her 13-year-old self).
How did you learn about 42?
I wanted to apply as a student but then saw my role advertised and I knew that it was the one for me. I still want to study at 42 Berlin at some point though.
How long have you been part of the 42 team?
What exactly do you do at 42?
As Ops Lead I look after the daily running of our Berlin school, including our financials, HR & recruitment or the legal bits. I manage our refurbishment project, turning Geyerwerke from a former co-working space into a cutting edge coding school campus. My work also covers the actual management of the campus, together with our incredible Welcome Managers Sheila & Kars.
Where did you work and/or study before joining the team at 42?
I spent my entire academic and professional career in London before joining 42 Berlin. I studied Psychology up to PhD level and specialised in neurodiversity. I then started my own tech venture with myself as COO — an IT consultancy exclusively employing autistic talent. 7 years later the company is now the UK’s largest social enterprise and I’m really proud of what it has achieved. During the pandemic my family and I decided to relocate to Berlin, which is why I made the career change.
So far, what has been your favorite work project?
Refurbishing our campus. We have an amazing architect and I am learning so much.
When you’re at work, how do you motivate yourself?
We are currently building a community from scratch here — our Pisciners, future students and staff are the best and most interesting/diverse bunch of people I could think of. They are on my mind in everything I do. It’s such a good feeling to come together and enjoy the space we created.
How have you found our work culture to be?
Open, supportive, professional, flexible, inclusive, fun.
How would you describe your team?
Best team I have ever worked with.
What aspects of 42’s visions and values do you identify with?
I am hugely passionate about diversifying tech. I think it will make us better as a society on the whole and drive innovation.
If you could select anyone as a mentor, who would you choose and why?
I would like to be peer-mentored by my team. They are all so competent in their respective areas and I would love to learn more from them
What is your favorite aspect about higher education? About coding?
Learning to me is an act of self care, an investment into yourself. I also think studying with other people is a really good opportunity to make friends for life.
What is something unique about you (a fun fact) that few people are aware of?
I have two truly awful tattoos that I got when I was 13 and 15 respectively. I managed to hide them from my parents until I was 18 — they weren’t impressed when they found out.
What was the most recent book you read?
I don’t have time to read, I have two toddlers at home.
Do you have any special talents or interests?
I am very much into food, cooking just as much as eating. I read cookbooks like other people read novels.
What is your favorite pastime?
Cooking and/or eating out with friends.
Where are you hoping to travel next?
Home — to see friends in London for New Years.
Do you have any shows that you are currently binge-watching?
I just finished watching Euphoria all over again. I’m so into it.
What would you eat if you had to eat only one meal every day for the rest of your life?
Homemade wontons with chilli oil.
One thing you would tell your 13-year-old self, what would it be?
Don’t get those awful tattoos.