Complaint Management & Prevention Associate Regine von Kleist on how she uses her degree daily
Managing complex complaints can be challenging, but so is being a woman in a nearly all-male economics department at university. We chat about her career path and her advice for current students.
6 min read
As one of the few women majoring in economics when she started college in the late ‘80s, Regine von Kleist needed to adapt quickly to her new environment. “There were about 600 people in each class, so I became accustomed to learning autonomously, which prepared me really well for what I’m doing today—especially when it comes to taking ownership and solving complex problems. I really enjoyed that.” Regine studied at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg and the Rhenish Friedrich Wilhelm University in Bonn, focusing on economics and international development. After moving back and forth between the United States and Germany with her family, she rose through the ranks at N26 and is now a Complaint Management & Prevention Associate. We sat down with her to talk about what she learned during her studies and how she uses those skills in her current role. Our interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you start out by telling us a little about yourself?
I’m Regine, and I’m from Freiburg, a beautiful city in Germany near the Black Forest. After finishing high school, I spent one year in London studying English. After that, I came back to Freiburg to study economics.
But that wasn’t always the goal. When I was younger, I wanted to help people, and considered becoming a doctor. However, this would have taken a very long time, and so I figured studying economics would probably be a better use of my time. And when I was very little, I really wanted to become a ballet dancer! But by the time I was 12, I was already 5 foot 11, so that was out of the question. But I lived for dance and ballet—I still do! In fact, while I was living in the United States, I became a certified aerobics instructor and personal trainer.
You did your undergrad in economics at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg. Can you talk a little more about your time there?
Sure. The University of Freiburg was very well known for economics back in 1989 when I started my degree. I really enjoyed it. I’m very interested in the political aspect of economics—my father was a prosecutor, so for me it was a really nice combination of statistics, math, law, and even a little bit of early programming. I lived in Freiburg until I finished my Vordiplom in 1992, which is the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree today.
It was very intense, however—we had to pass about 14 exams. A lot of what I learned back then, I take with me up until this day—logical and critical thinking in particular.
Were there a lot of women studying economics in Germany at that time?
Not at all. Economics was a very male-dominated field of study. One particular moment of pride was when I became a working student assistant for the professor of microeconomics. There were around 30 men and me in the room, and I got the job.
At that point, I had met my former husband, who had finished a Ph.D. in economics and was heading to Bonn to work for the German Ministry of Finance. So, I decided to transfer to Bonn. While I was studying, I also worked for the Ministry of Justice for two years. Unfortunately, I was never able to complete my master’s degree. In my final year, Bonn decided to switch from the diploma system to the master’s system, and during the last semester, you couldn’t take any exams. In the end, I was missing just one exam.
That must have been so frustrating…
Yes, it was. It was really bad timing. But at that point, my then-husband had been offered a job in Washington D.C. at the German office of the IMF. So we moved to the States and lived there for three years, and then we kept on moving. In fact, my family moved 12 times in 25 years, including six times back and forth from Washington D.C. to Germany. I also have three grown sons, and I was doing a lot of work with their schools back then—organizing big fundraisers, running the school shop in Berlin, etc. These are all things which my studies very much prepared me for—bookkeeping, budgeting, logical thinking, and the massive organizational skills needed for raising children, working with their school, and coordinating transcontinental moves.
Right, you were busy for several years raising a family. I can imagine that those skills in particular also helped prepare you to go back to work and adapt to a new professional environment. Your current role is Complaint Management & Prevention Associate at N26—can you tell us a little bit about your job?
I started off in Customer Support in the German team, and after just four months, I was asked to help out with Complaint Management. This was exciting, because even in Customer Support, I always enjoyed solving complex requests. When I arrived in Complaint Management, I liked it instantly. For one thing, the team is very nice—and I felt that, having had such an international life, I really fit in well.
At the beginning, I had to teach myself a lot. I took ownership and researched processes myself, which is another skill I took from university. For example, when you assess new complaints, you always need to look out for new issues nobody else has noticed yet, or discover gaps in our internal processes. The creation of a solution for a new kind of complaint can be quite challenging, as it usually involves a collaborative effort across teams.
It sounds like you have a very important role in keeping things functioning as they should.
I think so! Honestly, I’m so thankful for my job. I think it’s super interesting and I’m so excited to be part of this startup company where we basically invent new services and products
Let’s go back to your time in college. Were there any classes or teachers that really shaped you?
I would say that the class that impacted me the most, as well as my views about how politics, social life, and economics work, was a class in Freiburg called Wirtschaftspolitik—which is basically economics and politics. It helped me truly grasp how economics influences our daily lives and how important a framework given by our political decision makers is in regards to economics. In addition to that, I was able to learn a lot from the professor for whom I was an assistant for a year and a half. For a bachelor student to work with Ph.D. students, doing research for them—it was a really great experience.
What’s some advice that you’d give to current students?
Make sure that you learn to speak more than one language! Choose a subject for your studies that you’re interested in, but also one where you are actually able to find a job later on. Have the discipline to start studying for exams on time! Be cooperative, and give and receive feedback in a respectful way. And maybe consider majoring in economics—it’s a field that really prepares you for a wide array of career opportunities. Just remember to be grounded in yourself.
Oh, and try taking a programming course—data science, in particular, comes in really handy at companies like N26. Honestly, it would be nice to have some more ladies in those fields! Although I must say: I feel that at N26, we have a lot of really competent, talented young women. One thing I really like about my role is that I get the chance to mentor them as they start out in our team. That’s really important to me.
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