Austrian Team Lead Christian Strobl on how uni prepared him for his role at N26
Team spotlight: After founding his own startup right out of uni, Christian Strobl was ready for a new challenge. Learn how he landed his role at N26, and how his university career impacted his career.
6 min read
As the Austrian Team Lead at N26, there’s no typical day for Christian Strobl. From interviews with tech media to team management to chatting with potential partners, his schedule is changing constantly. Luckily, his time at university prepared him well for this high-pressure job: “The learnings I took with me from uni and student organizations, especially from leading small teams, are really applicable to my daily work here at N26.”
After earning a Bachelor of Science in International Business Administration and Economics at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Christian went on to get a Master’s in Strategy, Innovation, and Management there as well—a degree he earned with honors. But he left school with more than a distinguished degree. During his last semester, he co-founded a startup called FRYNX, a drink subscription for local bars in Vienna. After selling the business in 2019, he went on to focus on other things, stepping into his current role in September of 2021. We chatted to Christian about his time at university, and how it shaped his career trajectory. Our interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Tell us a little about yourself—including where you’re from, and what your role is at N26.
I’m Christian, I’ve been with N26 for a little over two and a half years now. I started at the company as a Business Development Associate for the Austrian and Swiss markets—in fact, I was the first official employee of our Vienna office. Then I was asked to step in as the Head of Global Partnerships—and since last September, I’ve been leading our Austrian market.
You earned your bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Are there specific stories, events, or relationships that have stuck with you from that time?
One thing that had a massive impact was my experiences studying abroad. I went to Canada, then to Copenhagen and Denmark, after which I attended a summer school in Beijing with the London School of Economics. All of these experiences really gave me the opportunity to broaden my horizons.
Other than that, I would say the entire community from our master’s program really influenced my time there. It’s a really tight-knit group, with lots of events for people to come together and exchange ideas. One event that really stands out is the annual ski trip organized by WU students that brings together current alumni and current students. It’s a great opportunity to bring people from different life stages together to network. I always have a great time—in fact, I was just there a few weeks ago!
Was there a certain university class that had an outsized impact on you?
During the last semester of our master’s program, we had a class called “Garage.” There, we learned the theoretical foundations of starting a business, but we also got the time to work on our own startup and build it from scratch. We even had the chance to pitch our startup idea at Entrepreneurship Avenue—the largest startup conference at the university.
My co-founder and I actually went on to found the company after we graduated. It was a subscription model for drinks called FRYNX, where customers could pay six euros per month to get one free drink per day at a bar in Vienna. We ran the company for a couple years before selling it in 2019. That was the most important experience of my education—all the learnings from this startup rollercoaster, and the network that I was able to build. It was the most inspiring class, and the one that shaped me the most.
Talk a little bit about your career path, and how you ended up at N26.
After we sold the startup, I went into strategy consulting. For me, this was a great opportunity to acquire some new skills—a structured working style, methodological approaches, and so on. I worked on some international innovation projects in different industries, from consumer goods to financial services. At some point, rumors started circulating that N26 was thinking of opening an office in Vienna. I’d been following their journey for a long time, and was also a customer from the early days, so I was super interested in the company. So, when the position opened up in 2019, I applied for the job, and the rest is history!
What do you like most about your job here?
One thing I really love is having a very broad role. Being responsible for a market isn’t about being focused on one topic, but rather doing a lot of different things that you care about. In this way, my startup career very much prepared me for this job. As a founder, you’re involved in lots of different topics—from marketing to legal questions to bookkeeping, operations, and PR. I think that really helps me in my current role.
Plus, N26 has really retained a startup culture and entrepreneurial mindset. It’s a nice mixture between an early-stage startup and a corporate environment. We need certain processes and structures in place, but we really try to keep that spirit from the early days.
What are some skills you learned at university that help you in your current role?
Certainly some theoretical topics: entrepreneurship, strategy development, and so on. But I think the skills that help me the most are the soft skills that you get from working as a team, whether working in student organizations, organizing events or conferences, or leading teams. Those are the skills that I value and use the most.
You mentioned being involved in student organizations—can you talk a little bit about the extracurricular you were involved in at university?
I was part of several student organizations, startup-focused ones such as WU Top League and SIMConnect, as well as Club Alpbach and a few others. During this time, I was organizing lots of events with students and putting them in contact with companies. We set up company workshops, but also organized panel discussions with politicians and CEOs. It was great to see people and their different career paths. When we pitched our startup, for example, we got to speak to alumni who were also running startups. It was super inspiring to get their insights.
Do you have contact with students today?
I interact with students through alumni events, but also through formal mentorship programs like Startup Live Mentorship program and the Sinbad Mentorship program. Right now, I’m involved with the AustrianStartups Mentorship program, where I workwith young entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting their own company. I also have a mentee from the Uni Management Club Mentorship program,astudent organization I was part of during my studies. Even through my job at N26, we’re trying to organize events with student organizations. That's another cool part of my role—the ability to nurture contact with current university students.
What are some lessons you’ve learned from your time at university?
The cliché would be: work hard, party hard! But in all seriousness, if you find something you’re really interested in and passionate about, then it’s okay to be very dedicated and work a lot. But at the end of the day, you also remember that there's more to life than work, so you need to carve out time for yourself. For some people that’s regular yoga sessions. For me, that’s taking time to go out and meet up with friends—which really helps me get my mind off things.
You seem to have a very packed schedule. Do you ever sleep?
Sometimes I sleep! But in all seriousness, I really believe that if you love what you do, it motivates you to work hard.
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