Interview with BTU Alumna and founder Maria-Liisa Bruckert (Power Engineering)

"It quickly became clear to me what a family and multicultural atmosphere there is on campus."

Maria-Liisa studied industrial engineering and also regional sciences of latin america ​​in the bachelor's degree at the TU Dresden and power engineering in the double master's degree at the BTU and the NCKU in Tainan. She worked in various departments at Siemens, among others, before turning her passion into her main job and founding the HealthTech company SQIN. Here she is building an AI-based health app and community that promotes long-term health and well-being. The AI ​​enables the implementation of prevention for the first time, for which she was just awarded as one of the "Top 20 Women in AI - Germany". She is also on the board of directors of TiE Women, an organization that helps other female founders build their businesses around the world.

Hello Maria-Liisa, how did you come to study in Cottbus and how could your two interests in technology and interculturality be combined here?
I've known Cottbus my whole life. I grew up in Spremberg and then went to the Max Steenbeck Gymnasium in Cottbus. Technology and natural sciences, but also the connection to research, became tangible for me very early on. In my student job at Siemens, I was able to accompany a number of innovation projects at the BTU. It quickly became clear to me what a family and multicultural atmosphere there is on campus. Admittedly, there is hardly a comparable range of double degree programs in the technical field - so the decision was made quickly. Within the program we were allowed to spend some time in Cottbus, but then also at the partner university. Not only was I incredibly well received – both sides always tried to bring different cultures together. My favorite memories are the many different dinner evenings with regional dishes from countless regions that I was able to experience.

You are the founder of SQIN, please tell us more about what you do and what is important to you.
I think the most exciting part is the “why”. After my studies, I was allowed to deal with the topic of digital transformation from a wide variety of perspectives at Siemens. The credo: Digital transformation is only sustainable and really makes sense through the synergy of different stakeholders. Digitizing a company, industry or branch can result in massive change. For this, resources, processes, but also values ​​have to be redefined. After a while I noticed that progress on the subject of health was very slow. Lots of conservative institutions, lots of regulations, a high level of protection for people – that was a challenge for me. In addition, there are demographics, supply bottlenecks - according to a PWC study, there will be a shortage of 165,000 doctors in 2030, in Germany alone. This is exactly where we start with SQIN: Creating the digital healthcare of tomorrow – intercultural, preventive and barrier-free. Technology can be the driver here. We have created an artificial intelligence that enables both preventive detection and predictions about further health developments. Together with health insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, pharmacies and patients, we want to shape the healthcare industry of tomorrow in a sustainable, fair and efficient way.

It is certainly not an easy decision to give up a good job at Siemens in order to start your own business with certain risks. When was it clear to you that you would do SQIN full-time and how did the transition phase go?
To be honest, I've had an incredible amount of support. I was transparent from the start. You get to know so many new topics and responsibilities when you set up a company and during your own development. Of course, these initially had a positive influence on my work at Siemens. However, once I understood how important our topic is and that we can help more than two billion people, it was clear to me: I want to try it. But I'm also a mother, so I didn't want to make a hasty decision and defined a few milestones that I wanted to base my decision on. Nevertheless, my team, and not least my boss, has repeatedly encouraged me to take responsibility - this school of life would at least help me for my entire professional career.

You are involved with TiE Women. Do you have any special tips for female founders in the IT industry?
I was lucky enough to get mentoring very early on. Without that, I wouldn't be where I am today. From the very beginning, Siemens placed great value on entrepreneurial and responsible thinking. I want to pass that on. A strong network and - sometimes critical - mentors help all founders on their way. We must strengthen this awareness. That's why I'm involved in TiE, but also in other formats such as the "Xathon" by Henkel dx, where I recently had the opportunity to accompany young female founders on their way for three days. For me it's a mission, not a commitment. Above all, my most important tips are: Believe in yourself and don't let people tell you that you can't do things just because you're a woman. Seek support and listen to the experiences of others. You can avoid mistakes that others have made before by valuing their experience.

You have won several international pitches and awards, including from Google, and you have been able to take part in international accelerator programs in America, Asia and Europe. Do you have any tips, especially for students, on how they can strengthen their intercultural skills, which is certainly also beneficial for business internationalization strategies?
A very exciting topic. It's like technology: we have to make it something people can experience. In the case of electromobility, I remember countless campaigns to make the new type of mobility "experiential". With every pitch I try to ask myself: Who are my audience? What moves her? Why are you here today? Of course, this is based on being open to different cultures, experiencing them and being close to people. I regularly manage to find this balance, although I think everyone has to find something that suits them. For me, for example, it was my time in social projects in Brazil: I was able to learn an incredible amount from the children. Later I went on a hike through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and experienced what is important to the local people and the influence we, the media and the internet have on their lives. I think these conscious “breaks” help me to reflect on an internationalization strategy. But there are also many accelerator programs, e.g. from the AHK or the German Accelerator, that help you to understand new markets and build them up sustainably - and that's important. An example: Starbucks has conquered the market in Asia with tea, for example, not with its classic product portfolio.

What do you remember most fondly from your student days in Cottbus?
Definitely the practical proximity to the professors! We were right in the middle of the research, with our finger on the pulse. The understanding of innovation and sustainable transformation was sharpened enormously. That's why I'm looking forward to returning to everyday university life for a bit while I'm doing my doctorate.


Daniel Ebert
Stabsstelle Friend- and Fundraising; Alumni
T +49 (0) 355 69-2420
BTUAlumna und Gründerin Maria-Liisa Bruckert (Foto: Grant Giszewski)