In the “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group highlights the sustainable contribution made by a wide range of people in the company – and the motivation that inspires them. Today: Gjergj Kukaj.
Sustainability has many facets at the BMW Group because we are using this term to harmonise business, the environment and society. If we are to successfully put these high standards into practice, we need our employees’ commitment. Everyone can play their part in making the BMW Group sustainable.
So, who are all these colleagues who make sustainability part of their everyday work? What drives them to roll up their sleeves throughout the company? In its “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group introduces employees who play their daily part in the broad and responsible further development of our company.
In this edition of our series, Gjergj Kukaj (21), a participant in the BMW Group’s SpeedUp programme and a student of automotive informatics, talks about his social commitment, his drive and how the young talent programme at the BMW Group supports him.
Gjergj Kukaj, what does sustainability mean to you?
Gjergj Kukaj: Sustainability has two components for me. One is ecology. I am very careful to use resources sparingly and the SpeedUp programme has taught me a lot about circular economy and zero emissions. If the greenest car in the world is to be a BMW, we all have to know about it from the ground up. The second component is social sustainability. For me, this means creating equal opportunities and a level playing field for all children.
You are taking part in the BMW Group’s SpeedUp programme. What exactly is that?
Kukaj: The young talent programme supports me financially during my studies, and in return I regularly work in different departments. I also get to take part in a lot of training events and activities. SpeedUp was introduced to us at university – I study automotive informatics in Landshut – when I was in the process of finding out about scholarships. I want to write my bachelor thesis on autonomous driving or driver assistance systems and I aim to work in this field after university. Preferably at the BMW Group, it goes without saying. That’s why I immediately applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted, and I have now been involved since 2020. I have to integrate myself pretty quickly during my assignments so I can add value to the department and learn something. It’s quite intense, but a lot of fun.
You have been active in helping other children since you were 15 years old – and still are, even alongside your studies. How did it come about and what exactly do you do?
Kukaj: I had the opportunity in year 9 to help in a drug prevention programme, where we educated children about the dangers and ran short training courses. The children accepted me quickly, which encouraged me to continue. Today I work as a youth leader for the Kreisjugendring and the Roland Berger Foundation. Most of the children who take part in our trips and events come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Not all of them have it really good, but they accept me as someone they can confide in, which is very gratifying. I was born in Landshut, the third child of a migrant family from Kosovo. I got a lot of support at school, when money was too tight for my parents to afford class trips, for example. I have experienced many positive things, for which I am very grateful and would like to put something back in return. Maybe I can set up my own school one day, possibly in Kosovo.
You’re juggling two very different topics with full commitment. Are there some things that slow you down?
Kukaj: I need time for university and for work, so I can’t always be as socially active as I would like. At the end of the day, I just want to live a fulfilled life – and for me, that not only includes my job, but also being socially committed.
And what helps you to achieve your goals?
Kukaj: There are three pillars: first of all, my own motivation from within and my optimism help me. This makes me very resilient to stress. But my friends are also very supportive. Having fun together is just as much help as being able to talk about problems and difficulties. And of course my family backs me up. My mother, in particular, is a constant motivation for me. That is the second pillar. My third pillar is the scholarships I have through the BMW Group and the Foundation of German Business. These give me a certain financial independence and are of course an affirmation. This affirmation from different sides spurs me on. On the other hand, when I look at my work with the children, that’s a completely different feeling. They just come up to me, tell me what’s worrying them. And this despite the fact that sometimes I can’t do any more than just listen to them and be there for them. They put their trust in me – that makes me really proud.
Now, if the BMW Group Board of Management were to offer you support, where would you want this support?
Kukaj: I would like to expand the young talent programme to include a programme for schoolchildren and younger children. If you start by educating and advancing children, there may not be any obvious benefit for the company in the short term. But it has enormous long-term impact. Who will shape the world in 30 years? Those who are three, five or ten years old today.
There will certainly be fellow students who won’t quite get your commitment at such a young age. What keeps driving you every day?
Kukaj: I am incredibly grateful for everything I get. That’s why I want to give back as much as possible – to the company, to society. To my family, to make them proud of me. There are many reasons. But it’s all based on the fact that I enjoy it and that it fulfils me.
So when is it enough?
Kukaj: I’m happy with my life as it is – in that respect, I have enough. Nevertheless, I always come up with something new.
In the upcoming portraits from our “WEffect” sustainability series, committed colleagues will also describe their motivation and explain the contribution they are making to sustainability within the BMW Group.