Meet our new Design Thinking program lead Angela Galeano Colonia

We are happy to welcome Angela Galeano Colonia as a new program lead at the HPI D-School. Together with our academic director, Dr. Claudia Nicolai, and the program lead team María-José Juárez, Sherif Osman, Jen Tzen Tan, and Dr. Martin Schwemmle, she will co-lead and co-design our academic Design Thinking programs. Previously, Angela worked as an independent project manager and consultant for innovation in the public sector. To learn more about her background and experiences with Design Thinking, we asked her a couple of questions.

Angela Galeano Colonia

Hi Angela, welcome to the HPI D-School! Your academic career started with studies in anthropology and political science. How did you get in touch with Design Thinking and what role has the innovative approach played in your work so far?

In 2012, when I graduated with my bachelor's, I knew I wanted to do something more than research in anthropology. So I tried to focus on using my ethnographic skills for the greater good but for an applied purpose. I then had the chance to join a US start-up that was just starting operations in Colombia. They worked under this new methodology, "Design Thinking," and I got a very hands-on introduction to create human-centred services and products since day 1!

After leaving this role, I made it my goal to always bring the joy of developing projects innovatively to every workplace. I learned to work more agilely, using brainstorming methods, designing visually appealing presentations, and condensing information in a way people find relevant and accessible.

After your Master's degree in Public Policy at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, you managed and advised various projects, especially in the public sector. What challenges did you face as a specialist in public innovation? 

The challenges in public sector innovation are manifold. Still, for me, it begins with the tension between knowing what you should do and the risks of implementing something new. In any large company, but mainly in the public sector, risk is perceived very negatively. People are afraid of being accused of wrongdoing or failing, which would destroy their careers. That is why I am passionate about developing skills for innovation, especially in complex contexts, so that, little by little, we all can shift our mindsets.

Angela Galeano Colonia

You have worked for example for Directorate for Education and Skills at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in France, the Colombian Ministry of Education, the French Embassy and social impact start-ups in Bogota and Paris. Why did you decide to come to Germany and what professional experience did you gain here?

I came to Germany thanks to a scholarship program funded by both the Colombian government and the DAAD. The primary purpose was to study for a master's in public policy to strengthen my career. But, since the beginning, I have wanted to mix design and policy for more human-centred decision-making. Still, no university was offering that back at the time! However, I had a clear idea and talked to a career coach that told me I should apply to the HPI D-School. The rest is history. I stayed longer than expected in Germany and have had the chance to consult German, Colombian and international organizations that believe in the benefits of working following a Design Thinking approach, mostly coaching their employees on how to do it in their daily lives.

From 2019-2020, you completed the Basic and Advanced Track, which is why you already know our Design Thinking programs as a participant. How do you remember your time at the HPI D-School as a student? Are there any ideas or projects that you would particularly like to push forward as a program lead?

As I said before, I came to Germany to complete a master's degree but ended up staying longer thanks to the network I developed at D-School. I found a friendly and international environment where I was valued for being myself.  It is challenging to market yourself when you have a hybrid profile: policy implementation, project management, coaching, anthropological analysis, a passion for graphic design ... but here, people got it and made me realize I had the potential to mix them up, help people, and do that for a living!

I love the friends & acquaintances I made here. They are my favorite type of people in the world: reflexive, agile, fun, motivated, and hard-working.

I would like to push further the importance of good project management and how design thinking can leverage it significantly improving team dynamics, to go for a life-centered perspective that makes students reflect on the beauty of diversity, and to think that our projects, services, and ideas should contribute to a wider public good.

Thank you and welcome again to our team. We look forward to working with you!

About Angela Galeano Colonia:

Angela joined the HPI D-School in Summer 2021 as a Program Lead.  Her main interests revolve around using Design Thinking to foster change management, digital transformation, and building happier teams. 

She has a background in Anthropology and Political Science. In addition, she holds a master's in Public Policy and a certificate from the HPI School of Design Thinking. But, beyond titles, what she enjoys is contributing to facilitating innovation processes across different sectors. 

Before, Angela worked for 8+ years scaling human-centered initiatives in large organizations like the Colombian National Ministry of Education, for Directorate for Education and Skills at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Deutsche Welle, and social impact start-ups in Bogota, Paris, and Berlin. 

Angela speaks Spanish and is fluent in English and French, sings in Portuguese, and proudly struggles in German every day. As an enthusiastic networker, she will be happy to connect on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Photos: Jana Legler / HPI School of Design Thinking