How to create the most intense network situation imaginable? Take a team of conservation veterans, unleash 30 students on them and make sure to limit their time for small-talks. Vóilà, you’ll end up with an event we call “Conservation Speed Dating”. How does it work? Actually quite similar to the romantic approach.
Here is our recipe for Conservation Speed Dating
Take at least 10 groups of 2-3 students and one expert. Give them some space, but limit the privacy to 5 minutes. Then, mercilessly ring a bell – better a proper gong – and make sure the students move on to the next conservation expert on the next table.
While the first gong comes as a surprise, everybody will gear up immediately after. Just minutes into the game, all are up to speed and talking. Here is our proof-of-concept and the cast for this years’ date-floor.
For the students it was a unique opportunity to ask the experts about their conservation career, the most challenging aspects of their job and how is it like to work in remote places.
“For me it was a really good experience to learn from their [experts] experiences, as I will soon finish my masters and start looking for a job.”
Saskia Dröge, University of Hildesheim Master student
“I found it very interesting to gain insights about their own careers: their personal career path was inspiring.”
Katharina Kühnert, a young conservationist from Munich
“It gave me insights of what characteristics you should have as a young conservationist – resilience, determination and to keep going. It was very encouraging to know that it was also hard for them when they started out their career.”
Georgina Kate Hoare, University of Edinburgh Master student
“You don’t get this opportunity at university – to talk to staff and learn from their experiences. One advice I learned was to plan carefully how much you want to dedicate to conservation and where you want to see yourself in five years.”
Vera Pfannerstill, Göttingen University PhD student
Make sure not to wear out the concept. Allow about an hour for the speed dating cycles, then swap the gong and stop-watch for a nice buffet and leave everybody as much time as possible with their “perfect conservation match”.
Here is a short video recap of the event:
Authors: Dafna Gilad and Daniela Zaec
Video: Mathias Hundt
Clear communication between colleagues, partners and the public, as well as the ability to handle conflicts when they arise, are key at every stage of a conservation project management plan.
There is nobody at the Frankfurt Spring School that knows this better than Katja Rinkinen. Katja is our expert soft skills facilitator who today, has shared her rich knowledge and experience with our Frankfurt Spring School participants.
We talked with Katja to understand more about her role, expertise, and experience at the Frankfurt Spring School 2019.
How did you become interested in soft skills and personal communication?
After 20 years of business experience I can conclude all I have learned in one sentence: “Communication is key”. The first time this idea came to my mind was in a conservation project of what was then known as GTZ, and is now GIZ, a German development aid company. As part of this project in an isolated region of Peru, I witnessed first-hand a meeting between keen NGO-workers and a local community living in a buffer zone of one of the county’s national parks. I won’t forget the facial expressions of the local representatives when the project was presented to them. It seemed to me that two worlds without any possibility of understanding each other were clashing here.
I went on from this experience to become a communication consultant and business coach in the finance sectior, looking after clients like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Börse, the German Stock Exchange, ING Diba, and Deutsche Bank. Nowadays I work exclusively with executives on their communication styles and stage performance, and still… Communication is key.
What is the greatest challenge you face in your role, and how do you overcome it?
Personal communication is exactly what it says, personal. How you communicate, act in conflicts and “on-stage” is a result of education, up-bringing and experience. If you decide you want to develop another communication style or behavior it will take a great amount of work, and a lot of psychology is involved. Ensuring sustainable progress and development is very hard work, but for me it is very rewarding to observe the success of my clients.
What is the main message you hope to convey to the Spring School participants during your session?
I hope they will understand that to succeed you have to be excellent in two fields. You must be excellent in the field you are working in, such as conservation, biology, geography or zoology, and you must be excellent at management and leadership. In my experience, you have to be very professional in these areas to get things done. Your message must be convincing or even tempting so that people are urged to follow your ideas, processes and suggestions. In order to do any of this, you must be a communications specialist!
I hope the students will reflect on their communication style and how communications actually “works”. You need to be able to conduct efficient meetings, to know how to discuss delicate issues constructively , and how to avoid pointless conflict while still being able to handle that which is unavoidable or previously existing.
Hopefully I can show and convey that communication and conflict resolution can be a joyful art which makes everyone’s life easier, and which is worth learning and practicing.
Katja Rinkinen is just one of the Frankfurt Spring School’s expert facilitators that form the backbone of our course and experience.
The Frankfurt Spring School attracts students and young conservationists with different backgrounds from all over the world. When applying for a course entitled “Conservation Project Management”, of course most of us expect to learn about project management. But the expectations go far beyond that: networking, tools and methods for conservation management, financial management and fundraising are skills we hope to take home and apply in our projects. Especially, as many of these skills are not taught at university.
We asked a few of our fellow students about their personal motivation to be here.
I look for exchanging experiences with conservationists from all over the world, mastering project management and making new friends.
Daniela, Project Manager at Macedonian Ecological Society
This is an excellent opportunity for young conservationists to get real-life lessons about project management and conservation.
Timothy, GIS Officer in Guyana
I hope to learn things that make me a better conservationist and help me to have a positive impact for nature conservation.
Robert, M. Sc. student in Germany
This years participants originate from eleven different countries. A vivid mix of different academic backgrounds and experiences. However, all are united by similar expectations and their love for nature and our planet.
We are looking forward to three more exciting weeks of discussions, information, brainstorming and fun as a team of Spring School on Conservation Project Management participants.
Info: This year, some students volunteered to be part of the editors team to help create the blog content. This text & video has been created by Regina Domoko, Vera Pfannerstill and Stephanie Kalberer.
A warm welcome to the great city of Frankfurt, home of the Frankfurt Spring School and a multicultural hub of opportunity.
We are extremely happy that each of you is joining us for this fantastic learning experience in 2019. Aside from the Spring School course, we’re keen to ensure you have wonderful experience in Frankfurt and make the most of your time in the city. Frankfurt is not that huge – at least if you ask the locals. Visitors might think differently, even so they’ll soon discover the charming and intimate sides of the city.
To help you find your way to the Frankfurt Spring School, have a look at the following map. The three main locations for your courses are a bit spread out, but easy to reach by public transport. You’ll find clickable links to the locations on Google Maps below.
Goethe University Frankfurt (Campus Riedberg)
A good portion of the Spring School training program occurs amongst the international research hub that is the biological sciences department of Goethe University Frankfurt, a century old University renowned for its quality. It’s largest campus is found at the Northern edge of Frankfurt’s City Sprawl.
From Frankfurt Main Train Station (Hauptbahnhof) or Frankfurt
Airport: Travel by any S-Bahn or U-Bahn line bound for the city centre up to the station Frankfurt “Hauptwache”. Change here to the underground line U8 in the direction of “Riedberg”. Depart at the stop “Uni Campus Riedberg”, which will take about 30 minutes to reach from “Hauptwache”. Start your walk towards the Biology building which is against the direction of train travel. You can also travel by taxi from the central station which will cost about €25.00.
Biologicum Uni-Campus Riedberg
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
60438 Frankfurt am Main
KfW Development Bank
In the very heart of Frankfurt lies the headquarters of KfW Development Bank. This is the centre point of the bank’s many projects which fund development and conservation around the globe. Here our students will gain an insight into how this giant operates.
From Frankfurt Main Train Station (Hauptbahnhof) or Frankfurt Airport:
Take the S-Bahn lines S8 or S9 in the direction of “Offenbach” or “Hanau”, three stops from Frankfurt Airport to Frankfurt Hauptbahnof. At Hauptbahnhof, take the U-Bahn line U4 in the direction of “Bockenheimer Warte”, which you will reach in two stops.
From Goethe University Campus Riedberg:
Take the U-Bahn line U8 in the direction of Südbahnof up to the station “Hauptwache”. Change here onto line U6 in the direction of “Praunheim Heerstraße” or U7 in the direction of “Hausen”, travelling three stops on either line.
Senckenberganlage 30 – 36
Frankfurt Zoological Society
To the East of Frankfurt’s core lies the central body of international conservation organisation Frankfurt Zoological Society. At this centre overlooking the Frankfurt skyline, our students will gain an understanding of how the organisation’s many projects across multiple continents are funded and presented to a variety of audiences.
From Frankfurt Main Train Station (Hauptbahnhof) or Frankfurt Airport:
Take any S-Bahn or U-Bahn line bound for the city centre up to the station “Konstablerwache”. Change here (same platform but opposite track) to the Underground Lines U6 (direction “Frankfurt Ost”) or U7 (direction “Frankfurt Enkheim”). Both lines stop at the station “Zoo”, which is right in front of the Zoo entrance.
From Goethe University Campus Riedberg:
Take the U-Bahn line U8 in the direction of Südbahnof up to the station “Hauptwache”. Change here to the Underground Lines U6 (direction “Frankfurt Ost”) or U7 (direction “Frankfurt Enkheim”). Both lines stop at the station “Zoo”, which is right in front of the Zoo entrance.
FZS European Office
Bernhard-Grzimek-Allee 1, Floor 1
Enjoy Frankfurt. Here are some visual inspirations from Instagram. Click here for more.
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It is T-4: Frankfurt Spring School on Conservation Project management will start on Monday! The first of the 30 participants have already arrived. While taking a first glance at the Frankfurt skyline, FZS-Trainee Christina Götz asked Andhani Hartanti from Indonesia and Issah Mulilo from Zambia about their motivation to participate at Frankfurt Spring School and what they are looking forward to.
Christina: I’m happy to have you with us already. Please give our readers a brief introduction of yourself.
Andhani: “I’m working for Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) in Sumatra as a veterinarian to save orangutans and their habitats. I’m working for FZS since 2015.”
Issah: “I am a project coordinator in North Luangwa National Park in Zambia. My project is assessing the impact of the increasing elephant population in the rhino sanctuary of North Luangwa National Park. Our project aims to ensure that since elephants increase, we need to understand what impact that might have on the available browse of black rhino in North Luangwa National park. And also for other species in the same area. I joined the FZS team in 2016 and by then I was working as a finance and administration assistant.“
What is your motivation to participate in the Spring School?
Andhani: “My motivation to participate in Frankfurt Spring School is to learn more about conservation project management and all the steps of project planning. It is the first time for me to be in Frankfurt and I think it will change my life!”
Issah: “I want to acquire more knowledge and skills. It is an opportunity for me to ensure that I get that knowledge and am able to put it into practice when I go back to Zambia.”
What is the first thing that comes to your mind, when thinking of the Spring School?
Andhani: “I think for me Spring School is like a family. We work for conservation, we have the same background and now we are in one place: like a family.”
Issah: “We are here for the same goals and to assure that conservation is done effectively. And we also need to be proactive and openminded.”
Thank you very much for your time. Now enjoy sunny Frankfurt and have a great time here at the Spring School.
Andhani is also featured in the FZS Image video. Check it out below.
In the last two years, the “Frankfurt Spring School on Conservation Project Management” has seen aspiring early career conservationists from across the globe accumulate to grow their knowledge and skills in preparation for successful conservation project managers.
From the 4th to the 29th of March 2019, our leading conservationists, financial experts, HR leaders and communications specialists will provide the ultimate crash course to 30 Spring School participants.
YOU could be on the receiving end of this invaluable opportunity.
Over four intensive weeks, the programme will provide training in four in-depth teaching modules:
Project management – Accurate planning, monitoring and evaluation are critical to project success. Learn how conservation organisations manage their projects.
Human resources & personnel management – Understand how a skilled conservation project manager becomes a strong and understanding leader who can recognise talent and nurture the skills of themselves and their team.
Financial management – Learn the basic elements of financial management and navigate examples of the funding systems that drive real-life conservation projects. Without money, achieving project success is impossible.
Performance skills – Training in communications, writing ability, presentation skills and time/self and conflict management will provide you with some of the key skills needed to be a professional project manager.
Organisational development – Learn how to develop a strategy for your organization and why it is important to have one.
In addition, the programme includes a chance to understand the scientific research behind conservation efforts, an excursion to get a first-hand experience of wilderness conservation, and plenty of opportunities to spend time with your new colleagues.
Do you have a passion for conservation, a strong work ethic and the drive to improve? Then, the Frankfurt Spring School might be the place for you.
Click here to learn how to apply! Application deadline 1st of November 2018.
Wondering how the Frankfurt Spring School can directly affect your career?
We caught up with some of our 2018 participants to see how they’ve advanced in the last four months.
Zsofia Puskas entered a position with WWF Germany just weeks after the conclusion of Frankfurt Spring School 2018. Knowledge gained during the course on how to carry out real world conservation has aided her efforts towards the reintroduction of the critically endangered northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) in Central Europe.
Skills learnt in the Frankfurt Spring School modules on conservation project management, time/self-management, and financial planning have been of great assistance to
Alex Seliger as he carries out work towards a M.Sc. in landscape ecology and nature conservation, within the National Park ‘Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft’ (Baltic Coast, Germany).
Shortly after Frankfurt Spring School, Claudia Hermes began to work at conservation giant “BirdLife International”, supporting work on the red list of critically endangered species. “The Spring School programme taught me exactly what to expect from working in a conservation NGO. Modules on finding a job in conservation were extremely helpful for me.”
Frankfurt Spring School 2018 is already starting to feel like a distant memory. In reality only five months have passed. And yet, in this short time frame, we can observe our pioneering conservationists forging their careers.
During this year’s Spring School blog we focussed amongst others on some of our participants from around the world – our six KfW Foundation scholarship students. To catch up on their stories in detail, follow this link to a previous blog post.
Each scholarship holder brought with them a dream project proposal that would support the conservation of their respective protected areas. To further its aim of supporting pioneering ideas and environmental protection, the KfW Foundation pledged funding to three of the six scholars.
Following the intensive Spring School programme, a series of individual mentoring sessions, and hours upon hours of planning and practice, the scholarship holders presented their project proposals to the KfW Foundation selection committee. The committee was tasked with an impossible decision, believing that each project proposal was deserving of funding. Ultimately, a decision had to be made.
The 2018 recipients of the KfW Foundation scholarship grant are:
Jennifer Montoya Lopez (Ministry of Environment, Ecuador) – “Conservation of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates) at Puntila de Santa Elena Wildlife Reserve”
The salty pacific waters off the coast of Ecuador are the dwelling of a treasured bottlenose dolphin population and a rich variety of marine life. Humans have long fished these waters to support livelihoods, but in recent years overfishing within the protected area and lack of oversight by local fishing authorities have threatened the dolphins’ food source.
Jennifer’s conservation efforts will begin with an awareness campaign encouraging responsible usage of the marine fauna by local fishermen. The project involves generating a strong commitment between the fishing authorities and Ministry of Environment to ensure respect for the existing fishing regulations. It is Jennifer’s hope that the defined actions for the management of the project area will be used as a pilot study for future global conservation projects related to fishing and marine animals.
Kevin Ibañez Saravia (Frankfurt Zoological Society, Peru) – “Strengthening the conservation of the Yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis) in the Heath River basin, Peru/Bolivia”
In the depths of Peru’s Bahuaja Sonene National Park lies the Heath River basin, a stretch of water surrounded by dense tropical rainforest. The area is home to a great diversity of life, including the vulnerable yellow-spotted river turtle. But, it has come under threat in recent years due to increased mining, logging and human expansion within the park.
The eggs of the river turtle are used as a food source for native communities but are starting to become popular in the commercial market of growing nearby cities. The increased demand is driving unsustainable collection rates. Kevin’s project will involve the use of outreach to engage those living in the area, restoring harmony between humans and the national park. He will oversee the creation of beaches protected from human access, a resource efficient method of preserving the Heath river basin turtle population.
Joyce Mungure (Tanzania National Parks) – “Bee-keeping for sustainability in villages adjacent to the Serengeti National Park”
The famous megafauna of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park includes elephants, rhinoceros, lions, buffalo, and many more. The consequences of conflict between these animals and humans can be severe, but the monetary value of some of these species in international markets and the ever-present need for food makes this risk worth it for some. As the population of villages bordering Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park continues to expand, the rate of interaction between wildlife and human communities rises too. Excessive exploitation of the land and poaching are great threats to this bastion of biodiversity.
Joyce’s plan will utilise beehives to provide a new socioeconomic opportunity for villages within the area. It is hoped that providing education on sustainable use of natural resources and the methods of beekeeping will reduce the burdens of poaching and unsustainable land-use on the ecosystem.
The busy months ahead will be a great challenge for each of the KfW Foundation grant recipients, but there is no doubt about their dedication and ability to succeed. We are excited to see the effects of their enacted conservation projects as they unfold.
It would be wrong to forget the equal amounts of hard-work and development carried out by the three remaining KfW participants during the 2018 Spring School programme. Lalatiana Randriamiharisoa, Tinh Nguyen Thi, and Muluken Abayneh have returned to their conservation areas around the world, not empty handed, but with an enriched skillset and motivation to become key assets to their respective projects and within the protected ares where they work.
We wish all six 2018 KfW scholarship holders the greatest success in their endeavours during the hard months and years to come.
As quick as a flash, it’s over. Four weeks of Frankfurt Spring School 2018 have come to an end. It’s been a busy time enriched with so many different topics, people and experiences. Now it’s time for our students to part ways, taking their newfound skills with them to develop and execute conservation projects in every corner of the globe.
But what was it like to be a student of Frankfurt Spring School 2018? Do our students really feel prepared for a prestigious career in the conservation world?
Of course, we have to ask them.
Those that have followed this blog since its inception a month ago will remember Claudia Hermes and Zsófia Puskás, two of our dedicated students who took the time to tell us their hopes for Spring School and beyond.
If you missed it, you can check it out here.
Before they leave Frankfurt, we sat down for one last conversation about their experiences.
Just a month ago we were here talking about your expectations for Spring School 2018. Did you achieve all you were hoping to?
Claudia: When I came here, I wanted to get to know how to run a conservation project. I now feel much more up to facing the challenges of every-day work in practical conservation. There are so many things you have to consider when you are a project leader, from developing the project to fundraising and human resource management. During the Spring School, we covered all these topics, and I gained really valuable insights into the how projects are managed.
Zsófia: My expectation for the Spring School was for it to help me become more competent, which has been more than fulfilled. After finishing my university studies, I didn’t feel well prepared for entering the conservation job market. Although theoretical knowledge had been transferred, universities are research-oriented and give few insights into practical work done either by governmental or non-governmental organisations. Here in the Spring School I gained experience by actively applying the new techniques and skills required for practical work.
Can you tell us about a single course that most impacted you during Spring School 2018, and tell us why?
Claudia: I enjoyed all of the modules offered during the Spring School a lot, so I cannot even say which course I liked best. I think one of the most helpful modules was definitely the Project Planning workshop run by Martin Davies and Nick Folkard.
Zsófia: I agree, the logical framework planning method helps you not just to set up the conservation project plan, but it is also useful for the communication and strategic plans.
Claudia: The theory behind the LogFrames is so universal that it can be applied in many aspects of life – be it biodiversity conservation, structuring your Master’s thesis work or even planning a birthday party! But I also very much enjoyed the module on communication. I think that communication is a very powerful tool in conservation – if you know how to talk about it, you can reach so many people and increase the impact of your work considerably.
Zsófia: I would also highlight the module on Human Resources. I especially liked the insight into experiences at different steps of the conservation career ladder: employer and employee. I also enjoyed the last day with the module of organisational development and strategies, where we learned how to clarify our missions and aims and how to plan the steps toward our goal. This is probably because I tend to be more structural in personality type and adopt an analytical social style, an introspection I gained regarding personal development in the modules of Social Styles and Workshop Facilitation.
Can you each sum up how Spring School has changed your outlook on your future in conservation?
Claudia: The Spring School was not only a fascinating experience, it also helped me a lot in clarifying what I want to do in the future. I’ve now managed to make up my mind about my career plans. During the Spring School, I got so much information on what skills are required to work in nature conservation, which was incredibly helpful. Apart from that, I met so many interesting people here who are doing great work in conservation projects around the world – it has been really inspiring!
Zsófia: Since my bachelor studies I know that only answering scientific questions is not enough for me. That was the reason that I chose to study a master’s degree on wildlife management, which is more applied. I took some lectures in conservation but I wasn’t sure whether it is the future for me. The Spring School confirmed for me that this is the way I want to go, it’s given me so much motivation.
The Frankfurt Spring School on Conservation Project Management 2018 has been a truly enriching experience. We wish our students the best of luck for their futures, we can’t wait to see what they get up to! Immense thanks to each of our facilitators for their outstanding efforts, and of course to the Frankfurt Spring School’s partner organisations that make all of this possible.
Don’t worry, this isn’t the end. Already we’re examining feedback, improving and innovating for 2019. Stay tuned in the coming months for more information. We hope you’ll join us again!
Let’s face it, for many, the word “finance” sends shivers down spines. It’s seen purely as an obstacle that has to be surpassed, a chore of sometimes unimaginable difficulty that prevents the crucial conservation efforts from completion…
But of course, if you have no money, you have no project. It can be argued that knowing how to manage your finances is a keystone skill of utmost importance for conservation project management. Knowing the ins and outs of the process might well be the key to success.
This is a belief certainly held by our finance facilitators.
Frankfurt Zoological Society’s head of finance, Florian Becker-Gitschel, began his life in finance at the age of 12. He used a few Deutsche Marks to purchase shares in Pan American World Airways, a company that would unfortunately collapse in 1991, but by this time Florian had made returns on his investment and grew a passion for international financial links. After many years in the private sector, Florian brought his skills to FZS, where he balances the books for the organisation’s global projects.
Similarly, Dennis Hilleman of KPMG Law Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH, started young. Beloved childhood movies such as “My Cousin Vinny” inspired Dennis to become a lawyer. Following this passion, through his education he felt most at home in the world of financial law. Today he follows his golden rule system and knowledge of funding law to thrive amongst the talent of one of Frankfurt’s leading law firms.
So, what does a job in finance look like? It’s easy to imagine a life spent staring at spreadsheets, and throwing calculators at the wall after finding out the numbers yet again don’t add up. Is this really the case? We asked our facilitators a couple of questions to see the hidden side of life in the financial sector.
In your respective positions at FZS and KPMG, what was the greatest challenge you faced? How did you overcome it?
Florian told us that “Every day brings a different challenge, there’s no day with the same tasks. I work with projects on 4 continents across 3 time regions. I must work with colleagues in Asia, Europe, Africa, America, at different times of day, it’s a 24-hour job.”
His greatest challenge is never being able to specify in one area, Florian handles all financial aspects of a project, including the different people and different systems, across different currencies. He can never concentrate on one project, but regardless, he thrives amongst the diversity, handling it all.
Dennis Hilleman was once faced a with an extremely important political mandate. He and his team had lots of pressure to deliver an answer, with just a couple of days to deliver it. “It was a very challenging and stressful time, but we overcame it by keeping a structured work pace. I always tell associates that the best advice is to stay true to your aims, and don’t forget Douglas Adams’ famous words: “DON’T PANIC”. In financial law, the biggest tasks are more easily overcome when they are well-structured.”
And your greatest triumph?
For Florian: “Personally, I’m most proud of the smaller wins. Most commonly, preventing FZS from outside hits.” Some people with a great love for conservation leave legacies for the work of FZS, after they pass. “Sadly, alternate heirs who hope to change the will of the deceased often scramble for the cash. We face big challenges to fulfil the last wishes of those passionate in conservation. When we succeed in enacting the final will of these wonderful people, that’s what makes me feel most proud in this job”.
Dennis too enjoys the smaller scale achievements “Last year had I had a client very dear to me. He had to undergo complex negotiations on a political level. With a great deal of hard work, we managed to conclude a very complex cooperation agreement. The client was extremely pleased, and we advanced his work for him. Ultimately, the work is all about making the clients happy, that’s what drives me.”
What do you most hope our students understand about the world of finances, from your fleeting time together?
Florian Becker-Gitschel – “They have to be aware of finances, they have to spend every euro wisely and correctly. It’s our responsibility to every donor to apply money in the right way. This is not easy. Communication between finance and projects is essential to ensure this. For those who want to be project managers, take care of your finance team (with schnapps ideally), and your work will run smoothly.”
Dennis Hillemann – “If you follow the Golden rules for working with public or private funds, in your future professional work, be it in conservation or any other profession related to finance, you can achieve what you need to achieve.”
Thanks very much to our fantastic facilitators for their patience and time in making such a complex topic digestible.
About Spring School
Frankfurt Spring School on Conservation Project Management is an annual four weeks course unique to Germany for gaining crucial knowledge and skills required for becoming a professional project manager.
It was developed within a partnership of seven organizations linked to practical conservation, science and research or general management.