Interview done by Emilija Georgievska
I met Mathias a few months ago, on a new media workshop held in Istanbul. In fact, the workshop happened right after the European Youth Award Summit in Graz, where Mathias and his project “Findia” won the award in the category “pursue truth”. I still remember the look on his face when I said that I am a Mladiinfo representative – he was astounded that he met a person from another winning project on the Summit. After I got to know Mathias a little bit better and learn more about the reason why he and his team won the award, I knew I had to make this interview and share his story with the Mladiinfo audience.
1. Can you shortly introduce yourself? Who is Mathias Haas?
I am 25 years old. I originally come from Salzburg, but I live and study in Vienna. Law is my major, but I am actually not a full-time student because I am working most of the time.
2. I learned that by the age of 25 you have visited many different countries in the world. Can you name a few of them?
After finishing my civil service which all youngsters are required to do in Austria, I did a 9 month world trip. Just on this one, I have visited Jordan, India, China, Thailand, Tibet, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, USA, Canada, England. I had the chance to visit India ten times already because my great grandparents lived there. So far I have been on all continents.
3. A very astonishing number of world countries to see, I must admit. How did this trip come about?
Actually, this world trip has always been one of my biggest dreams and everything was planned on my own, which means that I paid for it as well. I worked very hard during the planning period and I used CouchSurfing for the most part of my travelling.
4. I am pretty sure that the trip must have cost a fortune, regardless of the fact that you usually used accommodation for free. What did you actually do to earn that sum of money?
Parallel to my civil service, I worked as a waiter and I also worked in the Opera House of Salzburg as an usher, every night, which was not a bad thing because I was able to listen to all the operas for free (if you are into that kind of thing). I spent every weekend on working different part-time jobs, whatever came into my way. For a period of one year and probably longer than that, I actually didn’t spend any money on going out or partying. I was so focused to fulfill my dream, which came out to be the biggest opportunity I have ever had in my life.
5. This amazing world trip of yours must have had a tremendous impact on your life. What happened afterwards, how did you continue this chapter?
When I came back from my trip, I knew that I want to work something internationally, something that includes contact with people from different backgrounds. This idea lead to me to what I do now, and that is the founding of my own company which is called “SuperSocial”. I do social media marketing for big companies and NGOs on international level, so I travel a lot. The company employs seven free-lancers with no fixed working time and me, as my own boss, which is very good and bad at the same time. Since most of the work is done on the internet, I work whenever I have my laptop with me which basically means that I work all the time. It was a long way to get to where I am now, no matter how young I am. There were many steps to go through to have my own company, but the key to my success is the experience I got from doing many different jobs before my trip. There are many things from the field of finance, management and marketing that you should know in order to keep your company alive. My hard work and determination brought me to work for companies such as Red Bull, Volkswagen, Porsche, Adidas, United Nations, and many local brands as well, such as bakeries, hair saloons, cafés etc.
6. Let’s talk about the project that won a European Youth Summit Award, simply named “Findia”. What is the story behind it?
“Findia” is a charity-, arts- and journalism project which started while I was on my world trip. In New Zealand I met a German friend of mine who wanted to visit India and asked me to give her some advice about where to go and what to do. At the end, we made a deal to go there together, but with a certain purpose, to bring benefit by our trip. Other friends joined in as well and we somehow got the idea to make this project that covers the fields of charity, arts and journalism, and by doing different workshops and events we help the local community in India. Since I had contacts from many Indian NGOs, we didn’t have a problem in establishing a connection.
7. How was the funding of this project dealt with?
The thing is that at the beginning, in 2009 when the first trip to India was made, we as participants covered all the expenses by ourselves. When in the end the project came out to be a big success, we managed to get a sponsor to get back all project costs, the travel costs were covered by us.
8. Are you planning to make “Findia” an ongoing project, with a different destination in mind maybe?
In fact yes, we do. The first group went to India in 2009, then we made our second trip in February 2012, now South Africa in February 2013 and now we are thinking about a new place to visit. Our goal for now is to make a social franchise out of “Findia”, so if anyone from Macedonia, let’s say, wants so visit India, we can make all the arrangements and plans.
9. If I understood well, you still haven’t earned a university degree. I don’t have the impression that you feel like you have missed something important in your life. Looking back to what you have been doing the past years, would you ever make a different choice regarding your educational background?
When I think about all those things, I realize that what I earn from university is the degree only, which is necessary in today’s conditions. My real-life professor was my world trip, which taught me more than any educational institution. I learned from the people I met, from the experiences I went through and in the end, I also did a lot of internships, changed many jobs and all of this meant so much more than any other instruction. The trip was my biggest investment in life and it definitely paid off.
So that is how our enjoyable conversation came to a close. As you can see, dreams can become a reality if you work hard enough. Here Mathias adds:” It is not only the hard work that helps, but also the ability to face failure and not to get disappointed if something didn’t work out the way it was planned” As the saying goes – it is human to err! For detailed information about the “Findia” project, and for SuperSocial.