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My first boss: Dana Aleff, CEO and co-founder of Circonomit

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Dana Aleff's business grounding was learnt in the Australian Outback. Photo: Circonomit
Dana Aleff's business grounding was learnt in the Australian Outback. Photo: Circonomit

German Dana Aleff is CEO and one of three founders of Circonomit, an Aachen-based company founded in June 2022. The company develops software for monitoring C02 emissions and circular process design for larger companies. It operates in the IT services business area and builds the bridge between corporate strategy, financial optimisation and the environmental impact assessment of products and processes.

I first came across businessman Brad Atkinson in the Australian Outback. I wanted to learn English and I arrived there by accident. I met someone on the street who said this company needed someone 300kms into the Outback and driving machinery for hundreds of kilometres.


I was an 18-year-old girl from the city and no one had believed in me. Brad was a great guy. He was watching and observing me, and trusted me that I had skills like no one else had done previously.

Read More: My first boss: John Ridd, co-founder of cloud sustainability start-up Greenpixie

My grandfather had a workshed and I was always building things with wood or pulley blocks from a small child. Years later in Australia I was starting to repair machinery and organise logistics, which involved helicopters and farming. Some people said an 18-year-old girl couldn't do the stuff. What I learned from Brad was being able to talk less, observe and watch employees to see what their skills are.

Brad was different from the typical Australian living out there with a business mindset. He was expanding the business and working with international cooperations. One time, we were doing machinery maintenance and I was told to put in a screw. I said that I wouldn’t do it.

Brad was observing and it was a little comment where he said, ‘You are different from all the others, either you don’t work or you do it properly.’ I learned everyday and dived into the work. It made me stronger and I stayed a couple of years before flying back to Germany.

Read More: My first boss: Brian O’Kelley, ‘the godfather of ad tech’

I was studying mechanical engineering and ended up in the research department of my university and learning more than just CO2 emissions dashboarding. I realised that there was research but it wasn’t being used in industry, and not being able to trace our supply chains back for, say, energy supplies.

There is a lack of primary data to perform in-depth lifecycle assessments. Existing systems cannot cope with the new complexity, so decision-makers lack adapted information systems. We needed an industry solution and not to be hidden in research. The idea was to understand how business is run nowadays.

I thought about two things: data and a leverage effect to bring a life cycle assessment into the industry quickly. We started to ask ourselves, ‘can we not use financial data as an additional data source?’ By looking at this from a sustainable point of view, you discover new process paths and new optimisation potentials.

It was Brad who told me when I left that I should do mechanical engineering. He said that we should meet again once I was done with my studies – and we still have contact today.

Read More: My first boss: Chris Sheldrick, what3words co-founder and CEO

I always think about him now when I try not to look at what’s on a person’s CV and being able to place them in the right work space.

Communication is so vital for me as a business leader, as well as having a purpose over what you are trying to achieve. Nowadays, you have to have a deeper purpose. We can’t just build a business on making money and that’s what makes me motivated everyday. Some people say I have this crazy, positive energy. As a leader, if you have a purpose and you make the team feel it, that’s what it’s all about.

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