Personal website and blog of an IT enthusiast

About me

My name is Axel Knauf. I am a Cologne-based IT professional mainly working in software development and architecture, general IT and business consulting and tech leadership with the teams I am on. I've been working in the industry since March 2005 after having graduated from university. Nowadays I am usually staffed as tech lead and delivery principal on interdisciplinary software development teams.

Areas of Expertise

Tech and digital strategy

How can we efficiently and effectively build robust and maintainable software products? How can we make digital products and services successful in the market? How can we make sure that we're building the "right thing" in a user-centric way?

Software design and architecture

How can we evolve software with the right level of abstraction and complexity for the need at hand? How can we take the right decisions and make sure we're future-proofing our approach? What kind of architecture suits our needs now and in future? And how can we get from here to there in a reliable way?

Tech Leadership

Never forget: Software is built by humans for humans! How can we create an inclusive and diverse workplace, being respectful with each other and mediating conflicts in a grown-up way? How do we take into account the full breadth of who we are and who our customers are? How can we improve our working processes without neglecting fun at work?

Current Role

I am currently working as tech lead on an agile development team building the self-service portal for a major German insurance company. As tech lead my main responibility is making sure that we balance the needs between business - such as time to market, compliance and regulatory requirements - and technical aspects, especially around a harmonious architecture that grows with the needs of team and application. In that role my main focus is working as a 'team catalyst', removing obstacles, nurturing information flow, facilitating workshops, aligning with the organisation, mediating conflicts and having a keen eye on software quality and style.

In previous engagements I have mainly been filling the same role in different settings and with a colorful variety of team setups. I used to work in IT consulting a lot, had a lot of exposure to intercultural and international teams with co-located, remote and hybrid setups. I am currently working for an IT services company in Cologne, focusing on the local market. In addition to my client-facing work I am also engaged in some internal initiatives aiming to improve the working environment, business and strategic needs of my employer.


Here's the buzzword bingo of technologies, frameworks, and nerd-paraphernalia that I've used over the years, omitting a lot of detail, but search engines like it:

  • Languages: Java, Clojure, Scala, JavaScript/TypeScript, Shell, a little bit of Python for ML stuff, R and Octave
  • Frameworks: Spring + SpringBoot, React, Vue
  • Testing: JUnit 4 + 5, Cypress, Selenium, ArchUnit, Mockito and the likes
  • Cloud and Infrastructure: all kinds of AWS services, mainly via Terraform/Terragrunt, AWS CLI, Hashicorp Vault, Azure DevOps and infra (also via TF)
  • Containerization: Docker, Packer, Kubernetes (user, not admin), Rancher, AWS Elastic Services and EKS
  • Dev Tooling: Maven, Gradle, Git, SVN (if you're still using it, you're doing it wrong. Also, there's git-svn ^^), a bit of SBT, Leiningen and deps.edn
  • CI/CD: Gitlab CI, Github Enterprise, Jenkins, TeamCity, GoCD
  • Databases: Oracle, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, Aurora
  • Machine Learning: GNU Octave, R Studio, Python, TensorFlow, Pandas, SciKit Learn, GNUPlot, Jupyter notebooks

Some of this dates back a few years, but learning is one of the main skills a technologist needs, and I am quite quick at picking up new languages, frameworks and tools. Try me.

Previous Employment

  • 2021 - now: Cologne Intelligence Software Solutions GmbH, Tech Lead, Developer, Consultant, mixed public services, insurance, startup
  • 2017 - 2021: ThoughtWorks Inc., Lead Consultant, Developer, Architect, mixed automotive, healthcare, startup, wholesale
  • 2013 - 2017: Publicis Pixelpark, Tech Lead, Developer, mainly e-commerce
  • 2007 - 2013: Razorfish (formerly Neue Digitale), Technical Architect, Developer, mainly online marketing
  • 2005 - 2007: Accenture Technology Solutions GmbH, IT Consultant, Developer, mainly financial services

Personal Interests

From my childhood days on I have always been very curious about how things work. Correspondingly, I have a broad variety of personal interests, including, but not limited to, the following topics (in no particular order):

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Software and system architecture, craftmanship and engineering
  • Fermentation, kimchi, sauerkraut, sour-dough bread
  • Cell and molecular biology, infectiology, the human immune system, endocrinology
  • Language and linguistics, etymology, artificial languages, semiotics + syntax + semantics
  • Philosophy and the sciences, epistomology, thought experiments, ethics
  • Neuroscience and -psychology, how does the brain work, what affects our moods and opinions?
  • Music: Heavy, Death, Black Metal, Stoner and Doom, Classic Rock, Guitars, Bass and Drums, Concerts
  • Rationality research, what cognitive biases exist and how can we take better decisions?
  • Social psychology, how does motivation surface, how do groups of people interact, how does conflict 'happen'?
  • Facilitation methods, workshop formats, liberating structures, digital innovation
  • Free and Open Source Software, community, technology, open data and standards, Linux
  • Creative writing, what makes a good story, captivating characters work?
  • Systems thinking and theory, everything is connected, butterfly effects, feedback loops and leverage points
  • Birds and trees, some of the most beautiful natural phenomena
  • Literature: poetry, limericks, haiku, plays with words, classical dramas, science fiction

Is there anything that could interest me? What am I missing? What should I be looking at? Drop me a note (see contact options on home).


I am currently not looking for a new role or freelance work. In case you want to reach out anyhow, please feel free to contact me via one of the options on the home page.