1 study - 3 jobs

Today, our UM alumni community consists of almost 10.000 graduates. This column features three alumni at at time, who followed the same study programme. Graduated in different cohorts, they're now working in various branches. Read more about their jobs, ambitions and dreams. 

Why did you decide to study the Master’s in Labour & Law at UM at the time?

What does a working day look like for you?

Rianne: My working days are very varied and no day is the same. I often start by answering all the e-mails in my mailbox, which mostly come from HR advisers, colleagues or managers. Depending on the day, I have a few appointments, live or via Teams and always some ad hoc questions or urgencies. In my work, I deal with all facets of labour law. On a daily basis, I get questions about contracts, ‘chain arrangements’, illness, but also resignations. In addition, together with my colleagues I make up HR policy and we keep track of new legislation and translate it into practice in our hospital.

Sanne: As a lawyer, my working day can vary a lot, depending on the assignments on my desk at the time. Generally, I start my working day by checking my emails and my agenda, and plan my day. I then get to work on ongoing matters, such as preparing legal documents, consulting with clients and attending meetings and hearings. I also keep my knowledge up to date with legislation and case law by reading professional literature and case law and by attending courses. In addition, I enjoy writing legal texts and contribute to the creation of courses for clients. Finally, I find it important to build a good relationship with my clients and keep them regularly updated on the progress of their case.

Mark: I am the secretary of the Faculty Board. That means I support the Faculty Board by preparing the administrative agenda and taking minutes of the biweekly meetings. I also ensure that the decisions taken by the Faculty Board are followed up and communicated. The Faculty Board consists of the dean, the director, the vice dean of Education, the vice dean of Research and the two student members. This body meets every fortnight and, during that meeting, makes various decisions that set the course of faculty policy. Think, for example, about how to deal with the developments surrounding artificial intelligence in scientific education, or how to ensure that students, staff and PhD students come to the faculty feeling happy and safe. In addition, together with my fellow secretary, I act as the dean's right hand(s) and support him in that capacity during his work. Finally, in addition to my daily work, I am also writing my research proposal. In fact, in September I will start a PhD project.

What makes your work so enjoyable?

Rianne: Working in healthcare is really awesome! I also work in a very large organisation, which has its disadvantages, but it is also very special to have more than 15,000 colleagues. I also take many steps in a day. The work is varied and I have many opportunities to develop myself. In fact, last year I was able to start the two-year talent programme. Over two years, my personal development is the focus, with internal and external training from the Baak.

Sanne: I mainly enjoy going to work because I can use my creativity, personality and qualities in my work as a lawyer. I am convinced that each individual has unique qualities and that it is important to use them in work. It gives me satisfaction when I can use my own skills to achieve the best result for my clients. In addition, the fact that every case is different and I always encounter new challenges, keeps my work interesting and engaging. I enjoy solving complex legal issues and finding practical solutions for my clients. In addition, as a lawyer, I have the opportunity to contribute to a fair and just society, and this gives me a sense of satisfaction and meaning in my work. Another aspect of my work that I appreciate is the variety. One day I work with a client, while the next day, for example, I take a legal course to keep my knowledge up to date. This variety makes my work challenging and interesting. In short, I enjoy going to work when I can use my own qualities and style, take on new challenges, and make a positive impact.

Mark: When I get up in the morning, I immediately feel like starting my working day. Never before have I gone to work with so much pleasure as during the past few months. And that is mainly because of my colleagues. Together with my fellow secretary, Heidi Gulix, and the dean, Jan Smits, we form a diverse but very close-knit team. Our diversity ensures that we can assess all problems (read: challenges) from different perspectives and ultimately choose the solution that best suits the challenge we are facing at the time. Our closeness then ensures openness and honesty. As a result, we help each other during difficult moments, but can also laugh (a lot) and put things into perspective.

What is the most special or memorable moment you have experienced in your work?

Rianne: Working during the first weeks of COVID-19 pandemic was a really special experience. Everyone went into crisis mode and suddenly mountains of work can be moved and lines of communication are very short.

Sanne: During my student internship, I had a special and memorable moment. I had the opportunity to collaborate on an appeal for an important case. It was a challenging assignment where I worked hard to write a well-reasoned and persuasive appeal brief. In the end, parts of my construction and argumentation were used in the final appeal brief, which gave me extra motivation to continue with my studies.

As a lawyer, I now realise that the most special thing about my work is the trust people place in me to represent them in their legal disputes. The fact that I can make a difference in their lives is very valuable. Earning clients' trust and representing their interests is a great responsibility, and I am grateful to be able to fulfil this role. It gives me great satisfaction to know that I can have a positive impact on the lives of others through my work as a lawyer.

Mark: The most memorable moment I have experienced in my work has mainly to do with the day when I managed to complete my (long) study path. In 2013, I started at the mbo and then went step-by-step through the Dutch education system to finally start a university study. Therefore, the day I was told that I had completed the last subject of my master's with a ten - and had therefore summa cum laude received my master's title - was a very special moment.

What or who inspires you?

Rianne: All healthcare workers! That is what we do it for and it is incredibly beautiful to work for them.

Sanne: There are several people and things that inspire me, both personally and professionally. For example, my patron is steadfast and confident in his approach and knows well how to react in different situations. He is not easily swayed from his path. There is a lot of knowledge and experience behind this that I also learn from. He teaches me that it is important to stick to what you want to achieve in a case and to be confident in my work as a lawyer. His sharp writing skills and ability to get to the heart of a case quickly are also instructive. He inspires me to also work that way and develop myself further in these skills, while leaving room for my own style.  There is also a colleague who inspires me by his approach to conflicts. He always keeps the parties' interests in mind and tries to preserve the relationship between them. He does this by approaching people nicely and correctly and looking for solutions that are acceptable to both parties. His approach is an example of how to resolve conflicts without damaging the relationship. I find it inspiring how he does his work and try to apply this myself in my work as a lawyer. Furthermore, I draw inspiration from other professionals in the legal sector who are committed to looking after their clients' interests and improving the administration of justice. I am also inspired by people who are socially involved.

On a personal level, I am inspired by people who are committed to others and the world around them. This could be, for example, a volunteer working for a good cause or a family member inspiring others through their life experience and perseverance.

Mark: While my father had both feet in life, he suddenly ended up in intensive care in autumn 2020 due to a brain infarct. In the months that followed, medical complications left him balancing on the edge of the ravine several times. He is currently living in a care home and riding in a wheelchair. But instead of throwing in the towel and surrendering to the setbacks he has had to endure, he has raised a middle finger to the abyss, turned right around and is fighting daily (with headwinds) to regain everything he lost due to the brain infarct. With his unstoppable perseverance, humour and ability to put things into perspective, he is an example for anyone facing difficulties.

What would you like to pass on to current (master's) students?

Rianne: You only really learn employment law in practice. That sounds a bit strange, but it really is. Theory and case law are absolutely necessary, but practice is always different and never black and white. That is precisely what makes it incredibly interesting! Besides, the career possibilities are endless. I myself started in the legal profession and ended up back in healthcare via a municipality. Above all, look at yourself and what kind of organisation suits you best and go for it!

Sanne: The importance of continuing to learn and develop yourself. I would also recommend gaining practical experience, for example by doing several internships or gaining work experience at a law firm. This can help you get a better understanding of the day-to-day practice of legal work and see what really suits you. Moreover, no two law firms are the same, so experience at different firms (or other agencies) is always valuable. This will allow you to make an informed choice for yourself later on. Furthermore, I would recommend building a wide network and keeping in touch with fellow students and professionals in the sector. Also, always keep thinking critically and asking questions, this will help you to keep developing yourself and grow as a successful lawyer.

Finally, what I would like to pass on is the importance of your personality. During your studies, a lot of emphasis is put on building your CV, but realise that it is also about how you as a person interpret certain things. Your character and personality are sometimes more important than your CV, provided you can explain them well. Suppose, for example, that in addition to your studies, you did not just do internships at Zuidas offices, but that you also had a job at the supermarket because you did not receive student grants and still dragged yourself through the course. This shows, for example, that you are willing to work hard and that you have perseverance. Or suppose you supported your family alongside your studies, or volunteered because you think it is important to be socially involved. This shows that you know how to prioritise and work hard, even if it does not bring the most prestige. These kinds of traits are just as important as your CV. So let your character speak for you. Last but not least, call or physically visit if you want to work or intern somewhere. Then people already have a voice or a face to the letter you send, it may just give you an edge.

Mark: Don't take your place at university for granted. Many mbo students dream of being allowed to study at a university, but are being held back by the bureaucratic framework of the Dutch education system. I can know, having been an mbo student with such a dream myself for many years. Being allowed to study is a privilege. Treat it as such and be proud to be part of the select company that starts his/her life with a university degree. But, above all, also enjoy the vast resource of knowledge at your disposal!

What do you do in your job?

At the time, why did you decide to study BA Health Sciences at UM?

Christel: There were far fewer degree programmes from which to choose back when I was a student. I did know that I wanted to do ‘something’ related to health. Two friends of mine were already studying in Maastricht: one was studying Law, and the other Medicine. I had been to Maastricht on numerous occasions, and I thought it was a nice city: not too big, not too small. And the major advantage: in the Health Sciences degree programme at UM, you did not immediately have to choose a specialisation; the first year featured a wide range of subjects, followed by a narrower focus and eventually you would choose a direction. With six years’ worth of student grants (that was still possible in those days!), I opted for two specialisations: Biological Medicine and Movement Sciences.

Jim: Because I have family members working in healthcare in the broadest sense, I have always had a lot of exposure to healthcare and health. Conversations during meals were often about care-related issues. The deciding factor for me to choose this academic path was the many options offered by the Health Sciences programme at UM. The programme ties in with my current work because of the interesting intersection between care and well-being. In addition to knowledge, I also gained skills during my studies that I can really put to use in my job. For example, how to give presentations, the practical approach of problem-based learning for solving complex issues, collaborating with other students, critical reflection and so forth.

Lisanne: During my secondary school year, I was convinced that I wanted to become a manager in a hospital. I could not think of a better place to do that than at a faculty located at a hospital [the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at UM, which offers the Health Sciences programme, is next door to Maastricht University Medical Centre or MUMC+ - ed.]. In addition, it appealed to me that the first year is very broad, and health is discussed from different perspectives. I also liked the warm and friendly atmosphere in the city of Maastricht; I immediately felt at home, really. 

During my first year, I chose the specialisation Health Care Policy and Management.  Gradually, however, I discovered that this programme did not suit me. I wanted to learn more about people, and it fell short on that front. Consequently, I did my second year again, this time with Mental Healthcare as my specialisation. I did my internship in special primary education, where I observed that education is an interesting and dynamic field. Now that I can combine a managerial position with improving education and thus contribute to the development of children, everything has fallen into place. In other words, being the manager of a hospital no longer appeals to me.

What makes your job so enjoyable?

Christel: There is a lot of variety in my job. On the one hand, I interact with many different young people, and on the other I also see how the university is constantly developing and professionalising. Graduates of the Health Sciences programme have enough to do -- especially when I look at what is happening in society. Take all of the challenges involving disease, health and the government's choices to get --and keep -- people healthy and in a way that is affordable for all parties!

Jim: The great thing about my job is the range of activities related to various themes, all of which have their own issues. Plus, I work in a small organisation, which means I can advance quickly and operate on every level in the organisation, and make my contribution. The best is when you can deliver work that makes a tangible difference and you can complete assignments with satisfaction. It is also nice to be able to alternate between complex issues that require a considerable amount of time but ultimately yield a good end product such as a report, and doing work that has immediate results. At Zet, I have the privilege of making the podcast series Nieuwsgierige Gasten (‘Curious Guests’) with my colleague and fellow Health Sciences graduate Thijs van de Schoot. In our first season, we went in search of the ‘purpose economy’ in the province of Noord-Brabant. We explore this complex concept together with researchers, experts on the theme, directors and administrators, social entrepreneurs, policy officers and others, and more.

Lisanne: There are numerous factors that make my job really enjoyable. First of all, I have absolutely wonderful colleagues; a team that truly tackles the job together, supports each other and helps each other grow. Secondly, I get a lot of energy from the variety of the job - each day is completely different - and the large network with which we cooperate and connect with.  Education is honestly a really amazing field, where people work together with tremendous enthusiasm to do their best each and every day. In my job, I definitely benefit from everything I learned in my degree programme, especially how it helped me improve my analytical skills, critical ability, and interviewing techniques during the exercises with patient interactions.

What is the most extraordinary, memorable or wonderful thing you have experienced in your job?

Christel: My children sometimes tell me about running into someone their age -- for example through their circle of friends, or during a night out or at university -- and hearing what I meant to them, or simply that I was a nice person. The best compliment that I ever received through the grapevine was that ‘the course was always fun, but we were definitely expected to work hard'.

Jim: That I was able to inspire people through my efforts, and to help them with their social issue. I focus on the theme of social impact and I train citizens and/offer training to help citizens’ initiatives to tell and explain their impact story more effectively. I am proud when I subsequently hear participants describe what and how they contribute to society with their initiative, and it is deeply rewarding for me. I can go home satisfied. One of the initiatives is Stichting Weeshuisjes (‘Abandoned Houses Foundation’), which makes vacant small-scale cultural heritage available to initiators who wish to contribute to the community in their own unique way. This could be an art project, or a podcast series, or creating a place where local residents can meet for a coffee.

Lisanne: That, if people and organisations truly dare to connect and work together, it is usually possible to provide education for a child in an appropriate place with appropriate support. That is what we are doing it for, and those are the successes that we celebrate. In addition, I enjoy being in a leadership position. Although I have not done this for very long, supporting people, forming a team and being able to help ensure that they enjoy their work is special.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Christel: I have no idea. I am not that goal-oriented with respect to my development. The opportunities that I was offered and seized in the past either came to me or I spotted them. In any case, I hope that in 10 years' time I will still be here, helping people to gain and assimilate important knowledge. And having a lot of fun in the process!

Jim: I see myself occupying a policy function within a care organisation or hospital in the future. However, given my wide range of interests, I could also be working just as well within another sector, such as local governments. Having worked extensively with municipalities and provinces, my interest in a position within those sectors has also increased.

Lisanne: I do not have a specific plan or a specific position that I am really keen on. Plus, there are lots of options in my current place of work. Above all, I hope that I can continue to learn and develop myself in the future. I enjoy taking on challenges, and I feel strongly supported here at the moment. I also wish that challenge for my future self, wherever or in whatever position I am working.

What do you do in your job?

At the time, why did you decide to study MA Work and Organisational Psychology at UM?

Nathan: I am a New Zealand born, Singapore raised, Dutch citizen. My parents are both Dutch and we have family roots in Maastricht, as well as Harlem. However, I came to Maastricht University for probably quite different reasons than many others. After graduating high school in Singapore, I worked in New Zealand as a Naval Officer for ten years prior to moving to the Netherlands. In the navy, I was a navigating officer and then later on, an Executive and Commanding Officer. I have served interesting tours including seven months off the coast of Somalia hunting pirates, a ’summer’ patrol to Antarctica and war games in both India and China. I also conducted my bachelor studies in Psychology within the navy and then, alongside working full time I did my first masters in Music and History and a PhD in Intellectual History. 

After 10 years in the navy, I knew that human factors and organisational psychology were the academic fields that most appealed to me because in fact I had been practicing them as an officer at sea. The captain’s job on a warship is best summed up by piecing together a large team of people from all walks of life - young, old, experienced, varying motivations, individual feelings etc. The key is to bring them all together and create a safe but also extremely effective environment. I wanted to learn the academic side of this and delve deeper into applied psychology. I also wanted to move to Europe in general to be closer to my brothers in Amsterdam and Brussels, and to retrace some of the steps of my grandparents in Maastricht. For all these reasons – and for the reputation of the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience – I chose the UM. The masters has served me well both by capitulating my former career and providing the basis for my current career. By ‘checking in’ with current academic and technical elements during my master studies, I have been able to take the field forward in a very practical sense at NATS where I am able to be one part academic and one part operational expert. 

Constanze: What instantly attracted me to Maastricht University was the international reputation as a young, thriving university. I also wanted to do my master's degree in English and ideally one year, so this turned out to be a perfect match.

When I am reflecting on my time as a master’s student, I would say I got a first taste of the wide ranching and complex field of occupational psychology. Thanks to my job, I am now in a position where I can experience the full scope of occupational psychology as a practitioner. So overall, I would say that my degree highly relates to what I am doing now. 

Jocelyn: The inclination of UM towards problem-based learning is one of its kind as it builds critical thinking and collaboration amongst students of diverse backgrounds. Also, UM has been instrumental in helping me to pursue my master’s by offering me the UM High Potential Scholarship. 

Moreover, the data analysis skills developed from conducting my master’s research allow me to easily exercise my critical thinking and maneuverer around data to produce evidence-based insights for the business.

What makes your job so enjoyable?

Nathan: I play a very real part in making sure air traffic across all of Europe is efficient and safe. I am lucky I get to travel to many European cities regularly and have an amazing network of colleagues in the industry – ranging from professors in Germany to Air Traffic Controllers and Pilots in Spain and Italy. I have close system engineering friends in Romania and outstanding remote tower controllers in Hungary etc. This European community, which makes a vital industry like air traffic management move, is thrilling to be part of. At NATS, we really are at the cutting edge because we have to be. We could not move as much traffic as we do without the people and behind them is the design of their work, procedures and technology which human factors specialists have a big part to play in.

Finally, I get to lead advances in using machine learning and automation to investigate how we can model and understand human cognition from big data in real time. This is an area that the entire field of psychology will benefit from in the coming decade - whether it’s wearable technology, air traffic or driverless cars etc. It is a lot of fun to be part of that.

Constanze: There are a number of aspects. Firstly, the military is a truly fascinating and ever challenging working environment. Secondly, as I explained above, I am in the lucky position to be able to look into pretty much any psychology area, reaching from selection and training to retention and stress resilience. For young professionals in the field of work psychology, it is very common to pick one particular area, such as recruitment as a starting point, and after a couple of years, some would then move into other areas. However, this position is quite unique in that sense that it allows me to learn and develop in several areas simultaneously. Furthermore, I very much enjoy working alongside military staff and civilians at the same time.

Jocelyn: My job is most enjoyable when the fruits of my analysis contribute to the growth of business and employee well-being.

What is the most extraordinary, memorable or wonderful thing you have experienced in your job?

Nathan: The most memorable thing was presenting at the World Air Traffic Congress held annually in Madrid. There I presented academic work in human performance metrics to the community. However, this is perhaps not that extraordinary to many people. I would say, learning how the entire system works has been the most extraordinary thing. I have visited towers and air traffic centres across Europe and while everyone does it subtly differently, the fact that Europe can sustain this much air traffic is remarkable.

Constanze: I believe visiting war ships is definitely one of the greatest highlights in my job. It does not happen every day, but whenever I am called to one of the naval bases, I am genuinely impressed and excited to learn more about the operational side of the work I am doing. One thing I had to do right in the beginning is to get a good knowledge and understanding of what the working environment in the navy looks like, as there are a number of differences to the civilian world. Speaking to military personnel on site has helped me a lot. 

Jocelyn: The most memorable experience of working in the area of HR Rewards (employee benefits), is that I single-handedly organised the Employee Benefits Fair in my previous job role. The event brought together benefits providers in reaching out to employees and offering them with useful advice on how to make the best out of their benefits as employees. The event was a success. Receiving positive acknowledgments from providers and employees was the most rewarding part of this experience!

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Nathan: Right now, my partner Constanze - who also graduated from MA Work and Organisational Psychology and contributed to this article - and I live in the UK. We are looking to move back to the European continent in the coming year. I am hoping to continue my work in one of the European communities such as Eurocontrol or another Air Navigation Service provider in the Netherlands, Germany or Austria. So I see myself back in Europe but continuing to advance our understanding of human cognition (particularly in stressful and also monotonous work). I hope to write a book on some of the approaches we have been taking to bring to light the remarkable work that pilots and controllers do to make the world go round. I also have a bit of a side dream to open a coffee house in Vienna one day. My partner is Viennese and we very much want to end up there...

Constanze: I am currently pursuing another degree in law (LLM) and would like to combine my background as psychologist in the occupational field with my legal knowledge. There is no doubt that the ways people work are about to change – and as much as I enjoy working with individuals, I am also interested in employment policy and what the future of work is going to look like from a legal perspective. I believe that the more we learn about the impact of our decision making and how this can impact thousands of employees in their careers, the more we will realise that occupational psychology as a discipline will have to respond to a societal shift in what is seen to be a 'career' in the modern era. 

Jocelyn: I see myself growing into an all-rounded HR practitioner with an expertise in data analytics. One day, I would like to still see myself conducting a workshop on how to deliver and analyse the results of assessments in the workforce.

What do you do in your job?

At the time, why did you decide to study Dutch Law at UM?

Geerte: I initially went to Maastricht to study International Economics. This study programme was in fact very international, small-scale and offered Problem-Based Learning. In my second year, I also started to study Dutch Law, with a focus on international law and corporate law. After completing both studies, I worked at the university as a PhD candidate. Later, I started working in the legal profession, but seven years ago I finally started working at Philips as a corporate lawyer. The education programmes at UM have given me a comprehensive foundation and autonomous thinking, which come in handy now that I have to give a wide range of recommendations and have to deal with different perspectives.

Jeroen: I went to Maastricht to study because UM’s European Law School programme really appealed to me. Eventually, I switched to Dutch Law. This study programme has enabled me to quickly get to the heart of the matter and to formulate my views in a clear manner. That, combined with the experience in problem solving and consensus building in a smaller group, are essential in my current job.

Bastiaan: I originally decided to study in Maastricht to study European Law. However, during the first year I noticed that I have more affinity with Dutch Law and that Dutch Law would better prepare me for the career I envisaged for myself. As a result I switched to Dutch Law after one year. The Dutch Law track was very informative and interesting and prepared me well for working in practice. Especially the Problem-Based Learning forces students from an early stage of their studies to debate and solve (legal) problems together. In addition, it teaches students something about communication and persuading their fellow students, which is a very important skill for a lawyer. 

What makes your job so enjoyable?

Geerte: My job is very diverse and international. Every day is different and unpredictable. I’m a generalist and I like variation and new topics and developments. I constantly experience that mix of qualities in my job.

Jeroen: The diversity and the impact that you have. You’re involved in the entire legislative process, from origin to implementation. As an employee of the European Commission, a bill is your ‘baby’; you write the proposal that’s being discussed. The other parties in the negotiations see you as the independent expert. All this means that you have considerable influence on the final result. The parties also expect you to come up with creative solutions to break through an impasse [i.e. standstill] in the negotiations. If that succeeds, it gives you an enormous amount satisfaction.

Bastiaan: One of the most interesting things about my jobs is that they enable to combine both an academic career and working in practice. I benefit a lot from having the opportunity to do both and that gives me the possibility to use knowledge that I have obtained in my research in practice and vice versa. This gives me a certain ‘edge’ over my colleagues in both fields. Moreover, my work as a lawyer is very dynamic. When you go to the office in the morning, you never know what you end up doing in the afternoon. Although this can sometimes be tiresome, it generally makes for a very interesting day.

What is the most extraordinary, memorable or wonderful thing you’ve experienced in your job?

Geerte: A special project in which I also played a role is the division of Philips into two separate companies: Royal Philips (Healthtech) and Signify (Lighting). As a lawyer, I led the international project for splitting up the larger Philips pension funds together with a few other financial colleagues. That was a complex but exceptional job.

Jeroen: Normally, the preparation of legislation takes quite some time, but after the November 2015 Paris attacks, we’ve shown that the European Commission can also act quickly. While we normally work on a bill for a year, we had a proposal ready within three weeks of the attacks to ensure that some things that went wrong in Paris couldn’t happen again. It took some time—working late nights—but it was nice to be able to contribute quickly.

Bastiaan: One of the most extraordinary things was defending my PhD at Maastricht University in 2015. After having worked on that project so intensely and for such a long time, it is very rewarding to complete it and see that other people are reading it, sharing their opinions about it and citing it in their own publications. Additionally, I had a few cases that are very dear to me. In one case, which I did for a good friend and came up in a very early stage of my career, involved a granddaughter losing her grandmother while at the same time there was a very unpleasant family dispute. Although it was a hectic and emotional weekend, we were able to secure the rights of the granddaughter and give her the opportunity to give her grandmother a dignified and pleasant funeral. This has little to do with my primarily corporate practice, but it is definitely one of the cases that will stick with me the longest. 

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Geerte: As a lawyer/general counsel/consultant in a dynamic, innovative, challenging—preferably international—environment.

Jeroen: In any case, I’m sure that I would like to continue helping to shape the European Union. And within the European Commission, there are many opportunities to contribute to this!

Bastiaan: I really hope that I can keep combining academic work and practice in the way I do now. I think the combination of both is very educational and rewarding (although it requires good time management). Additionally, I hope that I can further develop my career in both fields, which would enable me to best reach my goal of becoming a better lawyer and academic. Other than that, I believe you should not be too focused on the future, but try to enjoy the work you have to do today and tomorrow.

What is it that you do exactly?

What does a day at work look like for you?

Marloes: Every day is different, which is what I like about my job. I sometimes spend entire days just working at the computer, but on other days, I'm out and about talking to our partners to gain knowledge and pool our strengths, so that we're not all off in our separate corners trying to reinvent the wheel. For instance, I organise brainstorming sessions to help identify needs and ideas, which we then try to put into action. I also organise sessions to address specific themes in our field; these help us familiarise our colleagues in other parts of the organisation with the possibilities offered by data science.

Gijs-Jan: I mainly use Skype to stay in touch with Goldhawk and only visit London for a few days every few months. Each working day, I have a Skype meeting with the artists who work on the game and another one with the technical team. I spend the rest of the day programming at my desk, pausing for an occasional walk to gather my thoughts. While many programmers instinctively start with an assignment straight away, it is sometimes better to consider carefully what you want to do beforehand. I am a strong believer in supporting the next generation of students, which is why my door has always been open for DKE students who need help with projects and are looking for ideas about what they might be doing after their studies. I myself benefited from the knowledge of senior students during my time at UM.

Inge: In the morning, I usually travel to clients, nowadays mainly in the Randstad and in Limburg. If I am there for a few days, I stay at the same hotel with other colleagues so we can catch up in the evening. On other days, I work with my colleagues in Heerlen.

Who are your counterparts/stakeholders?

Marloes: We cooperate closely with the National Police, the Tax & Customs Administration, the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD), the Financial Intelligence Unit, Special Investigative Services and the Public Prosecution Service, among others. These partners actively assist us in developing our data-driven products; they're also the ones who use our products.

Gijs-Jan: They are the technicians and artists I manage at Goldhawk and, obviously, the project leader of the entire project in London.

Inge: First, our clients, some of whom I have been working with for years. They range from directors to analysts. Second, my close colleagues and sometimes also potential collaboration partners.

What’s your favourite aspect of the job?

Marloes: I like that it allows me to be involved in substantive and practical aspects, and that it combines lots of consultation and visiting counterparts with sitting at the computer developing models by myself. I wouldn't want to spend all my time looking at a computer screen. I also like that it's a relatively small department that includes delegates from all the different collaborative partners. The lines of communication are short and that works really well. I'm not a subject-matter expert; I know a thing or two about data, but not that much about criminal networks or financial crimes. This way, when I run into an issue, I can just walk down the hall to get the information I need. Also, I also feel it's important to contribute to society in some way.

Gijs-Jan: I face new challenges every day. The constant requirement to shape or use the latest technologies keeps my job fun. I also like that it involves aspects of psychology, creativity, maths and other disciplines. In that sense, it reminds me of a few projects I worked on during my studies that first made me realise that maths did not always have to be abstract.

Inge: The variety. I truly believe in our method, cogNIAM, and I love the interaction with clients. As a result, I might be discussing financial products one day and talk about satellites the next. I learn something from every assignment. In that respect, I also see that what I learnt at university hasn't changed fundamentally. During my student days, deep learning was called 'neural networking'. While computers have more processing power now and the internet didn't exist back then, the essential idea is basically the same.


Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Marloes: I don't have an exact plan mapped out. I've only had this job since January. However, I do want to keep developing my talents, so I'll see how it goes and what I might need in future. There are plenty of challenges here – even just keeping up with all the developments in my field.

Gijs-Jan: It could go several ways. Scientific research is one area that appeals to me. On the other hand, Goldhawk has been granting me an increasing amount of autonomy and even a budget for my own projects, so that interests me as well. Furthermore, my network in the United States has opened up game development consultancy opportunities. It all depends on where the most appealing project is. There is currently such a demand for highly qualified staff in my sector that I can afford to pick and choose at my leisure.

Inge: Time goes by so quickly: I work on really interesting projects with great clients and before I know it, another year has come and gone. I'll keep doing consultancy in any case because I enjoy it so much. Perhaps I'll add in some more management activities in future.

Why did you start the master's in Artificial Intelligence at Maastricht University?

Marloes: After earning my bachelor's degree in Artificial Intelligence in Nijmegen, I decided to come to Maastricht because of its Problem-Based Learning (PBL) system. PBL has closer ties to professional practice and takes an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving, which I found tremendously appealing. I like that the courses cover a mix of disciplines: psychology, IT and even some philosophy. Another advantage to Maastricht was that I could attend courses from the master's programme in Operational Research as well.

Gijs-Jan: Much of my time during my bachelor's in Knowledge Engineering was already taken up by CodePoKE, which was something I wanted to take further. Fortunately, I had a good relationship with my professors, who allowed me the freedom to pursue my interests further. At the time, there were few job opportunities for AI personnel in the area, so I felt that exciting prospects abroad would eventually come my way naturally. I have never regretted it.

Inge: I wanted to study computer science, but not the purely theoretical version that was offered in Belgium. Through the newly established transnational University of Limburg, I was able to enrol in Knowledge Engineering, which was a completely new programme at the time. I was in the first cohort; we graduated as a group of four. For the first two years, I lived in Diepenbeek, after which I travelled back and forth to Maastricht by car for two years. The combination of theory and practice was appealing to me. I remember the project assignments for the Maastricht fire brigade and ENCI. We saw the results of putting theory into practice.
It was a bit of a culture shock moving from Belgium to the Netherlands. There were professors who said: 'Just call me Erik'. If you are having one-on-one classes, which I regularly did, it starts to feel more natural over time. But, I can't imagine ever having addressed a professor on a first-name basis back then. I still get a lot of use out of my training, even though it was a long time ago. The logical, causal thinking that I learnt at university definitely continues to benefit me today.


What advice would you give current students and recent alumni of the master's in Artificial Intelligence?

Marloes: There are loads of jobs for data scientists out there, as I discovered after graduating. You'll likely be fending off constant enquiries via LinkedIn, but take the time to shop around. You have the luxury of really being able to pursue your heart's desire.

Gijs-Jan: Be aware of what you’re worth. You are at a point in your life that affords you plenty of time to think about what you really want, so take your time and always negotiate a good deal. In my own experience, what you yourself regard as the upper limit in terms of salary or benefits often is not even a starting point for the other party. Try to realise the full potential of your academic intellect, so that you can become more than just a programmer. At the same time, do not forget to enjoy student life – invest time in developing your social skills rather than in a simple programming job on the side. Many people mistakenly believe that programmers are entirely desk-bound, whereas social and communication skills are what usually makes or breaks a team. Above all, remain ethically aware in your work! In our sector, you may be asked to develop drones with automated software for use by the military, or software designed to make choices for insurance companies on which individual lives depend. If we ever reach the stage of a totalitarian regime, it will be because programmers made it possible. We should remain fully aware of that fact.

Inge: We have a few students from UM's current Knowledge Engineering programme at PNA and I would tell them: don't go for your dream job straight away. Take your time to figure out what you want first and don't assume that you already know when you graduate. There is so much that you can do with this programme. So try out different things and be open to new possibilities.

If you had another chance, what would you do differently as a student?

Marloes: Not that much. It was a shame I didn't live in Maastricht while studying there, but that was because I had decided to spend a few months travelling between my bachelor's and master's programmes, so I didn't have a room in Maastricht. Also, I chose to do a work placement in Amsterdam, which I'm still quite glad to have done. So no regrets, really.

Gijs-Jan: There were times when I wrote my theses when I bit off more than I could chew. Consequently, the end result was not always what I had intended. Keep a tight focus and limit the scope of your research.

Inge: In terms of my studies, I wouldn't do anything differently. The only thing coming to mind is that it might have been better with just four people in my cohort for us to be a bit more patient with one another sometimes. When the Knowledge Engineering programme recently celebrated its 25th anniversary at UM, I had the chance to reconnect with some of the students from my year and the years right after me. We've kept in touch regularly since then. All of them have either become self-employed or risen to a position of responsibility.



What is it that you do exactly?

How does a day at work look like for you?

Davide: There is simply no routine which is a first since I started working 8 years ago. DSM allows me substantial freedom in planning my work. I am travelling a lot to meet potential customers across Europe and meet all players in the field of solar energy at exhibitions and conferences. Out target is to start the sales in 2019 and to do that we are now focusing on real outdoor trial where we test our anti-reflective technology on solar parks around Europe.

Simone: Never a dull day in my job! Some days I have many meetings or conference calls with people throughout the Asia region or in Europe to get the right information and buy in on projects or initiatives. Or I give a webinar to share a new programme as for example the global mentoring programme. Other days I’m involved in the development of new tools and policies and I spend much more time on the actual creation or implementation such as the Learning & Development portfolio. As talent development consultants we work closely with HR business partners and the business to understand their needs and provide them with the right solutions. This means that I also often have to align, gain understanding and validate.

Pablo: There is no typical office day! I am involved in a lot of workshops to develop and improve our talent management processes, I collaborate in Sprint Reviews and User Acceptance Tests with our IT-colleagues and I prepare and conduct trainings for our HR colleagues and the business. Since our team is responsible for the talent management of the entire organization, we provide trainings for various locations all over the world. This year for instance, I have been to Portland and Bangkok. Even when I am in the office, I am in regular contact with my  colleagues abroad to implement the new system in their respective locations, so Skype is my best friend.

Who are your counterparts/ stakeholders?

Davide: Apart from being in frequent touch with potential customers abroad, I closely collaborate with my colleagues within the ARCA project. It’s a luxury to also be able to consult our business intelligence colleagues to get market specific information, to work with the R&D department to fine tune our products and get support and advice from the top management.

Simone: HR business partners, managers, Leadership Teams.

Pablo: As you can imagine, my work consists of a lot of co-creation with different stakeholders within Daimler. My final customers are the employees of Daimler, as the system is designed to support them in their development. To speak their language, we need to keep the local HR Business Partners on board, it’s a matter of co-creation and training. As we are the bridge between HR and IT, we are in very close contact with our internal IT-colleagues and the external IT provider who both help us to build the IT system.

What’s your favorite aspect of the job?

Davide: It’s hard to choose just one. So I name a few:

  • Being in touch with customers is certainly one of my favorite things. In the end, it’s them contributing to our success by buying our products. It gives me a great feeling to contribute to this success by switching between the needs of our customers and abilities of our R&D department.
  • The business / department culture is awesome. Working in a progressive, international and innovative environment gives me a lot of energy.
  • Being part of an experimental talent programme, called Green Chair gives me plenty of opportunities to develop myself professionally and personally. I was lucky enough to get a coach which is turning out to be very valuable together with frequent trainings spread across the year. All this represents a very special opportunity to better understand what I want, what I am capable of and what contributions I can bring to the organization.
  • The amount of confidence and trust empowers me to push new ideas and exploring possibilities to implement them

Simone: I believe that the strength of an organization is determined by strengths of its employees. Having the right people in the right place will help your organization grow and be successful. I feel privileged to work in this field and to be able to focus on and contribute to this. I get excited when I see people learn and invest in their own development. But I also feel that it is important that our leadership sets high priority to this and invest in the development of their teams, something I feel I can contribute to in my role.

Pablo: Definitely the wide variety of tasks: I act as contact point for support queries, as a trainer, as conceptual process designer and also do some nerdy IT stuff. All of this in the super challenging, rapidly changing automotive industry with a huge impact on the organization. Let’s not forget the great team I work with. The spirit is just amazing!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Davide: That is a tough one. I am a generalist and very curious and as such I see several different options ahead of me. I definitely aspire to keep on having a steep learning curve wherever this will lead me. I guess this will require finding myself in a more senior position with more responsibilities. Whether that’s here in The Netherlands at DSM I can’t foresee . As you might have noticed I am very happy with my employer now. I’ve been working in the energy industry for quite some time now, maybe it’s wise to stick to my expertise but it might be worthwhile getting out of my comfort zone and try something new. Who knows?

Simone: I’m very curious how a job within Human Resources will look like in 5 years from now. What will be automated and what roles does for example Artificial Intelligence play? I really like Human Resources as an area to work in but I also don't rule out that I will go into another direction. I would love to be even closer to the business, or perhaps in a managerial role where I am responsible to have the right people in the right place within my own team.

Pablo: With the speed at which everything is changing now, I think nobody can answer this question. If we think about the technological developments, like Big Data Analytics or Artificial Intelligence, and how they could transform the role of HR, it leaves us guessing where we stand in 5 years from now. But I am fairly sure it is going to change dramatically and I will learn a lot of new and interesting things in the meanwhile.

Why did you start the Master in Management of Learning at Maastricht University?

Davide: I had a set of criteria and interests when looking for a Master programme. In terms of criteria I was looking for an international university, highly regarded, with a good ranking worldwide and also affordable. My interest was rather focused on programmes focusing on organizational learning and development, change management and consultancy. Concerning my choices for a programme or university, they were always more framed by the topics that I liked rather than the practical application of the studies in the job and to be quite honest this approach always paid off so far.

It is difficult to say how much of the knowledge I gained via the Management of Learning programme MoL), I am actually applying in my current job, yet I believe that it is quite a lot. I often find myself talking to colleagues about concepts I have studied in the MoL. Plus the MoL gives people the key to understand how learning occurs and if you are, like I am, always striving to maximize your leaning opportunities well…that is extremely valuable!

Simone: I heard about the Master Programme Management of Learning (MoL) and I got really excited, I was very much interested in the human side of the organization and how to optimize this. This was actually what I was looking for in my previous studies but had not found yet. I had just finished my Master’s degree in Health Sciences and had planned to travel through Australia. I decided to enroll for the programme and travel so when I got back I could immediately start.

Pablo: One aspect was the interdisciplinary approach, regarding the students and the curriculum. However, when I first read the name, I could not really tell what it was about, but when I learned about the concept, it totally convinced me. It did not sound as “buzzwordy” as other master programmes, but rather has a clear and holistic philosophy behind it, based on humanistic values. I think, I may sound less like an alum and more like a disciple…

What advice would you give current student and recent alumni of Master in Management of Learning?

Davide: Let me answer this one with a provocative question: would you seek financial advice from a person that just won the lottery? Probably not. Now, I haven’t won the lottery but I consider myself quite fortunate so far in my life. In other words what worked for me may not work for someone else. What is certain is that you need a combination of good choices and luck. The latter variable you cannot control. Yet, you are responsible for making up your own mind when it comes to choices.  I believe that making right decisions boil down to knowing yourself well. If you spend time and energy in knowing yourself you will more likely take better decisions that will lead you in better places. This I can guarantee.

Simone: Try to learn as much as you can. Dare to fail and learn from mistakes. Try to build your network, find out what gives your energy, find out what you like most. Learning does not only come from theory and books only, try to experiment and learn from experience as much as possible!

Pablo: Don’t care too much about your memo grades! Just kidding, but there is some truth to it: Do not focus solely on university. I learned a lot of important things during my studies, but only half of it came from the courses I took. Extracurricular activities are just as important for your personal and professional development. No matter if it is a student consulting project, sports club or theatre association (Hoi, Alles is Drama!). Please do not join just to have it on your CV, do something that you really enjoy. Or try out something completely new. Take some risks. Fail. You will never have the chance again to fail so brilliantly and safely as during your student life and you will learn so much from it!

If you would have another chance, what would you do differently as a student?

Davide: Nothing actually, well maybe: have a look at the teaching method and workload required. To be honest, I previously studied in Italy and Czech Republic where the teaching works differently and I got off guard when starting the programme, the workload was very high. Also, try to better assess the costs for living of one year abroad – better than I did at least. I was really eager to start this new adventure in Maastricht, I even sold my car to pay my study but some extra buffer money would have been just perfect.

Simone: My first real work experience came with the MoL in one of the projects where we had to work for actual customers. Looking back I would have liked to have work experience earlier and it would have been better if I had a more practical internship already in my previous studies. It would have given me more opportunity to experiment and learn. For the rest I would enjoy it as much as I did the first time. I had a great experience with my fellow students and teachers and would love to do it all again.

Pablo: There is not a lot that I would change. However, based on what I studied in Management of Learning, this is most likely a cognitive bias: Since I am very happy about my current situation, I may overestimate the impact of my past decisions on the actual outcome… All jokes aside, there might be one thing: I would have really enjoyed to join the University College Maastricht, since I love the interdisciplinary approach and the broad knowledge base you can acquire as a student. I wish I would have known about it by the time I chose my Bachelor studies. Who can say into which field of study I would have developed from there?

What is it that you do exactly?

How does a day at work look like for you?

Simone: “I have been working for Kulturprojekte Berlin for 9 years now and no day seems to be the same because of all the different exhibitions, cooperation’s, events etcetera. I am in meetings most of the day and while running from one meeting to the next I am touching base with my colleagues and partners.”

Karina: It is never the same. My colleagues and myself have a flexible routine, only meeting in the office once a week to discuss all projects and plans, and then irregularly depending on current programming and people we need to meet. Our only physical space is the office, which is located in a center for contemporary art in Prague, otherwise we work with partner institutions around the Czech Republic and internationally, so we also move around quite a lot. When I need to write or focus, I often work from home, but I am running around the city for meetings and other duties more than I would like to. Even now with a three-month old baby :)

Jonathan: It is difficult to say what constitutes a typical day at work. As I am in the third year of my PhD research, much of my time is now spent at my computer, analysing and typing up my findings. So, to answer the question I will briefly cover the entire PhD process so far, and then a look at some of the things that I might be doing in a day.

In the first year, my principle focus was working on a literature review and methodology, and putting together the focus of the project including planning for the fieldwork stage of research. In the second year, I was collecting data, including conducting interviews in several different countries – my research looks at England, the Netherlands, and Denmark. This year, my third year, I am analysing and writing the thesis, so much of my day is spent in my flat working on my thesis. My work can also involve preparing for presentations at conferences, and attending events such as conferences and seminars, both at my university and at other venues.

Who are your counterparts/ stakeholders?

Simone: “The projects that we run are collaborative projects; that’s what makes them successful. Kulturprojekte Berlin is like the umbrella keeping all the partners like, museums, memorial sites, private collections, cultural associations, galleries and artists together. Most of the times our projects are either funded by the local government, for example the department of Cultural Affairs or sometimes the Departments of Education and of Economics, or by public foundations. We are therefore strongly depending on the local political sentiments, which makes it challenging.”

Karina: The Chalupecky society is a non-governmental, non-profit organization, so I only respond to our seven-member board. Otherwise we work with partner institutions from large art museums to small independent spaces, we are looking for like-minded profiles rather than location or scale. We are mostly financed from public grants from the Ministry of Culture and City of Prague, we also have a private sponsor - J&T Bank. The rest of the funding comes from international grants, various cultural centers, foundations etc.

Jonathan: Firstly, there are other researchers, often also studying for a PhD, in the Centre for Business in Society, and the wider university. Then there are academics in the university who I work with. There is then the wider academic world within my particular research field, at different universities, think tanks, foundations, that sort of environment. As my background is in particular with the arts sector, and my research investigates arts philanthropy, there is also the arts sector including at museums, theatres, orchestras, and across the arts.

What’s your favourite aspect of the job?

Simone: “The one day I am dealing with partners in the music scene, the other day in the arts or photography scene. That variety is very appealing. On top of that, all projects teach me something about German or Berlin history.”

Karina: I still see myself mostly as a curator, so I love to work on specific exhibitions or discursive projects, collaborate with artists on new commissions. I really enjoy the phase when the ideas I was working on for often a year or more finally materialize in the exhibition space.

Jonathan: I enjoy meeting and discussing important areas of research and policy and sharing ideas with others in the field from all over the world.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Simone: “I think I’ll still be in the same job as I am now. With our projects varying enormously in theme, duration and partners there’s still a lot to learn, improve and innovate. In addition, I have great colleagues and a great infrastructure to work and operate with.”

Karina: I was never much of a planner, I somehow always go with the flow. Perhaps I will still be in this position, as three years after I started I feel like I'm only beginning to get some things done. But possibly I might also become a curator in Bangkok or produce goat cheese in a village near Prague :) Let's see.

Jonathan: I will most likely be in some form of research, perhaps still at a university but another possibility is with a think-tank or policy institute, or even with an arts organisation working on arts philanthropy.

Why did you start the Master in Arts & Heritage at Maastricht University?

Simone: “My Bachelor’s study was European Studies with a focus on cultural studies. After that and a year on exchange in Paris in Cultural Management I was looking for a programme that was practice- oriented. A research on the internet led me to Maastricht University”

Karina: I chose Maastricht initially for my Erasmus, and during this time the director of the program, Joop de Jong, encouraged me to apply for the MA program. I enjoyed the Erasmus semester and I was curious what could the more "serious" phase offer.

Jonathan: Having done a very academic undergraduate degree I wanted to study a more practical degree with real career development potential, whilst still retaining a strong academic focus and with a practical form of teaching. As it was, I enjoyed the academic courses so much that I remained in academia.

What advise would you give current student and recent alumni of Master in Arts & Heritage?

Simone: “Gain work experience! Volunteer to work with local institutions during your studies and focus on internships. Also, set your network straight from the beginning, lots of job openings don’t get published anywhere because employers prefer to hire good people through their professional and private network.I have actually hired three alumni of the same programme that I’ve graduated from so it makes sense to visit alumni events frequently.”

Karina: To pursue doing what they really love, although it sounds like a cliche.

Jonathan: Make the most of all the opportunities available, as the course and the university offer a lot if you really work hard.

If you would have another chance, what would you do differently as a student?

Simone: “I did not realize it back then but now even more: It’s a great luxury to get involved in different scientific topics and have time to read about and discuss them. I am too busy for that now!! Also, make the most of the opportunities that are offered during your studies. Take a language class, go on exchange!”

Karina: Date Felix de Clerck ;)

Jonathan: I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Maastricht University, so there is not much I would do differently. Maastricht is a beautiful city with lots going on, so perhaps I might explore the city and its cultural offerings more.

What is it that you do exactly?

How does a day at work look like for you?

Simone: I love the fact that I can bike to work. I usually start early. Daily, I have three to five meetings with the various departments in my business unit like marketing, depending how much new projects are running at the same time.

Chiel: No day is exactly the same. Today, I did some translation work (subtitling a movie) and this afternoon I dug a gutter for the electricity cables. As we are self-sufficient, all days are work days, but it still allows me to spend sufficient time with my family. On Saturdays I work in the garden and on Sundays I especially focus on the animals.

Federico: I get up early every day. We have a daughter aged one and a half. Every day I take her to the nursery and pick her up in the afternoon. Usually, I work from home or from a cafe with a reliable internet connection. In the morning, I dedicate myself to answering important emails and messages and to reading projects or documents that I have to analyse. I usually have lunch at home or near her. I move around by bicycle in Bogotá, remembering the old days in Holland. In the afternoon, I make the necessary calls, check social networks and answer questions or messages. I coordinate two pages with a total of 600,000 followers combined. (My ‘Quiero salir del país’ Facebook page has 410,000 Spanish-speaking followers from different parts of the world). Between 5.45 pm and 9.00 pm, my wife and I spend time with our daughter. I usually spend an extra 45 minutes to read something important in the evening.

Who are your counterparts/ stakeholders?

Simone: My counterparts are the engineers who are responsible for the development of the tools and devices on the one side and the marketeers that have to sell it on the other side. I am not in direct contact with the users or patients. We try to incorporate feedback concerning usability which we receive through our call centre or social media platforms.

Chiel: We have a quite some volunteers working for us, some stay for a week others stay much longer (5 months). We’ve signed up for this website where people from all over the world can sign up for all kinds of voluntary jobs. We had volunteers originating from the U.S., Germany and Sweden who came here for all sorts of reasons; dedicated to permaculture, travelling or to find out what they really want to do in life. It takes quite good management skills to make the most out of their stay at the farm. Other than that I interact with the   tourists that visit us in the summer to either learn more about permaculture or stay here to discover the region.

Federico: Generally, they are educational institutions like universities or institutes, as well as organisations that offer volunteering opportunities and NGOs that develop health and development projects. As a member of the board of the Netherlands Alumni Association of Colombia, I communicate frequently with other alumni and with the Dutch embassy, with which we develop ideas and projects together.

What’s your favourite aspect of the job?

Simone: There are two things actually. I love the fact that I work in an international company and that I work with people from all over the world from all kinds of cultures. It makes you reflect more about your own behaviour and way of communication.

My work is still focused on healthcare, we’re making the lives of people better and healthier but we’re not dependant on financial aid from (non-)governmental institutions which makes it a sustainable business model.

Chiel: The idea that this village, that was highly affected by the war will revive some day. Momentarily, we have round 20 people living here of which 50% is older than 80 years old. With our initiative we hope to attract especially young people to settle in the region, preferably people with the same ideas and ideals concerning self-sufficiency.

Federico: I have always loved working with people, I enjoyed it a lot during my humanitarian work. However, now I love that I am able to manage my time and dedicate time to my daughters and to myself.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Simone: I quite like what I am doing right now; I am a big fan of the company’s values. But since you’re asking me I would be interested in putting my experience to use for the benefit of NGO’s to assist them working on sustainable business models.

Chiel: In 5 years our holiday destination is up and running. We will be able to sustain ourselves completely by renting out the house, the yurts, caravans and tiny houses. In the future I hope to advise others on how to implement and sustain permaculture initiatives which enables me to resign from my translation tasks.

Federico: I have lived in four countries in the last five years. I have learned not to make so many plans or projects for the future. Uncertainty is my best friend now, which offers endless possibilities. However, whenever I am asked this question, I see myself running after my daughters in a park, taking them to school and traveling more with my wife. I may be working from home or generating a new idea.

Why did you start the Master in Global Health at Maastricht University?

Simone: While I was studying Health Sciences, I was working for the promoteam of the university so I was aware of the opportunities offered at Maastricht University. The global aspect of the programme, enabling you to gain international hands-on and fieldwork experience triggered me and I never regretted it.

Chiel: I always wanted to become a doctor in the Tropics. I had been studying Medicine at Leiden University for 4 years when I realized that this was not for me. For my Master’s thesis I interviewed over 80 medical specialists in 25 capitals in Europe and the former Soviet Union about how the collect their data on which their medical advice is based. Although my thesis got praised and published I realized that being a doctor was far too stressful. My take on this was even more confirmed when I went to help out in a refugee camp on the Syrian border with    Jordan over the summer. Obviously, my parents were not happy with this radical decision. The multidisciplinary aspect of health and the international twist of the programme   triggered me. I got to meet so many interesting people. I squeezed two years into one so it was hard work but well worth it! Although I didn’t go abroad, as this was still optional back then, I had the best academic experience. 

Federico: I knew before doing my master’s that I wanted to do it in English, in Europe. Holland was my second option at the beginning and it turned out to be the best one of all. I am so happy that I did not go for my first choice! I did my master’s in public health because I knew that it would give me the opportunity to develop a career in the international humanitarian field. The master’s degree in public health was what I was looking for to gain more opportunities for international experiences with NGOs and the United Nations. What I did not imagine was that it would help me to get to know myself more.

What advice would you give current student and recent alumni of Global Health?

Simone: When you start looking for work, don’t panic! I would say it is worthwhile to focus on a company that interests you and not so much on the position. Once you’re in, you can show what you’re worth and where your interest lie; this will certainly pay off.

Chiel: The programme allows you to look at a wide variety of subjects from different angles. Make the most of it!


• Always be ready to ‘unlearn’ in order to advance.

• Find your own motivation and take full advantage of it.

• Health means working with people and for people. Investing in understanding people is the best investment in professional life.

• Do your best in any of your activities. This will open doors to the future and provide strong networking opportunities.

• Set up goals and work hard to achieve them, but be flexible – you will not achieve all that you set out to do, but that is OK. Smile!

• Know yourself to define your own success.

• Never stop travelling!

If you would have another chance, what would you do differently as a student?

Simone: Studywise I wouldn’t do anything different. I am very happy with the choices I made. However, I would make changes in the way I spent my “free” time. There are so many opportunities offered by Maastricht University like language courses, masterclasses and lectures which I regret not making use of.

Chiel: Nothing! Off course I missed out on the Thailand experience (semester abroad was still optional back then) but the curriculum in Maastricht was just more interesting!

Federico: If I had the opportunity, I would manage my time better. Maybe I would read more about the topics that I like. I would not worry so much about the expenses and would travel more, take more short courses or attend more workshops on different topics. Also, I would take some bachata classes – in Holland, you need it.

My life as a student in Maastricht has been one of the best years of my life. You live all the possible emotions in one place, you leave part of yourself in the city and you always come back to it looking for that part, but you do not find it again. That is why we always return, and we love it!