Publication: Bits & Chips 3 – Software Engineer turned Business Manager

Arnold - Business Manager ALTEN

In the Bits & Chips (theme: Career & Leadership) an article has been published in which Arnold Schutter’s working week is central. Arnold has switched from a role as Software Engineer to that of Business Manager:

Arnold Schutter is a Business Manager at ALTEN. He studied Computer Science at the TU Delft and graduated in a project at Alten, where he subsequently started his career as software engineer. After working for several years on various software projects, Arnold felt the need to be in touch more extensively with high-tech companies. Therefore, after following a traineeship at Alten, he picked up the role of business manager in 2018. His working week reveals a diversity of activities, such as business development, people management and technology.

My working week, after I have checked my mailbox, traditionally starts with a team meeting of our unit. During this meeting we discuss all activities within our unit of the past and coming week. We go through the appointments with our clients, the status of current projects, but also the candidates who will be interviewed later this week. We also discuss the outstanding requests from our clients and how we can offer the best solution. This meeting takes up the entire Monday morning.
I take my lunch at the office, after which I leave to meet a department manager at my client TNO. This department is working on a test setup to test the effects of ammunition on vehicles and materials. During this meeting we try to find the overlap in our expertise. With my background both in the Army and as a software engineer, I understand the customer’s challenge and we can exchange interesting ideas about how we can support each other.
After this interview at TNO, I return to our office, where I have a coaching interview with one of the consultants from my team. The project she is working on is going well, but she notices that she has too little experience with Qt. After we discussed the option of a training, it turns out best to link her to a more experienced software engineer for coaching. Because we have more than 500 software consultants in Alten Nederland, I can find somebody with the required expertise.

Today I’m going to Shell for a qualification interview with a consultant from my team. This qualification interview is a ‘job interview’ for the role of scientific software engineer on one of the projects at Shell. The consultant from my team has completed a Physics Master at TU Delft and has recently completed our Software Engineering Masterclass. During an intensive programme of three months, his Software Engineering skills are developed to a good level. The project manager at Shell conducts the interview and I am mainly listening. After the conversation, we drive to the office together and do a debriefing. Later in the week I hear that my consultant can start on the new project in a month’s time.
After answering several phone calls and emails, I leave for an introductory meeting with a potential new client, a robot builder. I came in touch with this company during a fair at a college. This company builds robots for entire process chains (from supply, handling, to packing). The purpose of this visit is to explore the possibilities for collaboration. I have a conversation with the project leader and we exchange experiences to explore each other’s competencies. To get a good impression of their challenges, I also get a tour in the factory. Impressive to see how the entire chain of robots is assembled and tested, in no less than 1000 movements. We see a lot of overlap in our skills and we will stay in touch so we can easily support when needed.

Today I’m mainly working at the office. First of all, I visit the ALTEN Delivery Center, where various projects are being worked on. I talk to the project leader about one of our machine learning projects, where we train an algorithm that can recognise weeds. Then I have a progress meeting with a consultant from my team, who is working on this algorithm. We discuss the progress of the project and the technical challenges.
Then I have an interview with an applicant. In this interview, I need to get an idea of her skills and suitability for Alten. With a software test and discussion, I first get a good idea of her technical skills. During the rest of the interview, I investigate whether she could be a good consultant. She turns out to be a suitable candidate and shortly after, I make her an offer.
In the afternoon I visit a customer active in product automation. He faces several challenges in the software development processes. I have a detailed conversation with the manager about the issues he faces. We discuss ways he could deal with them and I suggest him to talk with one of our engineers experienced in software processes. In addition to the coaching, we discuss ideas for improvement.

This morning I visit a company that develops a very innovative way of transport. It’s a first meeting in which I also get to see the factory hall, where the prototype is being assembled. It’s nice to be at the cradle of the latest developments. For the next phase of the project, they could use our specific expertise and I’m looking forward to a cooperation to work on this project. At the end of the morning I leave for our office through the beautiful countryside.
In the afternoon I visit one of my clients, where we are working on the control of a very advanced heavy-lift crane that is custom-built for one ship. We discuss the progress of the project and find out that they could use User Experience (UX) knowledge to improve their front-end design and development. He asks me if I have a solution and we discuss some details. While returning to the office, I immediately start thinking who would be able to help out with this problem, knowledge of specific tools and software are required. After consulting some colleagues, I think I found a nice solution and send my proposal to the client.
I’m staying at the office tonight to attend an event. Together with about 25 consultants, we have a dinner buffet at the office, followed by a presentation of two consultants about front-end development and utilizing micro-services. After a very interesting presentation we end the evening with a drink.

Together with the Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), we are organising a symposium on the use of the Cloud and the related security aspects. We came up with this idea during an earlier meeting. This morning, together with my colleague Nicolle, I go to NLR to discuss the details. Part of the programme are presentations and a panel discussion. We, together with the Dutch Air Force and Fox-IT, compose a program to go in depth about the safety and risks of the cloud.
The afternoon I spend on administrative tasks, answering emails and various phone calls. We traditionally end the week with a drink and this time we do that a bit more extensively, with a French fries table. We decide to go out with some colleagues in the centre of Rotterdam. Just before we leave, I get a phone call from the candidate I spoke to on Wednesday, she accepts the offer. Another reason to celebrate together tonight!