From Enrollment to Employment
In this blog by Lars (Consultant Mechatronics), he describes the transition from student to job. His passion is drawing and this blog therefore features his illustrations!
It is 9:30 am on a Tuesday morning as the lack of curtains in my student room slowly wakes me up. I had a lecture at 8:30 am, I think, but I guess I’ll click through the PowerPoint slides later this afternoon. After a shower, a little bit of tidying and three slices of cold pizza I turn to the whiteboard on my wall and scribble down a to-do list. On the menu for today: groceries, a workout, and the Dynamics and Control assignment, because the deadline is at midnight tonight.
I grab my drawing tablet to finish my digital illustration that I started last night, because I’d honestly rather do that all day – but the to-do list is waiting, so I keep it short. I get the groceries done that afternoon, but the workout does not happen because I get stuck in a fifty minute long YouTube video about whales. It was remarkably interesting, but the assignment deadline was on my mind the whole time, so I never really felt relaxed. Later that evening I finish the assignment with plenty of time left, and unflappably press the submit button at 11:45pm.
A couple of months and a signed ALTEN contract later, I feel like I’ve been snatched from my student room and dropped into a professional career.
Now, I wake up at 6:45 am on a Tuesday morning with that god-awful default iPhone ringtone, I get ready, pet both of my cats goodbye, and step outside. I live in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, so after a train- and a bus ride I walk up the stairs to the third floor of ALTEN Eindhoven, where the Mechatronics consultants reside. My field of work is robotics, and at 9:00 am the daily stand-up starts in which I convene with the team with whom I work on a leaf cutting robot. During the stand-up I tell them what I did and did not do the day before, and what my plan for today is. I intend to improve the motion planning of the robot and a piece of code needs to be written that automates tests for a section of our system. After the meeting I get to work, and at the end of the day I conclude that I, as usual, have bitten off more than I can chew. I decide to finish up tomorrow and at 5 pm I’m in the bus back home. By the time I get home I’ve already forgotten about the robot or the code that moves it, which means I have the rest of the evening to relax on the couch and stare at the ceiling – or do something a bit more exhilarating if I feel like it. Lately I’ve been working on the illustrations for this blogpost, for instance, which allows me to express myself creatively even within a technical company!
The transition from being a seasoned student to a freshman on the work floor is pretty uncomfortable; just as every other big step to the next stage of life, a lot of your garnered
knowledge loses its relevance. As a consultant it is valuable to be able to make practical decisions based on past experience, making the equations and rules that sufficed for exams feel obsolete. Consequently, it might take a while before you feel like you’re adding something to a project or a team – as was the case for me. Luckily, I’ve ended up in a team where a nice balance exists between experienced engineers and fresh-off-the-press young professionals like me. During my first months at ALTEN, both categories of colleagues have been immensely helpful to me, although both in their unique ways.
The experienced engineers naturally know more about the ins and outs of the job and the tools that are most useful to navigate it. Within our team Berend is the system architect; which means that, among other things, he works and decides on the structure of our software. I can come to him with questions about the most efficient ways to write a certain piece of code, or with larger questions about the structure for the codebase of the project. But the younger colleagues can be just as helpful to be around, because they were in the same boat as me not too long ago. Menno and Jim, for instance, both graduated somewhat recently, which allowed them to relate with me and help me with things that come at you quickly when you start working. Besides project-related things, I can talk to them about ambitions, workload and free time. All-in-all, starting a new job can feel like jumping off the deep end – but everyone at Alten tries to make the waters feel as shallow as possible. Sometimes directly with some tips and support, and sometimes indirectly by joining you
for a cup of coffee.
But, besides the changes during work, your life outside of work undergoes a lot of change as well. The amount of free time that the student life used to offer you is suddenly drastically reduced to the evenings and weekends. It requires more care and attention to do the things that you would mindlessly partake in as a student; seeing your friends, working out, or even picking up a package. However, as soon as you give your daily planning the careful consideration it needs, a world of freedom opens up for you. Where as a student I would have complete control of my time, I would often find myself procrastinating indefinitely at the cost of my peace of mind. Now, because work reduces the amount of available time, I plan ahead more often, and find myself with time outside of work that is actually free time. Real free time – I used to dream about it in the weeks before my first
day of work; idyllic walks through stretches of undiscovered nature, sixteen hobbies, the possibilities would be limitless. For now, it’s mostly board games on a table that’s shared with two cups of tea and two cats, but I am sure those hobbies are coming up.
After six months at ALTEN I can state with conviction that I am having a lot of fun, and I am not only saying that because I am on the ALTEN website.
Although the transition from enrollment to employment completely alters your lifestyle, it won’t be long until you’ve settled into a new rhythm as long as you’re consciously making an effort.
After the first couple of months, I feel like I’ve settled nicely; my work-life balance is healthy, the project-based work is diverse and challenging, and I have a lot of fun with my colleagues. What more could you ask for?
Are you interested in a position as a Robotics Engineer? Please check the vacancy here.