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NSM Focus | Tim Boerakker: “Do not just have coffee, do an internship”

The Commerciële Economie (commercial economics) degree programme was a bit open-ended, and so Tim Boerakker (35) decided to continue his studies at the Nijmegen School of Management. He worked hard, but also managed to find his way to the pub regularly. A question of carefully considering your options. Typical for Tim, it seems.

Why did you choose to do business sciences at Radboud University at the time?

“My commercial economics degree programme at HAN University of Applied Vakantie 2019 (Large)Sciences was very practice-based. During my two internships I realised that I lacked a broader perspective and analytical skills, especially when it came to the larger issues. I wanted to focus on that in my next degree programme. Business sciences at Radboud University has a broad curriculum, the number of students is not too big, and there was a very personal approach during the open day. It appealed to me.”

And, did you enjoy the programme?

“Certainly. I had great fellow students and lecturers, and I always enjoyed attending the lectures. And what I thought was special at the time too is that lecturers such as Jac Vennix, Etienne Rouwette, and Marleen McCardle managed to make fairly dry subjects such as qualitative and quantitative research and academic skills interesting.

Did you graduate by the book, in four years?

“After my third year I took a gap year to join the board of Synergy. Very educational! The student association can be compared to a small company. Together with the other members of the board I was able to apply all the theoretical knowledge I had: creating and implementing policy, acquisition, relationship management, communication. At the same time I learnt skills that were not dealt with during lectures, such as working in a team. And on top of that, it was a great year. We had a lot of fun.”

Student life is not cheap. Were you able to make ends meet?

“I worked one or two days in the week, and carefully considered my options. How much money do I have saved? Which lectures can I miss occasionally? Will I be able to go out to the pub tonight? The answer to that was usually positive.”

How did you take the first steps in your career?

“I completed my final research project at Achmea insurance company, where I subsequently applied for a management traineeship. I had already progressed quite far in that process when a friend of mine who works at Alliander asked: “We also have management traineeships. Have you considered Alliander?” I had not, but when I thought about it I realised that the developments in the energy sector are considerably wider-reaching and faster than those in the insurance sector. I thought it would be an interesting challenge.”

You have been working at Alliander for eight-and-a-half years now. Was it always in the same position?

“Not at all. In the first year I completed two internal assignments to get to know the organisation. In the second year I was appointed to a managerial position, with all sorts of training and coaching to improve my skills. After that, I assisted in setting up a new department, and managed a team of experts. Since 2019, I am the manager for Planning and Contract management. With my team I translate strategic planning to tactical planning for the roll-out of smart meters, and we provide the contract management for the meter suppliers and the contractors involved.”

Which lectures from your studies come in useful here?

“Business sciences focused a lot on developing conceptual thinking, and the critical search for cause and effect. How do you approach a challenge? I see people around me struggle with that at times.”

What did you miss in your studies?

“There was not enough attention for soft skills. Leadership styles, collaboration, providing feedback on behaviour, the political game. You can really make a difference in a company with those skills - you can find smart people anywhere. There is always a certain tension between performance and relationship. How to strike the right chord to achieve your goal? I actually learned a lot in that regard during my year with Synergy.”

What advice would you give current students?

“Go explore your options, discover what type of work suits you. Do not only have coffee with people, but do an internship for a while. Because it is only then that you will learn what a company and a position are really about. You don’t like it? Then keep looking. Look for a good manager who will support you in your development and who will allow you to work sustainably and with great job satisfaction. That is far more important than aiming for the highest position.” JvdB