NSM Focus | Alumnus in the picture: ''Social mission more important than money'
Tom Bongers (29) studied Business Administration at Radboud University, caught the travel bug, but discovered and proved that you can also make an impact from the Netherlands. His name has been included in the Duurzame Jonge 100 (Sustainable Youth 100) for 2020, a vote to select young professionals and students who are actively demonstrating that a sustainable future is feasible.
Why Business Administration in Nijmegen?
“I wanted to do 'something' with abstract thinking, analysis, and problem solving. I considered Artificial Intelligence, Management and Organisational Sciences, and Business Administration. The social character of Business Administration in Nijmegen was the decisive factor for me. Also, a move to Nijmegen was within my comfort zone. I come from a village near Arnhem and found Amsterdam and Rotterdam too big and Groningen too far.”
Happy with your choice?
“Definitely. In Business Administration, I learned to look at systems as a whole, at the cohesion between the parts, and at the long term. This includes questions such as, how do you bring about change? How do you get the group involved with that? How do you achieve significant impact with little intervention? I'm still working on answering those questions.”
Which courses and lecturers made the biggest impression on you?
“I liked quantitative research from the start, but Jac Vennix's enthusiasm for research methods made it even more fascinating. In the elective course Environment, Peace and Sustainable Development by Jan Jonker, I learned that I think it's important for companies to pursue a social mission rather than only thinking about the bottom line. And in Etiënne Rouwette's Intervention Methodology course, I gained my first practical experience. I carried out a consultancy assignment for a Limburg company together with two others, complete with interviews, group sessions, and a final presentation. Super interesting.”
When did foreign countries begin beckoning?
“After my Bachelor’s, I was supposed to go to India for a six-month internship, but that fell through just before I was supposed to depart. Then I started working and travelling in Australia and Southeast Asia. During my Master’s programme I studied as an Erasmus student in Norway and Portugal. After graduating, I started working as a data analyst and consultant at Capgemini in the Netherlands. I liked the work, but the potential range was too narrow; I wanted to have a bigger impact in the world. After another few months of travelling in Australia, I founded a consultancy company with five friends from Sydney, Loops Consulting. It still exists; we develop educational programs and simulations on sustainability and systems thinking.”
In the meantime, you have been working for two and a half years at the energy company Vandebron, a small company in the small Netherlands.
“As a data scientist, I use data analysis to investigate how we, as a minor player in the energy market, can make better decisions and accelerate the energy transition. I also educate students and young professionals about sustainability. As a small company, we are big in generating awareness, which is exactly what is needed to move the market. I am sure that we will make a great impact with our knowledge, both in the Netherlands and in Europe.”
What do you want to impart to the students of today?
“100 percent certainty is impossible. If you are 80% confident, don't hesitate any longer; go for it and learn as you go along – you can always change course later. And don't let yourself be swayed too much by other people's opinions, but find out what you find important yourself by having a side gig, for example. It also allows you to expand your network and that network may turn out to be even more important than your academic grades."