Senior Vice President, Umicore
“We're very focused on looking for doctoral students and recruit an average of about 10 per year. The reason we are so interested in PhDs is simply the high competence of doctorate holders. Therefore we work closely with universities in Belgium and Germany.”
Doctorate holders have an advantage
“To us, doctoral students are almost immediately employable. As a company we highly value the doctoral degree and the work doctoral students have already delivered. PhD holders have an edge when they begin working with us. They start at a fairly high level in the research department where they undertake tasks such as analysis, toxicology, modelling ... Our intention is that they grow relatively quickly into management positions.
“In my experience, a PhD is indeed a good preparation for a career in business. It’s the case with us – our work and projects are often an extension of the research that our doctoral students have conducted at university. Through good cooperation with universities, we are often already familiar with ‘our’ doctoral students, and they are often involved in ‘our’ projects.”
The doctoral schools do a great job
“I believe there are several aspects of a PhD that add value. There is of course working independently and project management, in which doctoral students have very valuable practical experience. But there is also the good works of the doctoral schools, which provide additional training to doctoral students during their studies. That is an extra burden of course, but it does result in clear added value.”
Maturity is one of the key strengths
“Maturity is one of the major strengths of doctoral students. But technical competence, a certain urge to develop, life experience, creativity and freedom of thought are qualities that we very often find in PhD holders and post-docs.
“People who are now working on a doctorate or about to start studying for one, I would recommend don’t lose that opportunity. Obviously a doctorate requires sufficient academic research, but try not spend longer than four, or a maximum of five years to do it. Don’t bury yourself in the lab, do something else. For example, the evening seminars of the Royal Flemish Society of Engineers (KVIV) offer excellent opportunities to do so. Certainly try to go abroad or at least to be involved in an international collaboration. And, last but not least, stay connected. Work, even during your doctorate, in a thorough and extensive network.”