Article by Thea Bladt Hansen, live interview by Levin Stamm and Thea Bladt Hansen
— “It’s weird to be back here in the AB – walking past all the project rooms, I remember people fighting to get to sit there and study,” AUC alumna Lotje Hogerzeil says with a smile upon arriving to The Herring’s second live “Ask the Alumni” event that took place on Wednesday, 10 February.
Looking back at her time at AUC, she points out how she learned to work in a team where no one has the exact same background as her: “I have known for a while that I will not be a specialist. After AUC I did not think that I was specialised in anything yet, but that has turned out to be a quality, since I can understand people coming from different academic and professional angles. Being comfortable in an international environment really helps, too.”
Hogerzeil graduated from AUC in 2015, after which she spent seven months in South Africa. There she witnessed massive biodiversity loss and empty supermarkets as consequences of droughts – a dramatic experience that made her change her career path completely. Even though she studied psychology and neuroscience for three years at AUC, Hogerzeil suddenly felt that she wanted to dedicate her professional life to making our planet a healthier place.
When you consider a change in academic direction after AUC, it does require a bit more creativity, but Hogerzeil strongly believes that ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. She was able to qualify for an MSc in Urban Environmental Management at Wageningen University after having completed a half-year linkage program. This was followed by an internship and later a consultant position at the Amsterdam-based consulting and venture building company Metabolic, which aims to tackle global sustainability challenges. She has recently joined Philips Engineering Solutions as a sustainability and circular economy consultant.
According to Hogerzeil, Wageningen University is good at making connections between students and job suppliers and has strong relationships with both bigger consultancies and engineering firms, but also smaller companies like Metabolic. Some students may feel that these close connections between the university and corporations set the agenda too much. However, Hogerzeil had a different experience since this helped her get the internship at Metabolic – a company which she was interested in even while studying at AUC: “Metabolic has a little office next to the café I worked at while at AUC. I always thought that ‘gosh, these are the cool/super nerdy kids’, so I kept an eye on them and applied for an internship after completing my master’s degree.”
The passion for sustainability at Metabolic motivated Hogerzeil at the beginning of her career – and she is happy that she started out in a smaller company before working at Phillips.“I see how it’s possible to lose touch with the rest of society if you have only ever worked for a huge company. At Metabolic I learned to always be a super critical thinker and a sustainability advocate, that mindset helps me in my current position,” she says.
After some time Hogerzeil felt the need for a change and therefore got the job as sustainability and circular economy consultant at Philips: “Metabolic is an organisation that sets a very high standard in terms of sustainability. People there are very passionate about sustainability. It was really fun to work in that kind of environment. After having gained a lot of skills, I wanted to make a step to an organisation which on a daily basis experiences the consequences of sustainability advice. To experience the practical dimension of what a transition to sustainable economy means.”
Plans for other “Ask the Alumni” sessions this semester are in the works – stay tuned for more information about our next event!