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Practical problem-solving with a PhD past: Dries’s story

  • september 13, 2023
    • Posted in:
    • Careers

As one of our key technical experts, Dries takes on some of our most challenging specialist assignments with our clients. He tells us about his PhD past and why he decided to make a change to join our team.

Reflecting on what initially ignited his passion, Dries attributes his computer science degree as the catalyst that set his entire career in motion. “Early on in my journey at university, I got drawn towards the prestigious Software Languages Lab of the ‘Vrije Universiteit Brussel’, where I was studying. It’s one of the few research labs dedicated to the study and further development of programming languages, and I was completely in my element there. Pursuing a PhD felt like the most natural decision; a seamless progression that would offer me both intellectual stimulation and a four-year span to dedicate myself to my field of research while developing new programming concepts.”

Dries looks back on his research years with a sense of nostalgia. “In the initial phases of my PhD, I delved into AmbientTalk, an experimental programming language designed specifically for ad hoc mobile networks.  Our focus was on implementing a proof of concept for the buses operating within the Brussels public transport network. Our groundbreaking efforts, however, were rendered obsolete by the rise of affordable mobile data plans, which made the subject of our investigation no longer economically viable. This turning point prompted me to shift my focus to intensive programming language research and the intricate world of software ecosystems once again, approaching things from a more theoretical and mathematical perspective. The academic environment I was situated in provided an ideal arena for fellow-minded researchers. While working alongside dedicated colleagues inspired me, I also found great satisfaction in sharing my knowledge with students as I engaged in teaching. I knew that if I were to explore other job opportunities in the future, these two positive factors would play a pivotal role in shaping my choice.”

“What I appreciate the most is the freedom to find innovative solutions and share the insights gained with the rest of the team.”

“Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my time on campus, there was a growing sense within me that it was time for a change,” reflects Dries as he discusses his need for something new. “After being introduced to the Addestino leadership team through a mutual acquaintance, things moved fast. Stefan and Dominique quickly recognised that I was very much the one for a variety of challenges – exactly the kind of person they’d been looking for,” he adds with a grin. “As they identified my ambition and drive, they assured me that I’d be exposed to different technologies across a wide array of business landscapes. It was this promise that ultimately convinced me to take the leap.”

“While my first project perhaps didn’t pose the most intricate technical test, it was varied and demanded fast-paced iterations,” Dries elaborates. “Then came a major challenge, as I was assigned to a large corporation where my task was to develop a video compositing engine, within a tight two-month timeframe. This is the sort of challenge I thrive on. By aligning myself with the role of technical expert on the Addestino career compass, my role is highly specialised. I no longer tend to write as much code myself as I used to, but I find my intellectual challenges in things like translating architecture into practical solutions for businesses. In addition, my position allows me to allocate research time to delve into specific software and methodologies, with the team giving me the trust and flexibility to do so whenever I see fit. In my eight-year tenure here, I’ve been entrusted with projects ranging from writing complex code in the healthcare industry to data science architecture for start-up companies.”

Dries identifies the in-house training sessions as one of his preferred means to add variety into his specialised role. “I’ve had the opportunity to educate the rest of the consulting team on topics like Deep learning and other technical subjects. This culture of knowledge sharing ties neatly back to my previous experience in teaching during my PhD. It allows me to gain additional expertise in addition to assignments and then share those with the rest of the consulting team.”

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