• People
  • Blog
  • Shaping a post-PhD career trajectory

Shaping a post-PhD career trajectory

  • december 19, 2023
    • Posted in:
    • Careers

Our latest hire Sander started out fresh at our consulting team in November. In this interview, he explains how his PhD skills transfer to his new consulting role and why he chose Addestino for the next chapter in his career.

Sander is enthusiastic when talking about his PhD background. “My love for physics and the drive to gain a better understanding of the world is what initially got me on the path to pursue a PhD,” he kicks off. “What I found most valuable during my bachelor’s degree were the thinking paradigms that my studies taught me. While I didn’t realise it at the time, my logical and deductive approach to problem analysis is a versatile skill that translates seamlessly to the workplace. This complemented well with my more hands-on, engineering-oriented master’s degree. After graduating, I dived deeper into the research field of molecular modelling during my PhD research.”

Sander found that the campus life proved to be the perfect setting for him to focus on his niche, offering plenty of freedom and space for independent planning and thinking. “Being in academia felt like a natural progression from my student days,” he says with a smile. “With only my PhD deadline looming far on the horizon, it was essential to set myself smaller, intermittent goals to keep me on track. After one year as a PhD researcher, I took on an additional role as a teaching assistant. This was a nice change from my research work, and it helped me to develop my public speaking and presentation skills.”

“While I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a researcher and was pleased with our contribution to the scientific community, I always knew I wanted to explore different opportunities,” Sander explains. “I had the choice between practical, applied engineering jobs on one hand and academic positions on the other. Gradually, I began to realise that consulting might offer the best of both worlds. When looking for learning opportunities, I figured that consulting might quickly increase my exposure to different organisations across a wide range of sectors. However, the prospect of being tied to a typical full-time, client-embedded consulting role still put me off a little.”

Things took a turn when Sander started talking with Joyce at the Addestino team. “She explained that they had quite a few consultants with a PhD background like mine, and this strengthened my belief that my prior experience would be properly valued. Simultaneously, the Addestino team was small enough to ensure that I wouldn’t just be another paper pusher in a large organisation. My hunch was confirmed as I moved through the application process. The management team dug quite deep to connect with me on a personal level and subsequently put my reasoning skills to the test. We discussed my vision for the consultant role and they reassured me that I would be able to work in different industries and shape my career trajectory on my own terms.”

“We’ve got a series of starter training sessions and recurring learning events designed to help our consultants from different backgrounds bridge their likely knowledge gaps,” Sander clarifies. “The team understands the typical strengths and weaknesses of a PhD profile, tailoring their approach with specific business-oriented methodologies and frameworks. Luckily, I can leverage my experience fully, bringing a new perspective to the table at assignments with my specific way of problem-solving.”

In just one month on the job, Sander has already sampled the dynamics of various client organisations. “After an initial two-week assignment in support of a colleague, I’m now taking on new responsibilities in one of our long-running flagship projects at a financial institution. In this role, I’m always able to fall back on my supervisor, Brian. This flexibility in different projects and fresh business challenges are exactly the kind of puzzles I was hoping to tackle.”

“As my agenda starts filling up with meetings, I’m learning to recognise the importance of setting clear work-life boundaries,” Sander shares with a chuckle. “Fortunately, there is a certain level of flexibility in planning the working day, and the transition is going smoothly. I also have the option to work from home or dive into some deep work from our offices in Zele or Leuven, as not every day is spent on-site at a client’s. The thing I value the most in my new line of work? The ability to work towards a tangible end goal. Having this extrinsic motivation and push is exactly what I was looking for.”

When asked about his plans for the future, Sander relishes the freedom to keep an open mind and explore different options. “I’m very happy to be working with a mix of other PhDs and experienced engineers, which allows me to fast-track my learning. Just the kind of fit I was hoping for when I joined the team!”

We're proud to work for