Life as a Civil Engineer and a globetrotter
Wouter de Hamer, alumnus Civil Engineering & Management
Wouter de Hamer graduated in 2007 as a Master of Science in Civil Engineering & Management.
A bachelor study, and later also the Master’s program focusing on Water Engineering & Management, proved to be an excellent choice for him. Now that he has been working for a few years, he sees the benefits of this study in professional life. “You’re more broadly educated, which gives a lot of opportunities for growth within a company,” Wouter explains. He continues, “Because of your technical education and insights into management, you’re better equipped for a potential management position. I’m currently working as Business Development Director of the Asia-Pacific region with Royal HaskoningDHV, based in our Manila office in the Philippines. “Since I have knowledge of the commercial side as well as the engineering side of projects, I can understand our partners very well and we can get to a deal more quickly.”
How was your time at the University of Twente?
“My study actually went quite smoothly. I didn’t have any real academic stumbling blocks; my challenge mostly lay in combining academics with my personal development. I completed my courses quite easily, so I looked for other knowledge and experiences that weren’t taught in the lecture rooms. For example, I became active within the study association ConcepT and learned, as chairman among other things, how to intensively work in a team, how to get people excited about things, and how to organize activities down to the details,” Wouter continues.
He looks back to his college time with warm memories. In his office, there is a shelf with study books that he consults from time to time. “I definitely still use the knowledge that I gained in my study, like what I learned in the course River Engineering and Morphology, and this book will continue to move with me to new destinations to help me carry out content-related work on projects,” he explains.
As a result of the exciting stories told by his parents – who lived abroad for years – Wouter felt drawn to international challenges. He completed his Bachelor assignment at the University of Surinam. “After my Surinamese experience, I’d gotten a taste, so I joined a study trip to India and was determined to complete my Master’s thesis abroad as well. Such experiences are possible because of the international character of the Civil Engineering study, and I got a very interesting assignment in Zimbabwe. After my graduation, I was sure: I wanted a job abroad. Since there is a high demand for Civil Engineers, this worked out well for me at Royal HaskoningDHV,” Wouter says.
After a year with Royal HaskoningDHV, Wouter moved to Nigeria for the duration of a year in 2008. While he was there, he held the position of Assistant Resident Engineer and Coastal Engineer at one of the largest land reclamation projects in Africa. After this, he returned to the Netherlands to work for the same company as Assistant Project Manager on the ‘Ruimte voor de Rivier’ (Room for River) projects. “Other countries continued to attract me, so after a while, I made the switch to Jakarta, Indonesia in February 2011 and started to work as Project Manager on several river and coastal protection projects. As often happens, many opportunities and challenges cross your path, and my responsibilities became more and more diverse, including managing a local engineering team and developing new business together with our clients. In 2013, I moved to Manila in the Philippines to establish a new branch office and to develop water-related projects. Eventually, this grew into my current position as Director Business Development Water for the Asia-Pacific region for the Business Line Water. I’m still perfectly happy here and know that, in time, a next country will present its own interesting challenges again. That way, you’ll never get bored,” Wouter smiles.
So what does a Civil Engineer actually do?
“Within Royal HaskoningDHV, we assist clients with many engineering projects,” Wouter explains. He continues, “for example, in the Philippines, we work on the design of new artificial islands in Manila Bay. Projects related to flood protection are also part of our core expertise. The devastating typhoons in this region could cause an industrial site or whole cities to be flooded. To prevent this, we design masterplans, judge what is feasible based on advanced hydrological models, and give several design solutions options so that flooding will no longer be a problem in the future. Meanwhile, other colleagues at my office focus on projects related to water supply and waste water treatment. As you can see, a job as a Civil Engineer is very diverse, interesting, and challenging!”
What advice would you give to a prospective student?
Wouter, “Most importantly, choose a study that suits you. If that’s Civil Engineering & Management, then you’ll be guaranteed a challenging job. As a student, you should also allocate time for personal development (next to acing your courses, of course); that’s what makes student life much more fun! And remember: this study isn’t only focused on technology, but also on management and communication skills. This will make you a perfect ambassador of the University of Twente’s motto, ‘High Tech - Human Touch.’ And don’t forget your opportunities abroad! It is not only incredibly interesting, there is also a high demand for Dutch experts in Civil Engineering! A job guaranteed!”