After finishing my VWO pre-university education I wanted to study something technical.
It didn’t take me long to choose a Bachelor in Embedded Systems Engineering at an HBO (Dutch university of applied sciences). The field suits me perfectly as it allows you to keep things small. Contrary to, for example, mechanical engineering, this is something you can do at your desk at home. Also, I did not want to limit myself to electrical engineering. There should at least be a bit of programming in the mix. In the end I finished the Bachelor well ahead of schedule and started my pre-Master at the University of Twente while still working on my minor. I chose the UT because of the good vibes I had experienced during their Open Day. Moreover, I was ready to leave my parents’ home and move into a student house, and my home town of Boxmeer was a little too close to Eindhoven...
My HBO years had always been smooth sailing. That was one of the reasons for me to prolong my studies by taking a Master’s programme in Embedded Systems, another reason being the fact that I wasn’t too sure yet about my career plans. The transfer from HBO to university was tougher than I’d expected, particularly the pre-Master, which took a lot of effort on my part – 40 hours a week or even more, especially for mathematics. Fortunately, the transfer from the pre-Master to the Master’s programme turned out to be a step down in intensity. This is when you really get involved in research, working in groups as well. The great thing about working in groups is how you help each other along, for example by spotting things that others overlook. This way you can achieve results together faster.
The Master’s programme in Embedded Systems is centred around a number of chairs. Students are supposed to ultimately choose one of these chairs for their graduation. On their way to graduation, they will obviously follow a number of courses in that particular field. I myself am going to graduate in Computer Architecture of Embedded Systems, CAES for short. In Embedded Systems we don’t really have specializations to be chosen at an early stage. It is more about scanning what you find interesting and then tuning in to that.
In addition to my Master’s studies, I work as a student-assistant. As such I am currently involved in the Programming in C course for first-year Bachelor’s students in Electrical Engineering. In addition to a professor's lectures, these students have weekly 4-hour practical sessions. We as student-assistants supervise these practicals and help the students with their assignments. I enjoy that very much. In addition, we serve as a useful link between students and professors. We alert the professors to any questions and problems we encounter in practice, so that they can optimize their lectures for next year.
I would recommend that every HBO student try for a Master's degree. However, if you decide to do so, be prepared to take the pre-Master very seriously from the start. If you fall behind at that stage, catching up will be quite hard to do. Calculus A, especially, is a serious obstacle for most. Once you’ve tackled that, things will soon become easier, and you’ll get into the flow that will take you right up to your Master’s degree.
As to my own professional future, CAES is a very broad field. Embedded systems are everywhere. In terms of technology I can go in all directions, I don’t really have a preference. What I do want, at least, is to be on the state-of-the-art side of things. Innovation is important to me. Also, my future job should offer career opportunities, such as the option of rising to management level. I don’t want to spend my whole life coding. Mind you, that’s personal; there are plenty people who choose to do just that, and are very happy doing it.