Alumni working at Allseas share their lessons learned

News - 22 November 2016

Eric Trottemant and Yanrong Yu both work at Allseas and finished their PhD at TU Delft.  Allseas is one of the major offshore pipelay and subsea construction companies in the world, operating six specialised vessels, which were designed in-house. During their PhD they learned some valuable lessons. Both also share their experiences onworking in industry.

Eric Trottemant, senior R&D Engineer Allseas

After obtaining his MSc at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Eric Trottemant worked in industry for 6 years before deciding to start a PhD at TU Delft. Before starting, he had a romanticized view of obtaining a doctorate. Along the way, he found out how much perseverance it takes to do complete the PhD.  He found out that doing a PhD is not all about doing research, there are also other challenges to cope with and learn from. 

Looking back, Eric is  pleased that, about a year ago, he finally obtained his PhD after 9 years. Completing his doctorate took longer than usual because he was working full time while writing his thesis and he had to do the writing during the weekends and holidays. Additionally, there were three parties involved in his project, all with a different focus and view on his research topic. This also slowed down the completion of his thesis. When he realized this last factor was his biggest stumbling block in finishing his PhD, he had to learn how to cope with different viewpoints, learn to stick to his research goals and closely collaborate with his promotor.

When starting his PhD, he already knew he wanted to pursue a career in industry. The PhD was something he wanted to do for himself to acquire new knowledge. When he started his job at Allseas and was doing a PhD at the same time, he had to learn to deal with the ‘academic’ image he had acquired  because of his PhD. According to Eric, one of the main differences with an academic career is that in industry you need to really think strategically and collaborate with your colleagues. It’s not about being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and ‘prove this’ like is often the case in academia. Industry is more about pursuing the same goals and getting there together which sometimes means you have to surrender to the joint objectives. But following a PhD taught him to ask the more simple questions during his work. These are often the questions colleagues, forget to ask. Questions like: ‘What do I want to accomplish?’ ‘How am I going to accomplish that goal?’ and ‘How am I going to test my results?’. The competences that he developed most as a doctoral candidate are analytical thinking and self-management. In his current role, he is guiding junior colleagues with these same competences.

Although his romanticized view of a PhD turned out to be incorrect, Eric is very proud that he persisted and obtained his degree and developed himself in many ways. 

Yanrong Yu, Lead Engineer, Allseas

After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in China and working for six years in China, Yanrong Yu decided to follow her dreams and obtain her MSc and doctorate degree in the Netherlands at TU Delft. In 1997, she obtained her doctorate degree and from there, her job search started. It wasn’t all that easy to find a job in Dutch industry in which she could apply her knowledge. After searching and a bit of job hopping, she finally found the ‘right’ job through an agency.

Yanrong came to the Netherlands together with her husband. When she arrived, it made her realize that there are so many cultural differences and new things to learn. For starters, the Dutch and English language. Next to that, she became pregnant during her PhD. Nevertheless, looking back, during her PhD she was in a team with other PhD candidates and they shared a lot together. Now, 20 years later, they are still in touch and from time to time she still works together with one of her fellow PhD candidates to supervise TU Delft MSc students with their theses. During her time at university, she really learned how to collaborate which was very helpful to her when she started her job at Allseas.

The mentality in industry is really different than what Yanrong was used to in academia. The biggest challenge as an engineer was to be a leader and to manage projects, as time is quite limited and the objectives are high.  Her main advice to doctoral candidates is to develop skills like leadership skills and project management skills as much as you can during the PhD. Yu is pleased to hear there are so many courses available now at the Graduate School. It would have helped her a great deal if she would have had the opportunity back in her PhD days.

Yanrong is still using the knowledge she gained throughout her research and her university study in China in her current position and when she looks back she is still happy she followed her dream to do research here in the Netherlands.