Willeke has worked for 2 years as a Spatial Advisor at the Land Use Consultants in Edinburgh, Schotland when ze decides to come back to The Netherlands. Now, she is using her background in Spatial Planning to connect people and nature as a project leader for IVN Natuureducatie.
What did you do after you graduated and why?
After graduation I started working as a spatial planner at Land Use Consultants (LUC), a sustainable consultancy firm in Edinburgh, Scotland. I spent two years there before returning to the Netherlands. I now work as a junior project leader at IVN Natuureducatie.
What did you do for first job?
As a spatial planner at LUC, my main focus was conducting research and writing impact assessments.
I still remember my first assignment, commissioned by the Scottish government, about renewable energy. The government wanted to find the best way to deal with the impact of wind turbines and other sustainable technologies on the landscape, people and nature. Scotland has quite a bit of open space (especially compared to the Netherlands), but the number of wind turbines has grown so much in recent years that it’s starting to jeopardise the quality of the landscape and how people experience it. Our team was brought in to research how local municipalities deal with permit requests for the installation of wind turbines and other sustainable technologies.
If applicable: Who else did you work for and what kind of work did you do for them?
After living in Scotland for a few years, I decided to move back to the Netherlands. I now work as a junior project leader at IVN Natuureducatie.
How did you end up in your current job?
By coincidence, actually. I happened to see the vacancy at the right time. My broad academic background and my experience with project-based work as an advisor came in very handy.
What kinds of projects or assignments do you work on?
As a junior project leader at IVN Natuureducatie, I work on a project basis – much like my work as an advisor. IVN Natuureducatie is a non-profit organisation that aims to connect people and nature. We do this by organising nature activities, courses, and nature and sustainability projects and campaigns.
I’m working on several projects at the moment. One of them involves setting up the Jongeren Adviesbureau, a youth consultancy firm that enlists the help of young people to find solutions to social problems faced by real clients. My colleagues and I set up a similar firm last winter and the winning ideas were very well-received. It was amazing! This is a project I feel passionate about as an advisor.
My work at the IVN is very diverse and ranges from planting tiny forests to organising nature workshops. I take on different roles during my projects. Sometimes I work as an organiser/coordinator and other times I take on the role of teacher and host a training programme. I love working at IVN because I can make a real difference in society and I can combine my passion for nature and teaching.
What made you enrol in the Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning programme?
What really appealed to me about the programme was the combination of creative fields and the ability to make a real difference. I was interested in a lot of different areas and couldn't really choose. I wanted to be able to use my creativity and learn more about how people experience the world around them. I also wanted to find a job in which I could help people and make the world a better place. One way to do this was by dedicating myself to our living environment. This called for a broad perspective, which led me to the Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning programme.
What did you find most interesting about the programme?
The diversity, the variety and the opportunity to explore different disciplines.
Looking back, what was the best thing you got out of the programme?
As an advisor, I quickly realised that the broad knowledge I'd gained during the programme came in really handy. Before I started my first assignment I was asked if I knew anything about wind turbines. My answer was 'a little.' That turned out to be more than enough. Using my broad knowledge from the programme, I designed a research method that fit our needs and made the right connections between the various bits of information.
Which decisions did you make during the programme that helped you get to where you're at now? (For example: major/minor, internship, side job, membership to a committee or board)
I was on a few committees, which definitely helped me find my first job. I also followed a second master’s programme [Ecosystem Services] at the University of Edinburgh alongside my programme in Wageningen. I have fond memories of my time abroad, thanks in part to the incredible people I met. Coincidentally, I crossed paths with my former LUC manager from Edinburgh through one of the university programmes. That got the ball rolling and landed me my job as an advisor. I'd always wanted to work abroad and I finally did it!
Do you have any advice for current and future students?
My advice would be to follow your heart and your passion. I know it sounds cliché, but in the end you’ll enjoy your job or degree programme a lot more if it gives you fulfilment. The programme (and the jobs that followed) made me realise what I’m truly passionate about. The Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning programme helped me discover and apply my broad interests.