Filiz recently graduated from the MSc Urban Environmental Management at Wageningen University. She now works as a consultant for Witteveen+Bos where she advises on sustainable urban development applying technical sustainability concepts to complex projects that require an integrated and multidisciplinary approach.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you study and why?
I am Filiz Kesmer, an Wageningen University & Research alumna, and I am now working as a consultant at Witteveen+Bos. I did both my bachelor's and master's at Wageningen University.
I started with the bachelor's landscape architecture and spatial planning. The reason why I started with this study was my fascination with the human impact on their environment. This study helped me to understand and read the landscape which consists of different layers and dynamics but also how to deal with the future’s uncertainties. However, my bachelor's does not provide enough technological insights on how you could achieve your sustainability ambition.
Therefore, I decided to follow a more technical master's study which brings me to the master's urban environmental management with the track urban systems engineering. During this study, I learned to analyse a city as an organism with different systems. In my second year, I did my thesis about identifying the spatial possibilities and constraints when you are implementing a decentralized wastewater system in an existing high-populated city. It was about how we can implement new technological systems in existing high-populated urban areas.
After this thesis, I wanted to know how consultancies are dealing with this challenge. I started my internship at the group Smart+Healthy Cities and CO2 driven design at Witteveen+Bos. In the end, this internship led to my current job at Witteveen+Bos. Witteveen+Bos is an engineering and consultancy firm that help clients in resolving today’s complex challenges.
Since you graduated, what kind of jobs did you have?
After my internship at Witteveen+Bos I finished my master's study. I like the internship and I got used to the working environment of Witteveen+Bos that I accepted a job offer. This is my first and current job.
Can you tell a bit more about your current job?
Since January I am working as a consultant that advises on sustainable (urban) development at the department planning studies and process management. In my work I could apply theoretical concepts that I learned during my education in practical projects.
In my daily work I combine planning concepts with (technical) sustainability concepts and apply it to complex projects that require an integrated approach and a multi-disciplinary team. At Witteveen+Bos I could integrate these two disciplines in different kind of projects (from urban redevelopment project to Dyke Reinforcement Project) and different scales (from building to an entire city and rural area). This variety of projects is possible because Witteveen+Bos is a consultancy that provides advice to both public as private sector in the fields of built environment; Deltas, Coast and Rivers; Energy, Water and Environment; and Infrastructure and Mobility. This consultancy also provides advice on the entire process from policymaking, design to supervising construction.
Is this what you always wanted to be or what has changed?
During my study, it was hard to imagine what kind of job I will do, but my internship has helped me to understand what I really want to do. I was looking at a job where I could apply my background in (urban) planning in combination with my technical knowledge about urban systems engineering. I would like to have the freedom to work in my way and contribute to complex projects that requires a multi-disciplined team. Moreover, I like to work on a variety of projects in different areas throughout the Netherlands. Witteveen+Bos provided the right working environment which meets my expectations.
What do you like about your job?
Environmental Impact Assessments require the input of different disciplines and experts (soil, water, energy, circularity, health, air quality, ecology, noise and so on). Therefore, I usually get in touch with different experts to translate their knowledge to principles that will be used in the decision-making of a project. I really like this part of my work where I need to gather the right information of the experts and combine this information to a cohesive whole. This brings me closer to my ambition to create a sustainable living environment without distributing the different layers of a landscape.
What are your future goals?
I would like to contribute to sustainable (urban) development by bringing together different disciplines (urban planner, landscape architect, environmental scientist, ecologists, energy specialists and so on) that could together help private and public actors to achieve their sustainability ambitions. We should base our decisions to scientific knowledge in combination with practical feasibility. I believe that we need each other to be able to show the dilemmas but also the possibilities of achieving sustainability ambitions at the same place and time (one roof for greenery, social gathering or/and energy harvesting?).
If we want to create sustainable and liveable cities, we do not have time to work in a sequence, but we need to act together to fit all our ambitions in the available urban space. This requires a new way of working and a more iterative process in Dutch practices. I believe that I could reach my ambition with my current job because my ambition is in line with the ambition of Witteveen+Bos which is “to contribute to social, ecological and economic progress, with the sustainable development goals of the United Nations as an inspirational guideline”.
How do you contribute to a better world and what role did studying in Wageningen have to achieve this?
I provide insights to decision-makers to help them consider environmental and social impact but also technical and social feasibility. I highlight the important challenges but also the possibilities for a more sustainable solution. I aim to develop products (environmental impact assessment, visions, plans) that will be an eye-opener for many decision-makers.
Wageningen University provided me with scientific-proven tools and concept that helps to conduct projects and plans/visions in a sustainable way. I learned how I should read the landscape and how I can shape the landscape of tomorrow by dealing with uncertainties and providing sustainable solutions.