Alumniverhaal

Adviser at Acacia Water

Mieke Hulshof: “Since 2014, I have been working at Acacia Water, a consultancy in the field of ground water and integral water management. Since Acacia Water is a small business, I work on various projects simultaneously, both domestically and abroad. It’s incredibly fun and there is plenty of variety!”

I translate the ideas of farmers into issues for specialists and vice versa

“At Acacia Water, I work on a variety of projects in foreign countries. For example, we have a project in Uganda in which we are working on developing the plans for the water supply in the drainage basin of two rivers. I am the project leader and we are collaborating with eight different parties, including local organisations. I do field work, such as taking measurements, but I also provide workshops and training programmes. Of course, I spend a great deal of time consulting with local parties about how we can best approach these matters. This requires a lot of effort and flexibility, but I also really enjoy it, because that is how we ensure that the project meets the demand properly.”

“I am also working on a project called “Water uit zandrivierien voor de landbouw” (Water from sand rivers for agriculture) in Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. Sand rivers, which are partially filled with sand, only drain water during the rainy season. How can farmers make better use of the water from these sand rivers? How can this be done more affordably and how can it be better organised? These are the kind of issues that I address in addition to the hydrological side of things.”

Translating

“In the Netherlands, one of the things I am working on is a research project into drip irrigation systems: “Spaarwater – Zuinig met Zoetwater” (Water for a not so rainy day - conserving freshwater). I use a lot of technical knowledge from my degree programme and I even consulted some of my old books! I also maintain a great deal of contact with the agricultural sector in order to discover what the farmers want and what experts can do to address these wishes. This means that I often work on translating ideas: I help turn research results into plain language and convert ‘regular people’s questions’ into something an expert can research.”

Well prepared

“The wide range of knowledge that I gained in my International Land & Water Management degree programme has come in handy for projects. We learned a lot about the organisational side of a project. Who are the stakeholders? We examine people’s roles and relationships of power. In my opinion, doing a proper analysis beforehand is very important to the success of a project. For example, it is only meaningful to design a hydrological model if you know whom you are creating the model for and why. If you know those things, then you specifically measure what you want to measure. You also learn that, in order to conduct a good analysis, you cannot use just one source for all your information. You need multiple sources to create a complete picture: scientific knowledge is necessary, but so are interviews with stakeholders, and you have to get out into the field in order to see and measure things yourself.”

Communication

“The degree programme pays a lot of attention to (intercultural) communication skills. That is a strong suit when you work abroad. The realisation that people might not entirely understand you or that they may interpret something completely differently than you intended is extremely valuable. We already practised that during our study programme through group work with international students. Of course, you also learn an incredible amount about cultural differences and how to address them from your international internship, exchange programmes, and research.”

Finding a job

“After I graduated, there were plenty of opportunities for work, but I initially decided to spend some time travelling and discovering what was really possible. Due to my background in International Land & Water Management, I had developed a broad perspective with an eye for both technical and social aspects. The fact that I had also completed a Master’s with the chair group Hydrology & Quantitative Water Management further improved my opportunities in the labour market. Not to mention that I was quite active in extracurricular activities, such as administrative positions, which gave me the additional experience of working on a project basis.”

Focused on the client

“During my study programme, I completed a work placement and graduation projects in various locations: a Spanish university, a small development organisation, a consultancy (Witteveen en Bos), and a research institute (Deltares). This allowed me to familiarise myself with the field looked by the end of my study programme. I was looking for a job in the Netherlands, but also something which would allow me to frequently work abroad. Working at a client-focused consultancy appealed to me and I wanted to work at a small business. I put in an open application and that’s how I ended up at Acacia Water.”