Alumnus: Sjors van Iersel, consultant

During his studies, Sjors decided to specialise in environmental technology and completed a work placement at Ecofys consulting at the end of his MSc in Environmental Sciences. “My main focus was extracting bio-energy from algae. After my work placement I was offered a position at Ecofys, but I wanted to go abroad so I headed for Portugal.”

I source my own work

“In Portugal I ended up staying on at Ecofys as a freelancer, and after six months I returned to work for the Ecofys bio-energy department at their offices in Barcelona.” But Portugal was always where I wanted to end up, so after two years I came back here and registered with international consulting firm SQ Consult. I source my own work and get paid on a project basis. SQ Consult is actually a group of sole traders who have joined forces, to be able to carry out projects that would be too much for one person alone. I really like being able to work from Portugal. There are people who move to Portugal for the lifestyle, and Portuguese people who move to northern Europe for work. I have the best of both worlds, so everything’s peachy!

Although I’m the only one working from Portugal, I’m in touch with my Dutch colleagues every day. Collaborating via Skype is like sitting in the same office building, just in another room. The only difference is that I never run into anyone during my coffee or lunch breaks. Whenever I need to travel for work, like to Brussels to give a project presentation, it’s a nice opportunity for me to see my colleagues again.”

Most of Sjors’s work is related to climate policy in the EU and the European Commission in particular. His specialist area in climate policy is the Emissions Trading System, where he works on both developing and implementing new policy. “During each project, we work on aspects such as the regulations for issuing free emissions rights and how to structure them as fairly as possible while keeping administration to a minimum. China has recently also expressed interest in the Emissions Trading System. So in another project we are looking at how we can help the Chinese set up their own system, applying the lessons learned in Europe straight away.”

Sjors’s projects are not only related to climate policy, however. “Other projects of mine are in the field of bio-energy, where I do work for both companies and national government bodies, answering various questions such as: How should bio-energy laws be structured? How are companies affected by the laws? And what qualifies as bio-energy?”

Consulting work suits Sjors. “It’s hard to imagine what consultancy is like before you start doing it. I enjoyed the consulting work I did during my work placement so much that I simply kept on with it afterwards. Working on the cutting edge is what excites me the most, and the feeling that my work is being put to good use in practice. To me, consultancy is looking ahead and solving problems before they become problems.”

Sjors believes that the blend of natural and social sciences in the Bachelor's programme in Environmental Sciences is a major advantage. “It provides a very broad foundation, and once you are used to it, it helps you to think along a range of different lines, especially when dealing with environmental issues. I would definitely choose an integrated programme again, no question.” He also sees the international character of Wageningen University as a major plus. “You learn about cultural differences and how to communicate in English with people from a range of nationalities, which is a great help when working on international projects later on. I think Environmental Sciences is a good choice for anybody seeking to work on a sustainable future by applying knowledge from a range of scientific fields.”