Alumnus testimonial

Charlotte - Municipality policy officer

Charlotte came to Wageningen for her bachelor's in Environmental Sciences and stayed for her master's in Urban Environmental Management. One of the things she learned there is cooperating in a project. This was challenging sometimes but still one of the important lessons.

The most important thing I learnt from my time at Wageningen is cooperating in a project. An integral approach to all the environmental challenges is needed bitterly.

Who are you and what did you study?
My name is Charlotte. I came to the Netherlands for my Bachelor's in degree Environmental Sciences in 2011. My mum is Polish, my dad German and I grew up in Germany. I had a little intermezzo in Cordoba, Spain, with an Erasmus grant before starting Urban Environmental Management at the WUR.

I chose this master's because wanted to specialise in management and organisational sciences from a sustainability perspective. Why? I was curious to learn how decisions are made in a more practical setting and money is an important driver for decision-making.

Since you graduated, what kind of jobs did you have?
Before finding my ‘real’ first job I worked part-time for three days at an online shop. The rest of the days I spent searching. Finally, I got into a traineeship at a consultancy firm. The first 6 months I spent at the group ‘climate adaptation’, followed by 9 months at ‘soil’. I did not finish my traineeship there because after a year I had not found my place in the organisation and consultancy as a whole.

I never wanted to work at a consultancy, because I felt that the commercial way of working would not suit me. I took that job anyway because I also knew that you have to start somewhere. On the hind side, I learnt a lot about myself and working in general.

And what is your current job?
I switched to policy officer at a medium-sized municipality. I’m responsible for a variety of different tasks within the topic of energy and circular economy. For example, I organise the selection of solar fields in our municipality and citizens can contact me if they have any questions or complaints. The municipality wants to develop a new industrial site. Within the team, I am the sustainability expert. Occasionally, I advise the alderwoman of sustainability on various topics.

Is this what you always wanted to be?
I never really worked towards a specific goal. It’s funny to see though how ideas of what to become back at my current job. My history teacher in high school once said that he thinks I would be a good diplomat. I answered that I much more preferred to work in the staff of a minister. Well, an alderwoman isn’t exactly the minister I had in mind back then, but close enough.

Another moment was when I had the opportunity to visit the European Parliament within a WUR-course. I had a big wow-moment when seeing the room. Today, the moment that gives me the greatest kick is sitting in the same room when the municipal council decides on a policy I have worked on.

What are your future goals?
I still don’t have a clear picture of what I want to be. I feel though that I have grown out of some of my current tasks. So I look for new opportunities within my municipality. My next step, I imagine is a broader range of topics at a politically driven organisation or moving towards a more scientific style of working at another organisation. I’m sure though that I will stay working on improving the quality of life and that I want to do that within the physical domain.

How do you contribute to a better world?
That’s a difficult question. No doubt, I’m part of the energy transition, helping to raise the Dutch production of renewable energy and stimulating households to save energy. I think more importantly I contribute to a better world by listening and trying to understand peoples concerns around the energy transition. A change is so much easier if you meet people with honesty and respect for their worries.

What choices have you made that have helped you to get where you are now?
I have never had a master plan of some sort. Looking back, some choices helped me to get to my current position. During my master's I was in touch with other management students without the sustainability touch. When you come from your cocoon where nearly everybody is concerned about sustainability or at least environmental quality, that is confronting at first and enriching your perspective later. It’s good to get in touch with people who think differently, even though it’s not always easy.

I also made an unconscious turn towards policy. I did my minor in Public Administration when I found out that the courses I picked made an eligible package. Later I decided to do an internship at a political lobby organisation in Switzerland. Again, I did not picture myself at a consultancy and did not want to do my internship there. Unfortunately, I could not find an internship placement in the Netherlands that was not at a consultancy firm.

What challenges have you encountered in your previous and/or current jobs? How has studying in Wageningen helped you to overcome them?
The most important thing I learnt from my time at Wageningen is cooperating on a project. An integral approach to all the environmental challenges is needed bitterly. You can only effectively work together on a project if you learn to respect one another’s value and working styles.

At Wageningen University we practised that as extreme as you can get. Lots of different cultures and interdisciplinary projects. Usually, that was tough, but that’s the hallmark of important lessons in life 😉

Another great experience was my time as Commissioner of Study at the Board of study association Aktief Slip. That was a lot about organising things and making them happen, but also about how to communicate effectively. I would always do it again!

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