Leendert – Manager Software

I have been working for ORTEC since May 2010, and with great pleasure. I started my ORTEC career as an OR engineer, in which I was responsible for the development and implementation of algorithms for optimization problems within ORTEC’s vehicle routing and scheduling software. This work fitted perfectly with my master studies Applied Mathematics at the University of Twente, and my PhD Research at the Industrial Engineering department at the same university.

After a number of challenging projects, I got the chance to enhance my impact on the organization by leading a small team of OR engineers. The first thing I did as a team lead was to invite the team to express their thoughts on what they think we should work on. I collected this input, and presented it to the ORTEC Software Development (OSD) board. I immediately learned that such initiatives are highly appreciated at ORTEC: we could start executing all projects, and the people of the team were highly motivated to work on these projects, since they contained their own proposals.

Another important step I took was during a tough project in which the chosen algorithmic solution unfortunately did not work well. In such situations, there is a big temptation to keep on working on the algorithm to get it working against all cost, especially when you have invested already a lot of time and energy in it. However, we dared to change course, and started a completely new solution approach. This step saved the project and even turned out to become the foundation of a completely new version of our vehicle routing and scheduling algorithms, which is both the most complex and the largest optimization component of all ORTEC’s standard solutions.

In my current position as a manager software, I divide my attention over roughly two things: 1) leading a department of 30 people divided over 5 development teams, and 2) setting the algorithmic roadmap within 4 of ORTEC’s standard software packages. The first part of my job asks strong interaction with and attention for people, which is a fascinating challenge, since every person is unique. I hereby strongly focus on redirection instead of controlling, such that the people have an optimal working environment for developing themselves.

The second part of job asks, next to a large share of pragmatism (after all, we solve ‘real’ problems in practice), also a strong in-depth OR knowledge. Therefore, I collaborate a lot with people from academia. For example, I am involved in two research projects with Dutch universities, we continuously have several master students doing their master project within our development teams, and I visit at least one scientific conference per year.

The combination of management and contents is a challenging one, I really have to capture my agenda. However, if this is a natural habit, then you can achieve a lot of nice things within ORTEC. And the really fun thing about working at ORTEC is that it is like visiting a playground full of OR challenges, every day again.