Interview with former UPTE student Jan van den Berg

Jan van den Berg

Former UPTE student Jan van den Berg is 24 years old and currently residing in Rotterdam. He enjoys traveling, running, and having nice food and drinks with friends. In this short interview, he talks about the UPTE master, his career, and gives some advice for future students.

You were an UPTE master student. Why did you choose it? How did you experience the master?

I chose the UPTE master because I thought it was the best fit for what I wanted to do. I had also done the major in Bachelor 3. Apart from the fact that I have always found the port of Rotterdam interesting, I noticed during the major that the dynamics of cities could also be interesting. When I was picking a master's program after completing my bachelor's, I had two requirements. First, it had to be something 'real', as I found the real economy to be more interesting than, say, the financial industry. And second, I wanted to do something that could offer me a nice career. With many real-life cases and practical application of theories, the UPTE master matches these criteria well. Companies in real estate, logistics, industry, and the public sector are all fantastic places for graduates to work.

What has the master meant to you, thus far in your career?

The master's degree is divided into three tracks: urban, port, and transportation. Urban is primarily concerned with the operation of cities and how they came to be, as well as challenges that arise from urban living, such as traffic jams and pollution. Port economics is concerned with the port and logistics, as well as how to keep port economies competitive. Transportation economics is about human transport. It asks us for example how we can eliminate traffic delays in the Netherlands and produce the least CO2 with our travels.

I was mostly interested in the port when I started the master's program, and I assumed that I would be working in there afterwards. However, I also explored the 'urban' side in the master and discovered that it was a perfect fit for me. Urban economics and the Seminar Regional and Transport Economics were the most enjoyable for me, but they are mostly of value to policymakers, whereas the Seminar Supply Chain Management and Optimisation and Real Estate Economics, for example, are quite useful in business.

I quickly realized that I wanted to work in the construction and real estate industries. Because construction is such a technical field, I chose to do a graduate internship at engineering company Sweco, where I studied the economic implications of sea level rise, at the intersection of economics and technology. I realized how much I liked the concept of having one foot in the economic world and the other in the technological one.

What is your current position?

I started as a trainee at Royal BAM Group. In two years, I'll be working on four different tasks within the company. My first job is within BAM Infra's Tender Strategy team, where I create strategies to help BAM win project tenders. As an economist, this is a wonderful place to start because I am now learning a lot about the technology of construction and infrastructure projects, but translating the USPs of this technology into a commercial story.

Thanks to a guest presentation during the Transport Economics session during the master, I came into contact with BAM. BAM's Business Development manager Sander Buningh discussed Automatic Speed Control (ASC) and the importance of technology in transportation systems. Sander and I met each other again at BAM, and we worked together in a tender for a Smart Mobility hub. Sander collaborates with Giuliano Mingardo, a senior researcher at the Erasmus Centre for Urban, Port, and Transport Economics, on a regular basis to combine academic expertise with BAM's initiatives.

Is there anything you learnt during your master's degree that you use for your current job?

The UPTE master's degree primarily allows you to see beyond the bubble of traditional economics, as expressed in money systems and flows. In the master, we focused on the flow of commodities and people, as well as what draws people to particular cities or areas. This was a really useful addition to the knowledge I gained in my bachelor. In my next position, I'll work as a logistics coordinator, ensuring that building materials arrive at the construction site in a timely and cost-effective manner. My master's logistics skills will undoubtedly come in handy at that point.

Any advice for UPTE master students or those contemplating to pursue this master's degree?

Choose Urban, Port & Transport Economics if you want to work on real-world issues like the housing crisis, climate adaptation, or energy transition while still using the commercial viewpoint you learned throughout your economics studies.

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