In our new series, the PASTimator, we visit former board members of FAECTOR to have a chat. In this first edition, we went to the Robeco office in Rotterdam to interview Rob Huisman. Rob was the commercial officer of the 51st board, and he gave us an insight into his life now, as well as his best memories from his time at our association.
Could you introduce yourself:
I started the Bsc2 in 2012. After finishing my bachelor, I joined the 51st FAECTOR board. Within this board, I was the commercial officer, which meant that I was in contact with different companies, including Robeco. When I started my masters in quantitative finance, I already knew that I wanted to write my thesis at this company. This is because Robeco has an extensive graduate internship program; every year, there are between 5 and 10 students from Rotterdam writing their thesis here. They hired me, I wrote my thesis, and after graduating almost a year ago I stayed here. Next to that, I am still involved with FAECTOR, since I am in the supervisory board.
Do you apply your econometrics studies every day here?
I do a lot of programming, so definitely. My main job is writing code in different languages, so it is technologically heavy. What we basically do is writing computer algorithms to predict stock returns. During the bachelor and master there are many exercises where you have to do this, so you could say that I use the learnings from my studies very much. That is also exactly what I wanted. I really like econometrics and finance, and here I get to apply my econometric knowledge while also learning more about stocks.
What was the biggest challenge when you started working here?
Things are actually being expected from you. As a student, it is still okay if you fail an exam. When you are working, you can still make a mistake, but a lot more is expected from you. I cannot just skip work, while as a student, you can skip a lecture because you were “hungover.” You have full responsibilities, to yourself, your colleagues and also to the clients.
Do you miss the freedom?
Well, I’ve enjoyed my freedom a lot during my studies. But at some point, I was ready to start my actual career. It is definitely fun to study, have time for parties, city trips and all other fun activities, but at some point it is time to start working and get a salary. It is actually nice to go on a trip with your own money, that is not lent from the government. And still, we have drinks on Friday afternoon with colleagues. Next to that, Robeco organises several company parties each year, so life does not end when you stop studying, and the parties actually get fancier.
What is the most important thing you learned during your board year?
If you only study and only focus on passing your exams, you get trained to think individually but don’t get trained to work in a team. The biggest challenge I encountered in my board year was taking into account the opinions of others while making decisions. You also have to accept that what you think is not necessarily the same as what others think. So you have to discuss with the others and sometimes even adjust your own opinion.
When you start to work at a company, you start at the bottom. So if you want to express your opinion, you have to elaborate and have your arguments ready. It is thus very important to communicate well. In the end, it is a team effort. My best advice for any student is therefore to do something besides studying. There are many different associations where you can learn how to build your skills in a team and it is a pity if you don’t.
Do you keep in touch with your fellow board members?
Definitely, although it is getting more difficult. Some are still studying, and some have moved out of Rotterdam, so it gets harder to get everybody together. Just after the board year, when we were still in our masters, we saw each other a lot. Still, we try to arrange something every 3 to 4 months. I also try to regularly attend the alumni activities of ‘RECNET’ the association for graduated econometricians. Besides that, I also keep in touch with former boards of the marketing association, law association and InDuplo. This is also really nice, as it is interesting to hear from them how they experience working at different companies. Some are even working at companies in the same industry, and it is very interesting to hear how they do things at their work. It is just really cool to see where everyone is going, and I am already very curious about everyone’s lives in 40 years.
What would you like to advise the current and future FAECTOR boards?
Just to enjoy, since being in the board is an amazing opportunity. Many people do not realize that FAECTOR is actually a mini-company. It has employees (its active members), clients (partner companies) and a board that reports to a supervisory board. Being in the board is therefore a very good simulation of working in an actual company, but here you are allowed to make mistakes. You thus learn a lot about the professional life, while still being able to play around a bit and visit many social events. The more you enjoy the fun activities, while also working hard, the more you learn about yourself. Summarized: the biggest tip is doing as many fun things as possible and to grab all the opportunities you get.
The biggest tip is doing as many fun things as possible and to grab all opportunities you get.
Did you enjoy your board year enough?
My board year was by far the best year of my life as a student. And I am wondering could I make it any more fun. There are two things you can do. You can just do the things that you are expected to do, then go home, and repeat. Or you can go ahead and dive into it head-first. And I think I did that. I dived into the year head-first, attended many events, and enjoyed it a lot. But I mean it’s everyone’s choice how they want to approach their board year. As long as you do what you want to do and be happy with it, grab opportunities. FAECTOR has a lot of members with different personalities and things they like. You have the people that love to escalate and those that just enjoy to hang around and have tea with their fellow students. I think within the board of FAECTOR there should also be students with different preferences to accommodate the wishes of all our members. It’s important to have the balance.
What do you miss most about FAECTOR times?
I think the people. What is very special about FAECTOR is that because people who study econometrics are a special type of people. What I notice is that the active members in my year are very social. They have a goofy sense of humour. They really relate to each other. So it is like a very homogeneous type of people that are fun and outgoing but are also ambitious and smart. The interaction you get for example in the Active Member’s Weekend is really fun because everyone seems to have the same mindset and capabilities.
What is your favorite FAECTOR memory?
This must be the former board dinner in the year I was in the board. We had rented the ‘Haaienzaal’ in Blijdorp for a three-course dinner. Imagine having dinner while being surrounded by sharks and manta rays swimming in giant aquaria! We welcomed 51 former board members of FAECTOR/Econometrisch Dispuut. For the other details, you should have been there.
Is there a FAECTOR event that you would like to join one more time, if you could?
What I think is really a bummer is that Robeco doesn’t participate in the LED, because now many friends of mine are going, especially board members working at other companies. They are there to represent companies, telling students to come and work there. So they are there but instead on the other side, not as students. With Robeco, we give a lecture in Quantitative Finance each year, and then people get to know us and sign up for our internships. But LED is a really cool day to meet a lot of econometricians from all around the country. It is unique. You don’t really have a lot of studies that have one entire day devoted to their study and networking.
Are the programming languages that we learn in econometrics still relevant today?
If there is one tip that I can give to anyone who wants to pursue a career in econometrics, statistics, quantitative finance, data science or at least want to use their econometric skills in their career, abandon MATLAB. No company uses MATLAB. R and Python are the most common ones. You can follow some really good online courses and learn it yourself, but MATLAB is not relevant. Java is relevant, not necessarily in the work that I do but it is used often in the IT section. I learned R and Python by myself in Coursera. I have to learn it for the job that I am doing.
What important skills did you wish you had known in your board year that is now being applied in your work life?
Listening is definitely a very important skill. There are two types of listening. Listen passively just to answer the question and listening to understand. When you work with others, it is more important to understand what others say than to know how to cope. Because ultimately you are trying to fulfil the requirements of your client. To be honest, I still struggle with this quite often.
Did you already have a lot of client’s contact from the beginning?
Only a few. What has helped me is my experience meeting companies in the board year. I already have some experience, and because of that, I was allowed to meet clients face-to-face. I recently met some clients for China. It is really fun and interesting to see the different culture clash. It is different how they approach business meetings compared to what we do. But even if I have done it before in my board year, sometimes it is still scary. When I meet a client, there’s always a new experience that I learn.
Is the company here international?
Yes. We are fully international. Within my team, I have direct colleagues from Iran, Austria and Lithuania. My manager is Chinese. I have team members from Greece, Luxembourg. I also have an Indonesian colleague who is part Dutch. For us, it is important to have people from different nationalities. When I first applied here, I didn’t know it was going to be that international. We are bigger internationally than in the Netherlands as a whole. We have clients ranging from Australia to South Africa, the US also a bit, but also South America.
Does Robeco mostly recruit econometricians around the Netherlands or mainly Rotterdam?
Mainly in Rotterdam. Not only in our department but other departments like quantitative investing, normal investing where people study finance or economics. Even there, many are Rotterdam economist or econometricians. We are also looking more towards students studying at technical universities like Delft. We recently hired someone studying econometrics in Amsterdam.
You knew a lot of people in Rotterdam. Did you also come to Robeco knowing people who have worked here already?
Not that much actually. Some people yes, but I don’t know people who studied 5 years before me. In that sense, I did not know that many people. I found out that there are 6 former FAECTOR board members working at Robeco. But they are from the 25th to the 30th board. There is a part on the website that shows the former board member, and I was surprised.
I found out that there are 6 former FAECTOR board members working at Robeco
Is there anything else you want to say to the reader?
Keep following the estimator. You guys are doing a great job in developing the quality of the articles that are being posted. I can really tell the committee is devoted to bringing fun and fresh articles to our readers!
We would like to thank Rob for taking the time to answer all our questions. Next time, another former board member will be telling his/her story. Keep following the Estimator to find out who!