Team Interview 5: Robert Kuchera & Jasper Schrijvers.
A new year, a new interview. Jasper and Robert are both responsible for the Business Relations of the Solar Team. Robert also organizes events and Jasper manages the energy department. They gave their insight into the function and their choice for a non-technical function.
Gentlemen, it’s a reoccurring question. You’re both form the field electro mechanics I suppose?
Jasper: That’s right.
Robert: Indeed. It’s a safe guess to ask team members of the solar team whether they studied electro mechanics. I think that around 75% of the team did.
What was your motivation to participate in the Solar Team?
Jasper: My mother used to teach at Campus Group T, the teaching faculty of the KU Leuven. She introduced me to the project and I was immediately fond of it. I however wasn’t planning to join it in the beginning. I’ve tried civil engineering for one year first, but came to the conclusion that this was not the right study for me. I switched to Campus Group T where I often saw the solar car. I eventually decided to participate in the project.
Robert: I followed a different path. I started at Campus Group T and was aware of the project. I thought that I wasn’t in the right year to be able to participate in the project. It’s only every two years that the entire team changes, and I started my master year in the wrong year. Once I knew that everybody could join the project and that there was no such thing as “wrong year”, it still took some time before I eventually chose to go for it. I was planning on starting my own company. Eventually the Solar Team became too appealing to resist.
You both applied for a non-technical function. As business relations, you’re in charge of the financial aspect. Was that something you set out to do when you applied for a function?
Jasper: Not really. I’m busy with the technical business relations. That’s primarily the smaller partners who don’t support the team financially, but by providing resources and expertise. The different departments used to manage these partners themselves. We decided to change this, since we need a lot more partners to build the next solar car. This way, the other team members can focus 100% on building the best solar car possible.
Robert: My function is very similar to the one of Hannelore. We go to companies, talk about our project and try to work out a partnership of which both parties benefit. We do this by presenting different sponsor packages to them and the advantages for their company. I never feel stressed for those conversations. I listen to the companies and try to find common ground with their values or core business. Based on the conversation, I advise them on one of our partner packages.
Apart from BR, you also have different tasks. Jasper, you’re head of the energy department.
Jasper: That’s right, quite an unusual function since the department primarily contains electronic students who know the practical side a lot better. I studied a lot to learn more about the subject. The department consist of four different functions, namely: high & low voltage, motor, solar panel and batteries. We aim to build a sustainable car. I make sure the team has everything it needs to reach their deadlines. I also take part in the board of directors to defend the deadlines of the department.
So, discussion about deadlines can sometimes heat up I suppose?
Jasper: Not really. It’s a collaboration between different departments. When there is a conflict regarding deadlines, we try to find the best solution for both. A good example of such a discussion last month, was when the aerodynamics team designed something too small. We had a long discussion on different ways to solve this problem and found a solution that was beneficial for both.
Robert, you’re also responsible for all the events that the Solar Team does?
Robert: Yes, I often do this in collaboration with our PR manager Thierry. We organize events for our partners, we invite them a couple times a year for a network event. This is a perfect moment for them to meet the team and the other partners.
You’re currently six months into the process of building a solar car. Have you learned a lot in the last couple of months?
Jasper: Yes, without a doubt. Everybody in the team will confirm this. I’m better prepared to start working when I’ve finished my studies.
Robert: We’re essentially working for our own company right now. A company which is extremely versatile and it are rapid changes that make it successful. Apart from that, it’s also a lot of fun to work with 21 other students who all want to achieve the same goal!
The goal is to become world champion, right?
Robert: Without a doubt. I made that clear on the first team meeting we did.
Jasper: Some say that participating is more important than winning. But let’s be honest, its way more fun to win. There is a lot of competition for the first place, for example the teams of TU Delft, Twente and Tokai have state of the art cars as well. We’re confident that we can beat them though.