Team Interview 2: Hannelore Verhaegen, Business Relations
The second member of the team that gave her interview is Hannelore Verhaegen. She is organizing the business- and financial side as BR. She has to manage the enormous excel sheet of companies that the team gathered in the last 5 months.
Hannelore, after our interview with Joachim last time, you bring us back to masters department where most of the current and previous members of the Punch Powertrain Solar Team come from.
I’m currently doing my master in Electronics and ICT at Campus Group T. My background is very similar to the majority of the previous Solar Team members. But, I think that it is a very positive thing that this amazing project is reaching out to more engineering departments. The department chemistry is a very good example, which is very well represented by 3 team members.
What was your biggest motivation to join the Solar Team?
After my Master, I was searching for a Post Graduate with a very clear goal view and the Solar Team seamed capable of delivering the challenge I was searching for. I followed the Solar Team closely and noticed the great group atmosphere and the team spirit the team came with. You are working together with 20 other students on a project, an amazing experience that you don’t get often when you’re still a student.
What inspired you to apply for Business Relations and finance?
Well, after the past four years in which I mainly studied technical courses, I was up for something new with a less stronger focus on the technical aspect. I’ve always been good with numbers and my function is a good continuation of this. So it seemed a good function for me.
May I assume that you are working with an enormous spreadsheet to keep track of all the numbers?
Indeed, Excel became my best friend (laughs). At the start it was stressful since I never done those things before. Luckily I had good guidance from a former team member, it is very reassuring to know that you can fall back on the enormous network of alumni with all your questions.
The fact that you’re in charge of the financial aspect, means that you are always involved when important financial decisions have to be made?
Yes indeed. Whenever we buy something big, like the solar panel or the engine, we come together have a meeting with the entire team and consultants to discuss the purchase. It’s my responsibility to give a clear overview of the financial aspect and to give the team an update about the consequences the purchase has on the overall budget.
And with the Business relations side, you make sure enough resources are available to buy the necessary components?
Business Relations brings me to a broad range of companies where I give a presentation and try to convince them to join the story of the Solar Team story in an agreement where both parties benefit from. These can be either financial or material contributions. We make a list of things we can do for the company and what they can do for us. Most of the time, they already know the project but have no clue about the amount of work we put into it and what we can do for them.
You are, together with Lynn, the only two women in the team. That is two more then the year before.
Are you able to stand your ground against the other team members?
There are not a lot of women in the engineering field, making it logical that the amount of women in this project is even lower. I’m used to stand my ground in a field that is mainly dominated by men. (laughs). I didn’t join this project from an ideological point of view, but rather because I felt good in what I do.
What is the main thing you want to remember from this experience?
I want to get some experience out of it. We are still students but we are currently running this business ourselves. Everybody is doing their specific task and it seems like a good way to make the transition from the academic side of life towards the professional life.
I’ve been to many job fairs in the last years and it struck me that all of them are looking for a recent graduate with experience. The Solar Team does count as two years of experience in companies. When you participating in the Solar Team, you gain two years of experience in a real business context.
And now the most important question of our interview.
And that is?
Where will the Solar Team finish in Australia?
Thanks for the interview Hannelore!