EngD Software Technology

Robin Mennens

The value of a PDEng traineeship

Who: Robin Mennens
Country of origin: the Netherlands
EngD: Software Technology TU/e

It is about time a lot more people get to know about the option to do a EngD after graduation. Robin Mennens opted for a PDEng Software Technology and is happy to share his experiences. The conversation with Robin takes place in MetaForum, a modern building that is the home of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science. The central space in the heart of MetaForum is also the university library. We find Robin on the sixth floor of the building. After a warm welcome, he tells us more about his EngD: “I first came across the term PDEng at the end of my bachelor in Software Science. We worked on a system that was designed by the PDEng group. I talked to one of the trainees and he told more about what the PDEng process entails. At that time, I still had two years to complete in my master phase, but I did take the information into account for the future.”

Different options
After completing his master’s programme in Computer Science & Engineering with a 10 for both his internship and the graduation project, Robin had the luxury of a lot of options for his future. He was offered two different opportunities to obtain a doctorate, the EngD also seemed interesting to him and then there was also the possibility to start at a company. “I consciously weighed my options. I was 23 at the time and realized that I could work all my life. In addition, I also had the feeling that there was much more to learn and discover. As a result, working fell away fairly quickly. In the end, I did not choose a PhD because I think it is awesome to create things. I would like to see a tangible result and in that sense, a PhD is a bit too theoretical for me. At a EngD I work directly for the industry, with a clear goal in mind. I build something for the user.”

Professional development
“What also appealed to me in doing a EngD is that it is an extremely good preparation for when I start working. In my training, the focus was on a very high technical level and during the EngD we also extensively discuss our professional development. We also learn to solve problems of a non-technical nature. How do you work the best in a team and what issues do you encounter? And how do you resolve those issues? Of course, you can also learn this within a company, but during the PDEng there is much more room for trial and error. With a direct industrial career, you start with a specific role, such as a software engineer and you are usually bound to a one problem domain.”

Training projects
A EngD takes two years. At Software Technology all EngD trainees work together on three training projects in the first year. They also take classes and workshops. In the second year, everyone individually works on location at a company for ten months. "At the moment we are almost finished with our second project," Robin continues, "We work with eighteen trainees as a team for an industrial client and everyone plays a different role in every project. In the first training project, I was the project manager. I soon learned the pros and cons of that role. Although I was positively evaluated as a leader by my colleagues, I will not look for a project manager role in the short term. It is not what I enjoy doing at the moment, namely engineering. In the current project, I am both an engineer and a Scrum Master. That is also what a professional doctoral program does: you learn what really suits you.”

More open-minded
Robin gains a lot of experience in the social field. “Our team of trainees consists of twelve nationalities from all over the world and I am the only Dutch person. That makes me more open-minded because everyone has different customs and therefore does things a little bit differently. That requires adaptability. For example, using Datumprikker, a tool to pick a date to plan something. We, Dutch people, think that’s very convenient but that does not always apply to my fellow team members. Sometimes we clash, but that is not a problem because you also learn from it.” Robin is positive about the TU/e: “The university is open to improvements. There is also room for feedback within my EngD. You get a lot of opportunities and when you are proactive yourself there is a lot of room to work on your personal goals. The only less pleasant thing is the fact that it is currently difficult to find a home in Eindhoven. The university, therefore, helps people who come from abroad the best they can.”

Valuable experience
“I want to tell people who are considering to apply for a EngD that you are not going to get rich with it in the short term. Consider a professional doctoral degree if you want to develop yourself and when you are looking for opportunities to improve yourself both technically and professionally, while getting paid. This experience is worth a lot in the long term.”

EngD ST 2019 edition
The 2019 edition of the EngD Software Technology program is scheduled to start on 28 October. MSc graduates or software engineers interested in participating are invited to apply.