Richard Hornstra started on September 1, 2017 at Districon, his first job after graduation. He shares his experiences from his time at Districon so far below.
On September 1, 2017 I set my first steps in a dynamic, energetic, open minded and positive company: Districon. Formally I was still a student then, as I only defended my Master’s thesis and officially graduated four days later, but I did not feel as a student anymore. With all I’ve done in the past ten months and the great plans for the coming year, I feel now is a good time to share my experiences as a Supply Chain Optimization Analyst at Districon.
During the final months of my education, I realized more and more that I needed to get out of academics and start to work in a more practical and pragmatic setting. I wanted to actually help improving or optimizing existing processes, thereby helping customers. For me, Districon was the company which could help fulfill this need. As a consultant, you work on a project basis and you get to peek under the hood of your customers (which are often well-established companies!). Focusing on the supply chain of our customers and optimizing their flows, we do not always help in increasing revenue. Rather, we help in decreasing their costs, thereby making them more profitable.
As an econometrician, you will enter Districon in the optimization, or solutions, team. With around 15 other colleagues with similar background, we mostly work with the AIMMS optimization software. In AIMMS, we can build our mathematical optimization models. Since most customers are not interested in the mathematics behind their question, another important part is to build an intuitive and clear user interface (UI) which the customer will use. In this UI, the user should be able to configure the desired settings, run the model, and obtain the insights he needs in order to make good decisions. The process of translating a business question into a model, and then making an intuitive UI, is a process in which you continuously translate theory into practice and vice versa, and work with the customer to understand what they want and need.
Being so involved in the practical questions of customers and working with colleagues with decades of experience, I quickly realized how much you don’t learn in university. I find it a great challenge to also master this type of knowledge in order to increase my value as a consultant. If you show initiative and communicate well, Districon is the perfect playground where you can develop yourself. With our size of around 60 colleagues, we are not stuck in all kinds of bureaucratic procedures, and new, or even bold, ideas are almost always appreciated. It goes two ways, but if you help Districon strengthen its position, Districon will help you in your development.
For instance, in my fifth week at work, I was asked to speak (shortly, but still) at the yearly Districon Seminar with around 150 guests. I gave a case at the VESTING career day and a guest lecture for the Applied Operations Research course at the RuG. And currently, I am writing this from Chicago, as I will work there, in our recently started US office, for six months starting in September! Furthermore I have been working on several interesting projects for, amongst others, NIKE and DPD, and I’m guiding one of our interns in writing his Master’s thesis.
To conclude, I have experienced the past ten months as a lot of fun where I’ve learnt a lot, and I am exited about my Chicago adventure and everything else which will come in the future. I want to invite anyone who is only even mildly interested in Districon to contact me or any of my colleagues to have an informal conversation to learn more about the things we do. Also follow us on social media to stay updated!