Advanced Materials Manufacturing
Alumnus Story — Koen Janssens
After more than a decade as a structural engineer, Koen Janssens decided to broaden his knowledge of materials, manufacturing and business to expand his career opportunities.
Koen Janssens spent 11 years as a structural engineer with ASCO Industries, a company that develops high-precision components for the aerospace sector. His job saw him working on projects for Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer in Belgium and the US. In 2006, what was to be a six-month position in Seattle turned into a seven-year stint doing part development and strength calculations on Boeing 787s, primarily on the sizing, certification and structural analysis of slat tracks, fixed wing leading edge ribs, and flap ribs and seals.
Koen returned to Belgium in 2014, working with ASCO for another year before deciding it was time to broaden his education.
“I wanted to diversify my skills,” he says. “Going back to school was a way to further explore the manufacturing and materials aspects of engineering. And the business side of the Master of Engineering Leadership program also interested me. I think that many engineers are pushed into leadership positions without the necessary experience or training.”
The location of the MEL program was also highly appealing. Having worked in Seattle for seven years, Koen was familiar with the Pacific Northwest and knew the many opportunities for outdoor recreation that would be available while studying in Vancouver.
Expanding his skills as an engineer and business leader
Reflecting on his 12 months in the program, Koen says that immersing himself in the world of materials was very worthwhile. “Gaining knowledge about materials and their properties and characteristics has been very valuable,” he says. “As a structural engineer, I was not directly involved in choosing the materials used for the aircraft components — but it’s important to me to have a broad understanding of why materials behave in the ways that they do.”
About 40 per cent of the MEL classes focus on business and leadership skills, which Koen considers crucial in today’s business environment. “You need to understand much more than just the technical and engineering aspects. You need to be able to evaluate the business side of a project to know whether it makes financial sense.”
Koen is also very interested in team dynamics and believes that leaders play a critical role in creating positive and harmonious working environments. He notes that his business classes enabled him to reflect on what leaders need to do to unite people as a cohesive unit while also bringing out their individual skills.
A keen interest in process improvement
Koen was originally scheduled to enrol in the MEL program in 2016; however, a motorcycle accident meant delaying enrolment for a year. He says the rehabilitation experience itself fundamentally changed his perspective.
“I was forced to look at problems from different angles because there were many things I couldn’t do physically. There is never just one possible option or one way forward. I also became fascinated by process improvement and figuring out the most efficient ways to get things done. From that, I’ve delved into the world of six sigma and lean manufacturing.”
Since graduating from the MEL in December 2017, Koen has taken a course that is the first step in achieving his Lean Six Sigma green belt.
He is currently seeking a position that will allow him to bring together his experience in structural engineering with his expanded knowledge of materials, manufacturing and business processes. “I can be a strong link between design, manufacturing and engineering — as well as process improvement and optimization.”
Advanced Materials Manufacturing
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