"If you like to tinker, to solve a puzzle, and then make something work, then this programme is right for you."
My name is Harald Drillenburg. I work at Inholland University of Applied Sciences as a lecturer in Mathematical Engineering. Previously, I taught Information Technology at Business IT & Management; before that, I worked as a software engineer for various companies. Besides working I also do other things. I play chess at a club, I am an amateur beekeeper, I enjoy spending time with my wife and two lovely daughters, and if I still have some time left, I like running outside.
Which disciplines do you teach?
Most of them are related to software engineering. I teach students how to convert a theoretical solution to a problem into working software. This includes programming, design, and database technology, as well as more advanced subjects, such as mobile development and building large-scale web applications.
I also teach research skills, which focuses on techniques which intend to provide a proven solution to a question. And I supervise internships and individual projects (leading to a thesis), where I help students apply all they've learned to practice.
Practice is not only important during internships and thesis writing. We have a project every semester, and the two I teach involve real problems that need to be solved, although in a more structured setting than would be the case in a professional setting.
Which years do you teach?
I teach all years.
Which courses did you take yourself?
Originally, I studied Chemistry. I did research on why certain chemical reactions are not possible, using computer models to demonstrate my results. After graduating I took several software engineering classes, allowing me to switch to a career in information technology. Since then, I make a habit of taking several courses in software engineering each year to keep up to date and sharpen my skills.
Have you been employed at other companies / schools before you became a lecturer at Inholland?
Yes, first as system administrator / technical programmer, after that in several software engineering functions. I worked for a company, providing IT solutions to organisations in the social security sector. I also worked for a subsidiary of a large financial company.
Are you engaged in any other role apart from your teaching occupation at Inholland?
What type of student chooses this course?
Essentially people who like to solve puzzles. Many of our students are quite the tinkerers, they like to grasp a complicated problem and solve it. I tend to say that those graduating in marketing or economics are being discussed in the newspapers, but those graduating in mathematical engineering change the world.
How do you maintain personal contact with your students?
Mathematical Engineering is a small programme, with only a few hundred students attending it at any one time. That means I know almost all of them by name, and if there's something important going on, they usually tell us.
When you know your students personally, it makes it easier to communicate. Because they know I am aware of their personal situation, I keep personal matters confidential, and I won't judge them, they usually feel secure enough to tell me what's going on.
In which types of business are students able to work after graduation?
That's a question with a very broad answer. Basically, they will be able to work in any kind of business working with either very large amounts of data which needs to be analyzed to give useful information, or in any organisation where the kind of information requires complicated software processing . Nowadays, this includes almost every company and most professional non-profit organisations.
We also include advanced networking technology in the programme. This is because configuring large-scale networks requires a good understanding of the underlying mathematics, even if you do not directly use it. The effect of this is that our graduates often find jobs in network design and administration, especially if the networks involved are critical to the functioning of the organisation.
My advice for prospective students
Choose an education like this because it's fun to create things. If you like to tinker, to solve a puzzle, and then make something work, then this programme is right for you. Expect to work hard and see concrete results.