Sabine Mulder - VDL Steelweld - Project Engineer
When Sabine Mulder went for a job interview for the position of project engineer at VDL Steelweld, she quickly had a look on Google to see what kind of company VDL actually was. "As a recent graduate in mechatronics, I could go in any direction. I had never heard of VDL, but after the interview I was positively surprised and both the position and the company seemed super fun".
Sabine (23 years old) knew early on that she wanted to do something technical. "But then what exactly? That was a bit unclear. If something was broken at home, I was always on top of it how it could be repaired. In the end I opted for Mechatronics at Avans Hogescholen in Breda. This course shows different sides of technology. And in the end it soon becomes clear what you like. In my case it was mechanical engineering. I was the only woman in the class, but I never had a problem with that. I do know how to hold my own."
At VDL Steelweld they develop production lines for the automotive industry. They do this for customers such as BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo. As a project engineer Sabine is technically responsible for a certain project. She manages a team of project designers specialized in mechatronics, pneumatics and software. In this role she is also the technical point of contact for the customer. "In the start-up phase of a project, you try to map out the customer's wishes and rules as well as possible. That way I can brief the designers well to make the design. This then leads to proposals that we first discuss internally. In the end, I have to make the decision as to whether we are going to present this solution to the client. In the design process we regularly sit down with the client to discuss what we run into. When the design is finally approved, we can get to work on the design in more detail. Each discipline then makes a step-by-step plan of what needs to be done. The parts needed to make the installation are purchased or made by VDL Steelweld. Then I have to make sure that the installation is well prepared on site, so that the new line or installation can be put into operation".
See what you make
"I liked my first project the most so far. I started 2.5 years ago and then I joined the group of engineers that was already developing the production lines at VDL Nedcar for the MINI of BMW. I was regularly in Born. You then see what you've come up with, actually being tested. You see the end product. Isn't that cool? Then I'm proud that I was able to contribute to this”.
First project of my own: robot cells for automotive spare parts
When the project at VDL Nedcar was almost finished, a new challenge presented itself to Sabine: a project for BMW. "That's what makes it so much fun, because you're working for different customers. The project team you work with isn't the same every time, so you work with many different colleagues within the company". Not long after that Sabine was allowed to lead her own project for VoestAlpine for the first time. "For this customer, we make robot cells for making spare parts, such as the bodysides of an Audi A6. I found it very exciting, because I haven't been working here very long and then I immediately got my own project. It was also a lot of responsibility right away. But fortunately you don't have to do it alone. Twice a week I sit with another project engineer, so I can discuss the right steps. That's also characteristic of VDL Steelweld: the atmosphere here is good, very informal. If you need help, you can ask anyone, whether it's a direct colleague or the director”.
Staying close to the technology
"In my work I find it important that I have a good time and that I am not too far away from the technology. As a project manager, for example, you are much more concerned with planning and costs. That's not necessarily for me. As a project engineer you are closer to the technology. For me, the combination of project management, leadership and making use of my technical background is what makes this job so challenging. My educational background helps me to better understand all aspects of the project, in the field of electrical engineering, software and pneumatics. In addition, this position has so many opportunities to develop myself further. So for the time being, I'm in a good position here."