TML'ers have their say! #2

In this section we would like to introduce you to our colleagues at TML. This way you get to know us a little better and discover what everyone within TML is doing. Recently we had a conversation with Sara and Rosanne!

Here she is, Sara Ochelen!
Hey Sara, welcome! Tell us, how did you end up at TML?
In the autumn of 2020 I was asked to distribute a vacancy at TML in my network. I was not actively looking for a new job, but that question made me think, maybe better to take my own chances! If I want to develop a career outside the Flemish government, it is now or never, and yes, it became now!

And we are very grateful for that! Do tell our readers, what is your background?
I am an environmental economist, I studied in Leuven, Louvain-la-Neuve, and Dublin. I really learned the trade during my first job at the Centre for Economic Studies of the KU Leuven. There, together with prof. dr. Stef Proost, I developed the TRENEN model for calculating optimal scenarios for road pricing in the city, taking into account the external costs of congestion, air emissions, noise, and accidents. Afterwards, I started working for the government: a few years for the Brussels environmental administration, and then, for 22 years, for the Flemish Environmental Department, with a short but very interesting side step to the European Commission. I have worked on introducing environmental-economic methods and instruments in Flemish policies, including the Nature Value Explorer. For the past eight years I have devoted my heart and soul to the coordination and planning of the Flemish climate policy and the use of the Flemish climate fund for climate mitigation.

You have already completed a very impressive course! So what are you most looking forward to in your new job at TML?
I find it fascinating, but at the same time also challenging, to deepen myself again strongly in a subject, to learn intensively and to do study work myself (instead of outsourcing it to the consulting sector). I look forward to getting to know my colleagues and to be able to collaborate a lot with all these passionate TML experts.

Well, that flatters us. What are you currently working on at TML, and what plans do you still have?
I am working on a very interesting study about the impact of the recently by the European Commission announced possibility to include CO2 emissions from transport in the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). I am also writing a report for the European Environment Agency on CO2 emissions from road transport, following the tenth anniversary of the European CO2 standards for cars and light vehicles. I will also participate in other projects at the interface between transport, economy, and environment. In the coming years, I hope to contribute to the climate transition in transport with our studies, because this is the sector where it is (so far) most difficult to reduce CO2 emissions.

We already noticed, you will fit in perfectly with us! We are of course also curious about you as a person...
Thank you! What else do you want to ask me?

You seem to be a very passionate person, does that also translate into your hobbies, for example?
I like to spend my spare time with my family, relatives, and friends. We have a 22 year old son and a 20 year old daughter, and we always have a lot of fun when everyone is home at the weekend. I am already looking forward to the next family celebrations and also to the restart of the choir with live rehearsals without a mask. Fortunately, there are no restrictions on walking and walking in nature, I enjoy that with my friends or my husband.

Sara, thank you so much for making time for us. We are sure you will have another great career at TML!
Thank you, and you're welcome!
And we now give the floor to Rosanne Vanpée!
Rosanne, tell us, how did you end up at TML?
I had been considering a new career turn for a while. I had been in the financial sector for more than 20 years (first in private, then academically), and I enjoyed doing that, but in recent years I became increasingly fascinated by sustainability issues. That is why I reoriented my research into sustainable financing, but I was still a bit hungry. I had the feeling that I was living on an island at the university, where I contributed to the development of theoretical models, but my research seemed to only offer little practical added value. I wanted to do work with more social impact. Eventually I ended up with the topics of sustainable mobility and other mobility issues such as road poverty and road safety. I found those extremely interesting, and also very topical and socially relevant. But all of that was not enough in itself. I also wanted a job close to home, easily accessible by bicycle or public transport, varied work, a good, friendly atmosphere among colleagues, and some flexibility so that it can be combined with a busy family. In other words, an entire wish list, from which TML seems to check all items. So I took the plunge and I am still very happy with my choice!

Those are really nice words to pause for a moment. What is your background?
I obtained a PhD in Applied Economics from KU Leuven. Finance was my specialisation, so after my PhD I logically ended up in the financial sector. I worked in asset management for a number of years and then returned to KU Leuven as professor of International Finance. I still am the latter, part-time that is. I still work one day a week at KU Leuven and teach the courses International Finance and Advanced Financial Management.

TML gives you a different environment. What are you most looking forward to and what do you find most challenging about your new job?
I look forward to interacting with customers and working on solutions for mobility issues. I also like to write out project proposals, because writing good proposals is a bit like sport. When you land the project, it feels like a victory. I have a good economic background, but transport models are still new to me. I find it quite a challenge to master that new domain in a short time. There is so much specific terminology too! A second challenge is formed by all the deadlines. At the university, there are few binding deadlines for research projects, and if there are any, they are usually very long. Here everything goes much faster, on a much more challenging schedule. So I will have to learn not to get lost in details.

Ah deadlines, you are not alone, everyone has a love-hate relationship with them! And what are you going to do now that you work at TML?
At TML I join a group of economists. So I will mainly focus on economic modelling and cost-benefit analyses. For one of the projects, I am preparing a survey about the potential for vehicle-to-grid in Belgium, which is very exciting. I am very curious about the results. I also participate in two social cost-benefit analyses of large infrastructure projects, one in Limburg, the other in the Waasland.

That sounds very interesting! And as always, we are also curious about who you are as a person.
Thank you, I find almost everything interesting, and that certainly applies to projects about sustainability and social cost-benefit analyses. So, what else would you like to learn about me?

Do you prefer to live in a city centre or rather in the suburbs? And what is your car and bicycle use like?
If I did not have a job or children, I would live in a cabin in the middle of the forest or in the mountains, far from civilization. In reality that is not very practical, so we live in a suburb. You will probably find the following quite funny: I am a very bad driver. All the stupid blondes-at-the-wheel jokes apply to me. Because I am bad at it and do not like to do it at all, I drive the car as little as possible. So cycling is a necessity. But I only cycle for functional trips. You will not easily meet me in cycling gear.

So little car use and some functional cycling. Does your heart then goes more towards walking and running?
Yes! Absolutely! I am an avid runner. I prefer to run long distances such as a half or full marathon and even ran a first ultra during the second lockdown. I usually walk with a friend who lives just around the corner. Usually we just have a chat, but we can also challenge each other for a solid pace run.

Respect! Rosanne, thank you these insights into your work, person, and life. TML becomes a stronger team with you on board.
Thank you too! I look forward to it all!
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