TML'ers have their say! #5

In this section we would like to introduce you to our colleagues at TML. That way you get to know us a little better and discover what everyone at TML does. Recently we had a conversation with Marianne, Christophe and Kristof!

Hi Marianne, welcome to TML! Tell us, how did you get here?
Marianne: I was looking for a job where I knew very well what I didn't want. No large organisation, no complicated structure, and no internal political tug-of-war. But I couldn't decide what I really wanted. I searched for months, until I suddenly saw a vacancy at TML. That really seemed like something for me: a smaller company that revolves around knowledge, working on a project basis, and very importantly, not too far from home. During my first conversation at TML, I quickly felt that there was a different corporate culture here. Here you can breathe.

Your timing was perfect! And now we're even more curious about your background.
Marianne: I studied Sinology, out of curiosity: Chinese culture, an interest in languages, my fascination for the unknown and the completely different. As a result, I have a few thousand Chinese characters in me. I can even be very happy with a textbook on Chinese grammar.

Excuse me!? And can you still speak the language?
At that moment strange sounds came out of her mouth.

Marianne: Well, you have to maintain your skills. I graduated in Leuven at a time when there were no internet or computers at all. After my studies I went to Taiwan and China. I worked as an assistant on development cooperation at the Belgian embassy. After wandering through Burundi, I finally came back to Belgium.

Thank you for that insight! Christophe and Kristof, nice to be able to talk to you too. Let's get straight to the point: what have been your most memorable projects so far?
Christophe: ECCONET. It was the first project that I had won myself. There was a lot of travel involved. But I think it's especially commendable because we were working on climate change in a sector where a lot of research was still needed. We learned a lot from that project, and are now even in a follow-up project. I also remember the effect of the kilometer charge for Flanders, not least because of the crazy work pressure that was there.
Kristof: Until recently, I mainly spent my days supporting the contractor with the 'Less Nuisance' measures for the Noorderlijn Antwerp in the reconstruction of the Leien, among other things. The nice thing about it was that everything was very concrete: you discuss something at a meeting, and a month later you see the result of your work in the street, which is very satisfying.

Impressive, we believe that such a thing pays off.
Kristof: It was a tough exercise: we had to take all road users into account on all the busiest roads. Just think of public transport, all car traffic, the numerous pedestrians and cyclists. Many drastic works were done so that everything could be kept liveable and accessible.

And Marianne, what is your daily activity at TML?
Marianne: I will mainly ensure that all the administration surrounding the projects and contracts will be in order. Good follow-up is needed. This allows us to simplify the communication processes without the need for additional reporting or meetings. The intention is to reduce the administrative burden for project leaders. Trying to grasp the inefficiencies that exist and coming up with a good solution.

Christophe, what fascinating world are you immersed in today?
Christophe: At the moment I am fully engaged in the EPOC project in which we develop energy transition models at Belgian level. Very specifically, I am trying to set up a new methodology in order to later create a renewed TREMOVE model.

Okay, but that sounds kinda vague...
Christophe: Okay, I understand. Specifically, I am writing a module that includes traffic and transport demand. I want to go beyond the current state of the art. This requires new data (e.g. all speeds in a network), and that raises all kinds of questions. Where do you find that data? Is it reliable? Ultimately, with this improved demand module, you can better estimate the impact of electric vehicles on the traffic network, for example. In the past I updated one of the models we used in the preliminary study of the kilometer charge for Flanders. We have a good vehicle fleet model, and have done emission calculations here and there, but our new demand model brings it all together.

Okay, that's clear. And you Kristof?
Kristof: I still support the 'Less Nuisance' measures that Lantis is rolling out. That is somewhat more strategic work, in which we check before the works start where bicycle paths and public transport need to be improved. If traffic is later severely hindered by the works, everyone can still get to the city smoothly. In that context, it is nice to improve the facilities for cyclists and public transport in the outskirts of the city for the Oosterweel works. I also do some smaller projects, such as a transfer study near Ghent. There a bus is much delayed on a paved road, and we look at how we can redesign it.

Thanks for these overviews. How did you end up on TML?
Christophe: I did my thesis at KU Leuven, and that is how I came into contact with TML, a company that had just been established at the time.
Kristof: I studied architecture at the KU Leuven and had two courses in traffic engineering taught by the late Ben Immers. Then I did my final work there (simulating ramp metering on the E17 with Paramics), and that's how I ended up at TML.

KU Leuven as a source of inspiration. And what fascinates you about traffic research?
Christophe: My father used to drive back and forth to Brussels in a company car. In the long run, he left earlier and earlier, and always came home later. Then he started taking the train to avoid being stuck in traffic jams. But, even though he got a car anyway, he still had to pay for his train ticket himself to be faster. At the end of his career, he took early retirement due to traffic problems. At first I was torn between chemistry and agriculture, but from then on my eyes were opened to the traffic problems.
Kristof: I've actually never stopped being interested in traffic since my thesis. I also consider myself more of a model developer than an implementer. Translating physical reality into mathematical formulas and algorithms is even more fun than applying such a model to a concrete case. Traffic is the result of human choices, which is not always as straightforward as, for example, the laws of physics. But that's what makes it challenging and fascinating. The satisfaction of the more concrete studies comes mainly from the feeling that you contribute a (small) bit to 'improving the world'.

We totally agree! And how does your day start?
Christophe: Ah, I literally crawl out of bed because I sleep very little. Then I drink a litre of coffee. Once I have found the courage to start, I read the emails that have arrived. I then plan what I want to do for the rest of the day. I prefer to start searching data and programming for a few hours. In the afternoon I look at project opportunities, start answering my emails, etc.
Kristof: I start with a small daily schedule. For example, I view my agenda and to-do list, and see what urgently needs to be completed that day. And then the work begins.

And Marianne, what are you most looking forward to?
Marianne: I want to be up to speed as quickly as possible to be able to work well. I have already drawn up my first subcontracts before my summer holidays in order to get used to them. It is important to properly understand all steps of public procurement and contracts; that's a different world than I was used to. For example, I learn a lot about how our Flemish administration works. And I look forward to arranging everything internally, how communication to management is streamlined, and most importantly: having fun working with the people at TML.

We inhale and exhale TML. And what else are you doing out there?
Christophe: I like to shovel in my garden, such as removing a hedge. Walking and reading also appeal to me. It is sometimes difficult to combine caring for your children with full-time work, so in the evening when everyone is asleep, the third phase in my life begins, the early night.
Kristof: I like to climb and go to concerts. I also play music (guitar) myself, and I enjoy gardening and being in nature. Being away from your laptop helps to keep your feet on the ground.
Marianne: Oh, I sleep more than I used to. And I still like to travel, for example to China or Japan, city trips to Berlin, Paris, London, etc. On my list are also learning bossa nova, film, architecture, and reading a good book.

Thank you for your time, it was a very pleasant conversation, and we wish you a lot of fun working at TML!
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