10 Things I’ve Learned from a Space Engineer as an Entrepreneur
Fresh out of university with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Delft, the journey of Floris van de Klashorts began. Living in an era where the world saw the transition from typewriters to personal computers, Floris has always been interested in innovation. Not to mention, he also had a taste of entrepreneurship as well.
When you take a look at this man’s resume, you’ll see that he’s worked for many big companies. His most recent role was as Senior Vice President for the Volkswagen Group. He’s also had the chance to work for Nokia and Ericsson. From space engineering to music to telecommunications, this man has seen it all. It’s no surprise that his versatility has led him to so many places.
Today he spends most of his time as a consultant and advisor. In his free time, he enjoys classical cars, sailing, and other outdoor activities.
Here are 10 things I’ve learned from a Space Engineer
1. Know your priorities
At the start of our two-hour conversation, I ask the former space engineer to introduce himself. Among his many titles and roles in multi-national companies, he acknowledges himself as a father and husband first. There are so many things in life that matter, but you have to set your priorities straight. Despite all his work responsibilities, his family takes the number one spot.
Defining your priorities in life will give you a clearer picture. Without this, it might be challenging to manage your time and achieve your goals. There are only 24 hours in a day and if we try to do too much at once, it will be overwhelming.
2. Embrace change
The world is continuously evolving and you should adapt to the times. Be curious and welcome new opportunities. Enjoy working with young people and new innovations. You might be happy with what you have, but if you want to grow, the only way to do it is through experimenting.
Floris grew up in an era when technology made huge strides. He recalls starting university with a typewriter and by the time he graduated, he had a personal computer. His curiosity led him to work for eight different companies in different parts of the world. It’s not that he didn’t enjoy his work, but he wanted to take risks.
During his time in Ericsson, work was great. His colleagues were amazing, but everything was too predictable. He could see what life would look like two years down the road. There was absolutely nothing wrong, but he wanted to try a different route. So, he decided to leave his job and become an entrepreneur.
3. Start small
Starting a business is extremely challenging. You might not know where to begin or who to partner with. The first thing you should do is identify your strengths and accept that you can’t do things on your own. Focus on what you and your team are good at.
Everyone has to start somewhere, even if it’s a tiny project. Work on that one thing you’re good at and make sure you do it right. When your customers are satisfied with the results, you’ll gain their trust and be able to expand.
4. What goes up may come down
There was a time when everyone used a Nokia phone. I remember it being my very first mobile phone – the Nokia 5110. Dominating the market in the 90s through the early 2000s, the Finnish company was well-known for producing cheap and reliable mobile phones. Snake was super addictive!
Since 2007, Nokia began to see declines all over the world. Android and Apple had entered the market, dethroning their number one spot. These smaller companies learned from Nokia’s success, installed new features in their own devices, and attracted more customers.
During his time in Nokia, Floris experienced this unexpected downfall. He attributes the market decline to fragmentation. A company like Nokia exhausted all its resources on customizing to the different channels of distribution. It had been working with more than 300 operators across the globe with every single one asking for customization. With a lack of resources, innovation slowed down and others caught up. Even if you’re at the top, everything can come crashing down.
5. You can’t do things on your own
It might sound like a cliché, but it’s a fact. Even big automotive companies try to collaborate when they can. Competitors such as BMW, Audi, and Mercedes often work together if they share a common interest.
Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Thus, it is sometimes a good idea to share knowledge, resources, and skills. In the past, these three automotive giants have worked together on mapping. Not only was it a cost factor, but the end result would have been the same if conducted individually. If your company is in innovation or has an innovation department, always consider partnering up with another party of similar interests. Not only will you save money, but two brains are better than one.
6. Build a team of 200 in 6 months
It may sound impossible, but here are some useful tips. If you’re in charge of putting together a huge team and you want to do it quickly, you should start with your network. Team up with people you already know and invite them to join your team. You may also work with recruiters who will scout for the best talent out there.
Another way is to make acquisitions of small companies. When you take over, you can also opt to continue with their employment. Last but not least, look out for key people to hire. Based on Floris’ experience and the industry he worked in, he identified these key hires as an architect, designer, and development engineer. It will vary depending on the type of work you do.
7. Five levels of self-driving
Many companies out there want to be the first one to make a self-driving car. It’s a competitive edge that one day we could reach. I learned that there are 5 levels of self-driving. Currently, the world is at level 3 and moving closer towards level 4.
The former Volkswagen SVP explains the technical terms and the definition of each level. Levels 1-3 still involve the driver in the safety loop. He or she is responsible for safety measures. Levels 4 and 5 involve autonomous driving, where the driver can just sit back, relax, and the car drives you.
The difference between levels 4 and 5 lies in the software. Although the driver is no longer responsible, level 4 has all the parameters set such as mapping. Thus, there are plans laid out for the car so it knows exactly where to go. Whereas in level 5, there are no pre-determined factors. The car can detect and respond to external factors.
8. Future trends to look out for
As technology becomes cheaper and more pervasive throughout the globe, more and more people will be able to do it. Floris expects to see changes in these three areas in the near future: IoT, mobility, and JIT logistics.
The Internet of Things helps people live and work smarter. It enables automation and reduces labor costs. It provides business with real-time information of all the integrated systems. Moving forward, you’ll see this technology become more advanced as more people realize its potential. Transportation modes and connectivity will also be an area of interest. Easing the mobility of people is something many cities will be looking into. Getting from point A to B will be easier and the different modes will be integrated into one system.For years, many companies have employed this management strategy to increase efficiency and decrease waste. However, the recent pandemic has taught all of us that perhaps it’s not the best way to move forward. With all the travel bans and lockdowns, raw materials couldn’t be delivered as scheduled. Thus, affecting production. In light of the new normal, this logistics strategy will have to change.
9. Diversity in the workplace
You might think you have all the answers, but you shouldn’t only stick to the things you know. With diversity, you’ll get the opportunity to mingle with people of various backgrounds and experiences. Lend them your ears, be curious, and listen.
Try to hire people that don’t agree with you. Give them the chance to express their opinions. As a result, there will be a ton of creativity and ideas you never fathomed, leading to greater innovation.
10. Believe in something
Whether you’re leading a project or running your own company, make sure to do it with passion and honesty. Believing in something will give you purpose and drive to see things through. Think about the problem you’re trying to solve. What is your true passion? What gets you excited?
At times, we fall into routines and lose momentum. We wake up, go to work, go to sleep, and repeat. But it is the fire in you that will give everyone around you the inspiration to achieve your vision and mission. Even your clients will be able to feel it.
With rapid advances in technology and new working methods, innovation plays a huge role. Keep in mind that the most successful teams are those that are not afraid of thinking out of the box. They come up with new ways to solve problems and push creativity to its limits.
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