WHAT IS YOUR TYPICAL WORKDAY LIKE?
My main task is management. The teams I manage are situated in various locations such as Aalborg, Odense, Ballerup but also outside of Denmark. For instance, we have a big team of 270 employees in Warsaw.
As you are not able to have face-to-face contact with all the employees, it requires some demands of doing distributed management. Due to this management model, we use some agile principles meaning that we make continuous follow-ups, in order to keep track of the tasks we are working on. Besides everyday management, I am also part of various steering groups and management boards. I have worked for KMD for the last 17 years, of which 14 have been related to management.
In general, my main task is to ensure coherence between KMD’s work processes and quality management. [KMD is a supplier of mission-critical software, solutions and IT services primarily to Denmark’s public sector].
WHAT HAS YOUR CAREER PATH LOOKED LIKE UP UNTIL NOW?
Back in the days, I was part of both Aalborg University’s and Cornell University’s [New York] research environments. I believe that the opportunities you have as a master’s student and PhD to go on international stays on other educational institutions are extremely rewarding and useful. During my PhD, I attended a few conferences, both in Asia and the US.
Moreover, I had a six-month stay in Rome at the Danish Institute. At that time the institute was the core of humanistic research. It was a wonderful place and time, where I had the chance to concentrate on research and simultaneously get some work done.
After my time at the Danish Institute in Rome, I had the opportunity to attend Cornell University for seven months. Here, I became part of a research project, which was about how people understand not only texts, but also the correlation between text, pictures and data.
It was an interdisciplinary research project, which meant that both computer scientists, statisticians, mathematicians, psychologists and literary theorists were involved. This project was partly funded by IMB and Thomas J. Watson Research Center [IBM’s own research center].
After my time at Cornell, I was offered a position at Thomas J. Watson Research Center and IMB.
At IBM, I functioned as a specialist and worked on processes, process optimization, organization initiatives, LEAN and so on. Generally speaking, I worked with methodologies related to process optimization, which were also methodologies I learned during my time at Aalborg University.
From the turn of the year [2016/2017], I have once again been focusing on working on new processes and quality within KMD. Before that, I have worked with delivery and development of SAP-projects, which is one of the technical platforms KMD is most known for.
HOW HAVE YOU MADE USE OF YOUR PHD EDUCATION, AND WHICH OF YOUR PHD COMPETENCES HAVE BEEN MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I think, as I mentioned, that the framework of methodology that I used both during my PhD and my master is still somewhat useful in my everyday life where I continue to work with optimization of processes. I also believe that I have a lot of general competences such as analysing data and connections as well as being able to see and focus on the entirety even when this entirety is very very complex.
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MOST FROM YOUR PHD STUDIES?
I especially remember the research environments at both Aalborg University and Cornell. For instance, at Aalborg University, I was part of Centre of Aesthetics and Logic where we combined scientific and humanistic methodologies. We combined theories about art, literature and philosophy with theories about mathematics, physics and engineering. So especially the academic environment has been very inspirational for me.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST MEMORY FROM AAU?
I would highlight two things:
1: To teach new students in for instance theory or methodology. It has been a very good experience for me to convey new knowledge to a class of students.
2: My research stays abroad which are filled with good memories. Both packed with exciting experiences and new friendships.
IS THERE A TEACHER/COLLEAGUE FROM AAU YOU REMEMBER ESPECIALLY, AND WHY?
Jørgen Holmgaard and Per Krogh Hansen. Jørgen took part of creating the academic environment at the faculty of humanities at Aalborg University.
Per and I were part of the academic environment concurrently. Now, he works at SDU as Head of Institute of Design and Communication.
Both Jørgen and Per were part of a special scientific environment, and I believe that both of them deserve to be mentioned.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO DO A PHD, AND WOULD YOU HAVE CHOSEN DIFFERENTLY IF YOU WERE TO DO IT TODAY?
As I finished my master’s degree, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I just knew that the domains I had concerned myself with during my studies were exciting, and I felt that I wasn’t done working with those. I found out that the best way to continue my research was by doing a PhD.
At that time, I was lucky and privileged to obtain a PhD scholarship from the faculty. I wouldn’t go without it, but with the benefit of hindsight I might have chosen differently.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO CURRENT PHD FELLOWS AT AAU THAT WANT A CAREER OUTSIDE ACADEMIA?
Remember to focus on the main task. Try to optimise the methods and skills you obtain by doing a PhD, without having in mind that you have to make yourself attractive for a given company at some time. Moreover, I think, it is important that you are both able to have a spacious view of all, but still focus on your main task. Lastly, if you have the opportunity to take part in an interdisciplinary course or project, then I will suggest that you do it. It helps to broaden one’s mind and collaborate outside of your own area.
WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE?
I am not done working in the IT industry or working with how we can optimise our own processes. However, in the future, I would like to work with business intelligence, e.g. data-driven and fact-based management. Both internally in KMD and for our customers. I believe that business intelligence is a field that only becomes more important.
ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
Aalborg University’s problem-based-learning is a huge force for everyone. I see that graduates who are hired both by KMD and other companies go out in the world and make a great difference. Aalborg University deserves high praise for using this approach.
ABOUT Svend Svenstrup
Place of birth: Aalborg
Current employment: Director, Quality Compliance and Consulting, KMD
MA programme and university: Literature, AAU
Department at AAU: Communication
Campus: AAU, Aalborg
Year of graduation: 1999
Title of PhD dissertation: Digital Enlightenment