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Sociology: Comparative Organisation and Labour Studies (track)

Karen van Vliet: 'Sociology proved to be valuable and useful'

Almuna testimonial

Karen van Vliet graduated in Sociology: Comparative Organisation and Labour Studies (UvA) and Offshore Engineering (Delft University of Technology) in 2014.

Karen van Vliet
Karen van Vliet. Photo: Bart van den Berg.

From the age of 14, I knew that I wanted to become an engineer. I was intrigued by large buildings, bridges and tunnels. Therefore I started my Bachelor's in Civil Engineering at Delft University of Technology in 2007. Even though I studied what I wanted for years, I became more and more interested in the people that used these large buildings, the bridges and the tunnels. I thought that sociology would give me insight in these matters and for that reason I started the pre-master Sociology at the UvA.

But, still interested in engineering matters, I also started my Master's in Offshore Engineering at Delft University of Technology. After finishing my pre-master Sociology, I started the Master's Sociology: Comparative Organisation and Labour Studies at the UvA.

Starting Sociology besides my engineering track resulted in strange reactions from people near me. How would I ever be able to combine these two fields in my future career? Even though that this was not even clear to me right away, I was able to use my knowledge of sociology during my engineering studies, and the other way around.

Technical and Sociological knowledge

I wrote my graduation thesis for Sociology within Allseas Engineering, an offshore pipe-laying company, about the effects of reputations of employee groups within an organisation. I was able to use my technical knowledge in order to understand the company and the roles of employees, and my sociological knowledge helped me to understand the situation with regard to the interaction of the different employee groups.

After I graduated in Sociology, I went to China for my internship for offshore engineering. I was working within a Chinese subsidiary of a Dutch company which manufactures offshore lifting equipment. In this internship I tried to understand what the effects of the cultural differences were between the Chinese workers and the Dutch management, and how this affected the production. Again I could use my technical knowledge to understand the process, and use my sociological knowledge in order to write recommendations on how to increase the productivity.

Combining fields

After four months of living in China, I came back to the Netherlands, and started my graduation research for offshore engineering. My thesis consisted of research towards the effects of watch keeping schedules on the workload of mooring masters*

Currently, I am working as a project engineer within a start-up which provides offshore equipment and engineering solutions in the cable installation industry. Besides this, I will continue my graduation research of offshore engineering in the form of a PhD.

Even though I am still working in the offshore industry, my knowledge in the field of Sociology has proved to be very valuable and useful.

*Mooring masters are responsible for offloading operations. These are operations in which oil tankers are being moored to floating platforms which produce oil and/or gas. The mooring masters supervise the transport of the oil and gas from the floating platform to the oil tanker.