‘Empathising with a client, analysing their industrial processes and providing valuable input. Not only on paper, but in practice too – that’s what I love most about my line of work,’ says Louis Priem, Technical Consultant at ICT Group.
After completing secondary school, Louis trained as an electrician, which gave him a good background to start as a service engineer in the late 1990s. But he soon found out that optimising the other side of systems, the software-based aspects, suited him better. Louis: ‘During one of my first night shifts, there was a major malfunction in the computer system. I immediately saw that the problem was not in the electrical components, but in the automation. How could I resolve this? That’s what aroused my interest.’
Louis decided to make a radical change and look for a job in software development for production systems. He became a technical consultant, first at another company and later at ICT Group. ‘I chose ICT Group because of the opportunities they offered. It is a large and versatile organisation where you have easy access to a variety of technologies and industries you can try on for size, either as a newbie or an expert. And if a certain sector or technology does not suit you, ICT Group offers all the freedom you need to explore other areas.’
From the factory to the theatre
After more than a year, Louis’ career took a surprising turn. ‘ICT Group considers personal development very important, just like I do. When they offered me a personal development training course from the ICT Academy, I grabbed that opportunity with both hands,’ says Louis. During the course it turned out that, in addition to process automation, Louis had a passion for organising theatre performances and events. ”Why don’t you specialise in that area?”, my supervisor asked. I discussed this with ICT Group, and decided to turn my hobby into my work for one day a week, and to continue working in process automation as an independent contractor for the other four days.’
Louis has since returned to ICT Group. ‘When I was offered a permanent position at the company, I said “yes” right away. He now works as a Technical Consultant in the Industry unit. What does this job involve? Louis explains: ‘A production system is like a pyramid.
At the top, an accounting system issues an order. It then slowly seeps through the various layers of the pyramid to the lower layer of the sensors, cranes and machines. My role is to create a software system that controls the bottom layers using Siemens PCS7.’
Building a new production line
Louis builds software for various industrial organisations, including a food producer. ‘This factory wants to switch from corn to grain as a basis for corn starch products. ‘The client indicates what needs to be done in technical and operational terms, for example, how many pumps or drums are needed. We then translate this functionality into suitable software.’ When creating the software, Louis looks critically at efficiency and ease of use. ‘Does an operator have to press “start” each time? Is that sea of flashing lights really necessary, or can we just use a few lights instead? Operators and maintenance staff have to work with a system for decades, so you should not bother them with unnecessary mouse clicks and clunky buttons or interfaces.’
The best for the client
‘My goal is to find the best solution for my client,’ Louis explains. And that requires a huge amount of knowledge of the company for which he works as well as the industry. ‘As a Technical Consultant, you have to be able to empathise with the client’s business and the everyday users.’ It is precisely that process of providing input, thinking outside the box and tackling problems as early as possible that makes my profession so much fun.’
Louis has the ambition to grow into a Business Consultant. In this position you look even more at automation from the client’s perspective. ‘That’s what I do a lot of the time now; it’s what I like and what I’m good at. This is partly due to my electrotechnical background.’ In his opinion, characteristics such as a critical analytical eye, a desire for personal growth, as well as honesty, are more important for a good Technical Consultant than merely having completed the right training as a recent graduate – and he himself is the textbook example of this.
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