Master Student Interview: Supply Chain Management

Master Student Interview: Supply Chain Management

My name is Michel, currently a Supply Chain Management (SCM) master student at Tilburg University. I started my master in September 2019, and plan on graduating in December after I have written my thesis combined with a fulltime internship at Royal Philips. Prior to Supply Chain Management, I did the bachelor study International Business Administration. Aside from studying, I have been active at T.S.R. Vidar and Asset | International Business & Management. In the academic year of 2018-2019, I had the opportunity to do a board year at Asset | IB&M in the role of External Affairs Officer.

Making a decision on which master to follow was not an easy one for me, as initially many different subjects within my bachelor interested me. What helped in making this decision, was to get an impression via career events to see whether the business environment of major companies in that industry would suit me. In the end, the decision was between Strategic Management (Consultancy Track) and SCM, as through career events I experienced that I enjoy both consultancy as well as SCM-related cases. The largest discrepancy between both studies is the focus: Strategic Management is quite general, whereas SCM focuses mainly on the field on supply chain and logistics and is therefore inherently more specialized. I concluded that the latter argument be a more valuable asset for the job market, and in the end I enjoyed the theories as well as SCM-focused career events a bit more than consultancy. 

Nevertheless, the master SCM is still very broad within the domain of SCM itself. In the first unit (= half of a semester) of the year, the program starts with the three core courses of SCM: Production, Purchasing, and Distribution Management. Simply put, these courses depict the IPO-model from the standpoint of a general company: Input (purchasing) – Processing (production) – Output (distribution). These courses are the essence of SCM, and therefore it is useful to check in this unit which course(s) you enjoy and whether you would want to write your thesis or even work in that discipline. The other courses can be seen more as supplementary to these three core courses. Those courses involve understanding supply chain models, cover topics such as maintenance, sustainability, and decision-making in the supply chain, and recreating a real business through a simulation, all the while drawing on your knowledge of the first unit.

Personally, I am content with the master in general. Most (senior) lecturers are motivated, knowledgeable, and renowned researchers in their particular field. I would argue that not all courses are as interesting, but I have been interested in most of them. The courses are designed to stimulate many interactions between the lecturer and students. The field of SCM is susceptible to changes in industries (think of the growing importance of sustainability but also of 5G, Internet of Things, Big Data), and therefore both the lecturers as well as the organization of the program (Academic Director & Program Coordinator) are open to feedback and like to hear which topics you would want covered in the course. The workload of the master at the start is substantial (especially if you work during the week or follow an extra course), but steadily decreases after the first unit is completed. 

I would argue that not all courses are as interesting, but I have been interested in most of them

One of the things I am less satisfied with is the lack of hands-on experience. The program is doing very well with inviting interesting guest speakers of a wide variety of disciplines, but doing projects for companies occurs only once. To gain some work experience, most students will engage in a part-time internship which is combined with writing their thesis. However, since you will start writing your thesis in unit 3, you will still have two courses and therefore cannot engage in a fulltime internship (from the start) if you want to gain a lot of work experience. Hence the reason why I postponed writing my master thesis for half a year, as I will have finished all my courses before engaging in my internship. In addition, I expected the program to be more quantitative and focused on data/IT. Businesses are increasingly integrating data analysis in their day-to-day operations, and therefore a more quantitative background and knowledge on data analysis would be beneficial. Unfortunately, the program merely offers one course in Excel and has no further emphasis on data analysis in different programs/programming languages (Python, SQL). The courses itself are predominantly theoretical and most of the papers used are based on qualitative research.

Overall, I am still very happy with my choice for SCM and the program itself. I hope to have given you a clear view of my own experiences and a broad picture of the set-up of the program. If you still have any questions, send me a message via WhatsApp or LinkedIn and I will be more than happy to help!

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