A love for systems and people

Engineering manager Mikael Hesselberg started at NNE in an interim position, filling in for an employee on sick leave. But he liked the job and the company so much that when his initial contract expired, he sent an unsolicited application. 17 years later, he shares what he loves about his job as engineering manager and how he got there. 

How did you become an engineering manager?

When I first joined NNE, it was as part of the piping department, which focused solely on mechanical design. I was involved in the design of several pharma facilities, first as project engineer for the mechanical part and later as mechanical lead and work package owner. I have worked on projects in the Netherlands, Switzerland and China. 

I also participated as project manager for the process part on a couple of projects, but it wasn’t really me. I missed the hands-on involvement in the technical details. When I changed departments and became an engineering manager, all the pieces seemed to come together.

What is the best part of being an engineering manager at NNE?

The best part is that there are never two projects that are the same. There’s always some kind of twist which makes every project unique, so you’re constantly challenged and have to come up with new solutions. It’s never just “plug and play”.When I explain to old classmates what I’m doing now, everyone is amazed to hear about the projects I get to work on.

The engineering manager role also combines two things that I love: systems and people. Many people find systems boring, but I love them. As engineering manager, you need intricate knowledge of how the systems work and the common thread that connects everything. You have to be able to assess the impact of even the smallest changes to the overall project. For instance, moving a pipe might seem like an insignificant detail, but it can have a huge impact on other installations, which can mean huge impact on the project timeline. It takes a lot of technical and system knowledge to understand these interdependencies.

At the same time, I enjoy working together with people in a team and I love that buzzing of life that characterises a project.

What do you find most challenging about your role?

Actually, while the people aspect is one of my favourite things about the job, it is also one of the biggest challenges of being an engineering manager. You have to constantly adapt to changing requirements and still create results and get things done to keep up the momentum in the project. You have to keep your eye on the ball, but still be able to accommodate differences and creativity – and always, always be open to input from others. Otherwise, the project is bound to fail. 

From a more technical perspective, finding the balance between meeting the customer’s (sometimes changing) expectations while still staying true to the systems and methods we work with at NNE, can be quite the challenge.

When you recommend NNE as a workplace, what do you tell people?

I always highlight the versatility and possibilities that NNE offers. There are never two days that are the same – or they don’t have to be, at least. There are a lot of opportunities if you seek them out. If I want to go to abroad for project work, I just have to ask. Or if you just want to “geek out,” you can also do that. 

Another thing that I think makes NNE an attractive workplace is that you become part of something that not many get the opportunity to be part of. For example, you get to play a role in introducing new technology in a facility that produces life-saving medicine. That is one of the things that makes me really proud to work here.

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