Introductory Interview - Bart Vos, Scientific Director at BISCI
Bart Vos, Scientifc Director at BISCI is interviewed by Shreyas Sridhar, Junior Project Manger at BISCI, discussing in detail the roles and responsibilites of Bart, his views on team building and development, BISCI's current position in the 'Triple-Helix' model and his connection to Limburg, among other things.
Shreyas: What is your role at BISCI?
Bart: ‘First of all, I am the Scientific Director at BISCI, next I am a Professor of supply chain innovation at Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics, and finally I am the Program Leader for the Master program in Global Supply Chain Management & Change situated in Venlo. The role of Scientific Director is great, albeit that the focus in the current phase of BISCI is a bit less on the “scientific” part and more directed towards innovation and growth of our portfolio of activities.’
Shreyas: What motivated you to take on this role?
Bart: ‘I was previously working at the University of Tilburg, I held the NEVI chair on Purchasing and Supply Chain Management. Frank Rozemeijer who has been one of my respected colleagues for many years recommended me for this role at BISCI. I had been working at Tilburg for over 20 years, the position was stable, there was a growing number of PhD students and I was satisfied with my role there. However, I became truly motivated to join BISCI due to its broader scope in supply chain management. I also have been a strong believer in the cooperation between Business-Research-Teaching which was an opportunity provided by BISCI as well. Another motivation was the chance to build something with this enthusiastic team at UM. I initially approached the role with cautious optimism, because I really wanted to make BISCI the success it is today.’
Shreyas: What is your approach towards team building and development?
Bart: ‘Team management as a whole has been quite challenging the last few months due to corona virus. The first criterion for me is that decisions are made as a team; age or tenure of a colleague does not mean their opinion is considered differently than others. Equal value must be given to all the team members. There always will be difference of opinions in a team. For example, if Ton and I disagree on something, we gradually understand that the thought process is the same but the manner in which we approach them are different given that Ton is from a business background and I am more academic. I find that this combination works really well in team development. An effective and constructive feedback system is also essential. This is also important when working with students. Asking them to perform tasks that they are not really confident in, will help in overall individual development. There was a situation recently where new candidates were to be hired for BISCI, we could not realistically do everything by the book but we were happy to take those extra steps to ensure we get the young and enthusiastic candidates to join our team.’
Shreyas: What part of your role at BISCI do you like the most? Are there parts that you like a little less than the others?
Bart: ‘Building a team from scratch with a greater degree of freedom that I have experienced before has been the most likable part of the role for me. There is a large additional responsibility on my shoulders for the Master program in Venlo as well. The best way to handle that is to find a synergy between the both. I can foresee that from a year, it will be a great asset to have the master students more involved in BISCI activities. We at SBE and UM in general run a much respected master’s program with great teaching and support staff. Something that generally is a well-oiled machine is not so smooth anymore because of the pandemic but like everything else, overcoming this challenge will be an exciting journey. The one thing that I probably do not like to see myself involved in is the general politics. I do not mean this in a negative way, it is just not really “my cup of tea”.’
Shreyas: What would a normal working day look like for you?
Bart: ‘Most of my time will be BISCI related internal meetings and Master program related meetings. Especially at this time of the year, I spend a lot of time on preparing the Master program for the next year. Parallel to which there is also the Master thesis supervision. I live in Eindhoven, so travel is also a part of my daily schedule, of course less so in the past few months. In general, a working day would be a nice mixture of management activities for BISCI, teaching and thesis supervision. I would like to spend more time on professional literature review for myself but because of limited time it is almost impossible. However, the master thesis supervision provides me with a good amount of updated information.’
Shreyas: If you had to choose between teaching and supervision, what would your choice be?
Bart: ‘That is almost like Sophie’s choice in the movie with the same title. I feel like I am a natural teacher. But, if I had to choose, it would be supervision. The discussions are one on one and each topic is specific and the students are completely dedicated to their topics. The challenge of completing a valid academic research in a very limited amount of time is fascinating. Having said so, I also do absolutely love teaching. Just before the summer break, I did a webinar for UMIO, did not feel great at first because of being used to physical classes mostly, but still gradually found the right pace and the enthusiasm was right back. I also have the reputation of repairing and correcting thesis’ that have encountered some serious snags or dead-ends.’
Shreyas: How well do you think BISCI is placed in the Triple-Helix model?
Bart: ‘We hope to be right in the middle of it. We want to work with and for companies but also not like a pure consultancy. Addressing more complex business challenges companies face in supply chain management with help of the knowledge base we have at the university. The government bodies are very instrumental in long term changes, for example in infrastructural developments for multimodal shifts in transport. UM is a knowledge institution, it is naturally within us to develop and disseminate knowledge. One of the paths for this knowledge transfer is BISCI. We work intensively with companies and we also have roles with some governmental bodies, however, I do not believe at this stage we are exactly a “triple-helix” but the model fits us like a glove with respect to the close cooperation between the three areas.’
Shreyas: How do you enjoy Maastricht or Limburg in general?
Bart: ‘As someone from Brabant, Limburg is a nice “second province”. I did not have many personal connections with the Limburg Province, however, professionally it is very special. The supply chain hub in Venlo has always been important to me in my work and now Maastricht University as well. I do like the cosy and vibrant Onze-Lieve-Vrouweplein in Maastricht. It used to be less well known, but it is very pleasant. Maastricht is a city with a lot of nice cosy corners and due to the international character of its students and workforce, the city has the charm of being quite international but still with a local footprint.’