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Master
Mathematics
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Ruben du Burck

Current position: Technical Director
Employer: Nederlands Mathematisch Instituut (Dutch Mathematical Institute)
Master’s programme and track: Mathematics – Algebra and Geometry

Inspiring the next generation of mathematicians 

'Currently, I work for the Dutch Mathematical Institute. I started working there through one of the students in my year during my Bachelor’s and continued throughout my Master’s. When I graduated, they wanted to keep me on. I work on the production of new course material. We offer lots of courses, such as courses for primary school-aged children that are designed to fill any holes in their education in a very short time. I’m also responsible for the website and directive tasks, such as making sure projects run smoothly and directing people on what to do.'

Flexibility is key

'Flexibility is the most important skill I have developed. It’s a pretty small company so there’s very little specialisation. It’s not really mathematics-heavy, although I do programme a lot. We have all kinds of very bright people working here with Master’s degrees and PhDs, so anyone can pick up pretty much any task. If something needs to be done, such as launching a new online product or online training course, which we had to during the coronavirus crisis as we couldn’t do physical classes, then we quickly divide tasks and make sure it’s up and running as fast as possible. ' 

Approaching maths from a different angle

'It’s very important if you’re going to tutor children, or anyone for that matter, that you’re far above the material yourself, even when you’re teaching kids simple algorithms like addition, subtraction and division. If you look at the Master’s programme and all the students there, everyone genuinely enjoys mathematics on a weird level. It’s very fun, but it’s also very punishing. It’s almost like a game or puzzle. It really does help to have a very high level of mathematical understanding in order to be able to approach the material from any possible angle.' 

Taking the path less trodden

'I speak to a lot of fellow students who work somewhere else entirely. It seems to me although some careers may pay a lot more, you really want to do something that you’re content with. I mean if your goal is to make a million dollars, then by all means. But if that is not your goal, then maybe pursue a PhD or try to find some other niche. Don’t necessarily go the financial industry route. You can market your skills in other ways. My boss, who I’m good friends with, studied mathematics at the VU and then did a Master’s like me. Afterwards he first went into the financial industry and then worked as an actuary. At some point, he started teaching his kid after school and then other parents asked if he could teach their kids as well. And then in no time he had a business and he decided to give up his well-paid job for something that was actually more fun. So, I would say to students, don’t be afraid that the options are limited. You’re only limited by what you can think of.'