Universiteit Leiden

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Flash interview with alumnus Ward Veltman

Ward chose to focus on privacy and security because ‘it’s a topic that arouses other people’s interest, though sometimes frightens them, and I really enjoy taking the time to tell people about it’.

What did you study and when? I did two master’s at Leiden University, graduating in 2014 and 2015: first Crisis and Security Management, and then Crime and Criminal Justice. 

Why did you choose Leiden? Its good reputation, the quality of the programmes and not unimportant, the possibility to do two master’s for the statutory tuition fee. Around that time, the increased tuition fee for long-term students had just been introduced; Leiden University allowed you to pay the statutory tuition fee for the second master’s degree instead of the institution tuition fee. That was the only way for me to financially manage doing two master’s.

Was it what you had expected? At that time, in my first master’s I missed a challenge, something new. That was also the reason why I chose to do a second master’s which was more off the beaten track of an administrative law student, who had mainly studied only law. Looking back, I’m actually happy with the two master’s I chose and the different perspectives that they offered.

What were you like as a student? For an honest answer, you should really speak to people who knew me then. But seen through my own rose-tinted glasses, I was a good student, who always paid attention and wanted to go the extra mile … but often left it to the last minute.

Looking back, is there something extra that you might have wanted in the law curriculum? Perhaps a specific subject that wasn’t taught, or an internship or something else you missed? I think what I missed most was the opportunity to learn something totally outside your own field. The choices for minors and internships are quite often limited to a number of specific subjects that fit in with your study. Stimulating broader knowledge instead of more in-depth knowledge should perhaps have received more attention.

Can you briefly explain how your career developed, and was this what you had always wanted/aimed for? Where are you working now? Straight after graduating, I started as a cybersecurity consultant, a relatively new profession at the time. In the past five years, I’ve developed further with two employers and I’m still working in that field. I work for Heineken in Zwitserland. If you had told me that ten years ago, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I always thought I’d be working for the public good and solving major social issues.

Can you explain why you choose to go into cybersecurity (instead of criminal justice)? Was it hard to find the right job? It really came about because of my work as a student assistant, when I became involved in the Data Privacy department as part of my studies. Having done an assignment there, I then continued in the field of privacy and cybersecurity. There were (and still are) lots of jobs in this field. Because of the fast-moving developments you’re often in a pioneering role and experimenting with new technology. It’s a topic that arouses other people’s interest, though sometimes frightens them, and I really enjoy taking the time to tell people about it.

What was the most valuable part of your degree/was most useful in your (current) job? The ability to oversee a situation by analysing it and quickly familiarising yourself with new subjects. In general, your problem-solving abilities are constantly being developed throughout your time as a student. That’s extremely valuable in my job and it’s also something you continue to improve.

You joined us once as a coach at our coach café. Can you tell us something about that? For example, why you took part and what you thought of it? As a student, I was often under the impression that the choices I made were pretty final. The belief that you follow a route and that every (wrong) turn means you have to walk that path or stray further from an ultimate goal. I would have liked more people to explain to me the relativity of all those choices, to take away some of the pressure. As a coach, I can take on that role a bit more and make it clear that choices made now are not eternally binding. Hopefully, this can make things a bit lighter for the students.


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