Ten questions for alumnus Dion Latten
Studying law and then working in sales … Dion Latten loves Leiden and he loves law, but what he loves most is working for BMW. Currently Legal Counsel at BMW, he’ll soon be joining the sales team. ‘Don’t be swayed by the fear of making the wrong choices.’
How did you come to study at Leiden University?
'Towards the end of my time at secondary school, I had to decide what I wanted to study. I watched various videos about law (by Professor Roel Schutgens) at the Universiteit van Nederland and became interested in that subject. So it soon became clear I would choose to study law. And of course if you choose law, there’s really only one place to go.'
Which lecturer or course do you have good memories of and why?
'It’s hard to say which courses I have good memories of, but my top three definitely includes Business Analytics, Turnaround Management, and Anglo American Financial Law. The lectures in those courses kept me thinking for a long time afterwards. Their line of approach, having guest lecturers, and the course lecturers themselves all contributed to a good overall experience. These courses interested me so much that I even thought about going in that direction career-wise.'
What was your favourite place in Leiden and why?
'My favourite place is the historical city centre. I still live in Leiden, but every time I walk along the canals I’m amazed at the history, the beauty, and the fact that wherever you look, there’s something going on. Whether it’s in the pubs, or the student houses – there’s a real buzz in Leiden.'
In hindsight, what did you miss during your studies that you would have liked to have learnt?
'I think it’s important to realise what the possibilities are besides becoming a lawyer or one of the traditional professions in the judiciary. You often hear: “When you become a lawyer later on, then …” It would be good to consider all the other career options available to students besides the traditional legal professions.’
What wouldn’t you have missed for the world?
'My two years as assessor – being the student member on the Faculty Board – at Leiden Law School. Those were two very special years when I learnt a lot. I often think about those times, especially when you could really make a difference for the students. I was actually assessor during the Covid-19 pandemic, and you could definitely support students then. That meant a lot to me and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.'
You took a job in the commercial sector, was that always the plan? And if so, why? What do you do exactly?
'I’ve been working for BMW Nederland for some time now. I always thought it would be great to work for a law firm, but when I was deciding what to do after graduating I realised that my love for the automotive industry was greater than an ambition to become a lawyer. When I think back to when I took that decision, I have no regrets whatsoever. I made a conscious decision to work for BMW, mainly because I’m a huge BMW fan. At the moment I’m working as Legal Counsel, but soon I’ll transfer to the Sales department. In my new role, I’ll be focussing more on data which is something I was already interested in when I did the Business Analytics course. At the weekend, I’m also an instructor at the BMW Driving Experience Slotemakers (next to the racing circuit at Zandvoort). Every weekend, I give instruction on driving skills and drifting in the most amazing cars. It’s great fun outside work.'
What was the greatest challenge you faced on the way to this success?
'The greatest challenge I’ve faced is mainly the fact that you have to make choices. When I decided not to join a law firm I felt a lot of resistance. “Is that a good idea?”, “isn’t it a waste of all those years studying for your degree?”, were some of the comments I often heard. They made me have serious doubts, but you mustn’t be swayed by the fear of making the wrong choices. That wasn’t easy for me, but looking back I’m glad this is what I chose’.
Is there a dot on the horizon? Something you’re working towards?
'I’d eventually like to have a more strategic role at BMW. Particularly with all the Environmental, Social & Governance challenges and emerging competition from the Asian market, it’s more interesting than ever to get involved at a strategic level about how to keep your business relevant. Of course, being a fan of this brand, I hope that BMW will be around for years. In 50 years’ time I still see a role for the brand, though it will have to move with the times and respond to developments in society. It would be fantastic if I could be a part of that process!’
Your advice to current students?
'Generally speaking, do the things that give you energy and don’t just focus on becoming a lawyer. Although working at a law firm is a great place to start, there are so many companies looking for young and motivated people. It might be a very different career path, but that’s what makes it very challenging. There’s a big chance that in a few years you’ll be doing something you never thought you’d be doing …’
What’s your guilty pleasure?
'My guilty pleasure is of course a box of ‘autodrop’, Dutch sweet liquorice in the shape of cars and trucks (favourite is the pink Cadillacs). I don’t know if it’s because I’m mad about cars, but this really is my guilty pleasure.'