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Meet the team: Michiel Wouters


Meet the team!  Michiel talks to us about his background,  what its like to work for Motulus and how power metal helps him concentrate!

How long have you worked for Motulus, and what did you do beforehand?


I joined Motulus in April 2020. Before that I was a Phd student at the University of Antwerp, researching numerical methods for exploring various models (mainly focussed on superconductivity). I also did a post-doc for half a year at Janssen Pharmaceutical.

What attracted you to join Motulus?, and what’s it like to work here?

The applications we work on are mathematically challenging, whilst still being ‘down to earth’.  The scheduling problem, for example, is something I can talk about with family/friends without a mathematical background. The results we achieve at Motulus have a direct positive impact for our customers. While I loved my Phd research, this is something I missed during those years.

It’s great to work at Motulus!  Most of my time is spent on programming! There is a lot of variety: one week (or couple of weeks) I’m implementing new rules, the other I’m on a bug hunt, and another I’m researching techniques to make the solver more efficient.

Can you describe a typical week? What do you enjoy about the challenges you face today?

Typical weeks depend on our priority list. If there are new rules that need to be implemented, or there’s some important feedback from the schedulers, that usually takes priority. Otherwise there’s time to work on improving the solver. Most of the time is spent on programming: making adjustments to the code and testing them. There is also the occasional meeting with the schedulers, it’s nice to be in touch with the people on which our work has the biggest impact.

I enjoy the mathematical complexity of the challenges we face. Translating complex, real-world rules into abstract mathematics can prove to be quite a puzzle. Finding a model (constraints) that works gives great satisfaction. The same with researching and implementing different (mathematical) techniques, and seeing a positive impact on the efficiency.

Highlights from your time so far?
  • The first day at the office (which took a long time due to the pandemic).
  • Accelerating the part of our solver from a runtime of over 4 hours to about 5 minutes by rewriting the implementation of certain constraints.
  • Implementing the new feature relating to crew work patterns for a customer. I had to get quite creative at times to translate the rules into mathematical constraints.
  • The first weeks after go live with a customer when they started using Motuplan in practice, and seeing the rosters improve with each iteration (and the schedulers becoming more and more satisfied).
What excites you about the development of Motulus products?

Motulus products tackle real-world problems with a lot of underlying data, variables and rules by utilizing complex mathematics. The development leads to real-life benefits (better rosters for crew members, cost reductions for the company, less work pressure for the schedulers, …).

And outside of Motulus what do you do, or interests you, in your spare time?

I really enjoy gaming and board games (I guess I’m a bit of a nerd!), but also like having a couple of drinks with friends. I’m also a metal fan (especially power metal), for some reason it helps me concentrate on my work. Other hobbies are escape rooms (usually with my wife) and wall climbing, though I don’t always find the time for it. And, of course before everything else, spending time with my son.

And when you do get to travel?

Window or aisle seat?: Window

Coffee or tea?:  If I have to choose between the two: tea, but I prefer a coke.

Get to the airport early or last minute? Early, I always try to take a margin of a couple of hours.

You are early for a flight: do you browse the shops, get a coffee or head to the bar?  Depends on the company I’m with. If I’m alone, I’d browse the shops, or buy a puzzle book for entertainment.

Top tip when flying?: Flying is a great time to catch up on movies.