"What I like about the job of supervisor is the variety. Take the weather: in Saudi Arabia it is almost 50 degrees Celcius, in Russia almost minus 30. Not always clean, sometimes with your feet in the mud. As long as it all works out in the end, that's your job."
Louis Baltussen recently retired as Supervisor at Vencomatic Group. Officially, because Louis will soon be going back abroad. He can hardly miss his job: "I have been a supervisor at Vencomatic Group for 13.5 years. Before that, I worked in climate control for 23 years, doing many different jobs. Whenever hands had to become dirty, Louis was called in, haha."
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"Communication is the most important thing for a Supervisor. We work a lot with the Project Leaders, so they need to be kept well informed. But communicating with customers is just as important; you can't hide anything. Sooner or later, they'll find out if you've made a mistake."
"You also have to remain calm as a Supervisor. Often the project starts with handicaps due to local conditions. Experience is important then, that you know how to handle it. That's why it takes about four years before you know the job well. Supervisors should actually do their work all in the same way, but in practice everyone does it differently. One is very precise, the other quick. But if the result is good, you shouldn't worry about that."
"In terms of management, there is a lot of difference between a large or a small group. In Mexico I had a long-term project with 60-70 people. They worked from early in the morning until late at night, but every four weeks there were people who went home and never came back. I prefer them to work for shorter periods and stay, it saves me a lot of training. Later we started making groups with leaders, but as soon as you make someone a leader, he doesn't do anything anymore. While they are often the best!"
"A Supervisor must be passionate, but not too much. I wasn't always popular with the mechanics because I was so precise. But most of what you learn actually starts at primary school. I took a course in customer-friendliness, but actually you learn politeness at a young age. It starts with saying good morning or hello, right?"
"I think Norway is the most beautiful country I have seen so far, but the most interesting people live in Russia. They are the most surprising, partly because of alcohol: you have to be gone before they are drunk, haha. And everywhere, the food is special, in China it's a whole ritual. Korea is also very special, if you look a bit angry at the people there, they are already upset. I may sometimes be a bit too impatient, I still have to learn to be a bit more calm."
"In many countries, hierarchy is important; as a Supervisor, you are subordinate to the project leader, so you have to call him in regularly. In Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, you have a lot of prestige as a Supervisor and they don't even want you to work yourself."
"The interaction with people is nice here. It is clearly a family business, with all its advantages and disadvantages. There is no hierarchy in the company, which is nice. In other countries, the work force is often bawled out. I have had three different managers in the department, each with their own style. I prefer not to be bossed around, the way you present something is decisive. If you wrap it up properly, I'll do almost anything."
"Actually everyone is a Supervisor, if you manage what you have to do then you will get there. I used to always get a translator, but nowadays I put them to work too. It's much more fun to do the work without a translator, you learn to get along better. And that's what works best in practice; mutual respect gets the job done quicker. And in the best way."