Sten Nielsen

Photo: Marianne Vang Ryde

Sten Nielsen, Head of Administration, DTU Mechanical Engineering Interviewed on Nils Koppels Allé on his way from Building 402 to 358, where he is currently housed while the department’s 400-Buildings are renovated.

What is your biggest challenge right now?

“I’m responsible for coordinating all the practical aspects of occupying and vacating the building in connection with the renovation. It’s quite a jigsaw puzzle.”

How are you managing?

“Hah-hah, I’m not sure I am. Seriously though, I sit down and plan several months ahead. For example, we will be using the removal firm Dybendal Flytteforretning in week 42, and I’m sure that many of their staff are looking forward to an autumn holiday so they have to be booked in good time. Every time I think of something that needs doing, I enter it into Outlook’s task management so I’m sure that it pops up when I need it.

But, of course, you can’t predict or remember everything so I have to put out a few fires now and then. Suddenly, there’s a group of students outside one room or another who cannot get in because the room is locked off. I’m often called out to resolve such matters, which is why I take a lot of walks between my temporary office and the 400-Buildings.

But it’s a task I really enjoy, even though there are days when I’d rather do without it—and the irritation—like when you have to remind people several times to clean up building debris.”

What makes you happiest?

 “Seeing how the entire organization supports the project and not least all the practical help from the department secretaries, IT, and workshop staff. There’s a good atmosphere. Naturally, people find it challenging to pack and move. Some may have 80 removal boxes, which translates into a lot of packing time. Some people use the move as a chance to throw stuff out, while others choose to sort everything out when they move back in. But do they?

We give people the chance to move everything they want into the temporary office. We want to support people in doing what they want. That is one of our fundamental principles at DTU Mechanical Engineering. Some people process their travel expenses promptly, while others only do it when you remind them. It’s no good getting mad at them. That’s just the way it is. They just need a friendly nudge every now and then.

I used to work in the private sector. One of the major differences between a university and a company is that there are many more individualists here—all these passionate enthusiasts who make DTU the elite university it is. Most of them are far more intelligent than me, but sometimes—often in fact—I’m able to help them with something that I find easy, but which they find challenging. I know they appreciate it—and it makes me happy.”