Talk with Kim Laczek (Chemical Engineer and Entrepreneur)

This week we introduce you to Kim Laczek. He is a graduate of MSc.Eng of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from Technical University of Denmark from 2019. Previously, he did his Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng) from DTU in 2016. Apart from his advanced chemical engineering technical knowledge, he is a proven entrepreneur with a successful start-up called Alpina & Newton.

Alpina & Newton produce a pair of skis where the rigidity and structure would change depending on skiing conditions. Snow can go from hard packed snow to more slush snow or even turn into bumps also known as moguls. This means that our ski would be ideal for both slow and twisty skiing on a more slushed snow as well as high-speed skiing on hard packed snow. Different types of skis in one pair of smarter skis! The purpose of Alpina & Newton is to have the ski that gives you the best experiences.

Apart from passionately running his start-up, he is also employed as a part-time employee at Nordic Waste, where he is working within their R&D. Hence, he juggles his time between his job and his start-up. Which is highly admirable! Kim started his career after graduation as a high school physics teacher. Therefore, he is a perfect example of someone, who did not blindly follow the career laid down by his degree. Instead, he has worked within multiple non-typical roles and is an inspiration for everyone, to show that chemical engineering is not just equations and simulations, but it can open doors to multiple areas!

Engineering School Days

How was the workload of your degree? What did you spend the most time on? Was there a lot of chemistry in your curriculum?

The work load was okay, most of the time. In my MSc.Eng programme, I could choose the courses all by myself, therefore I had an okay control over how much work I had. I could plan ahead for each semester. Regarding chemistry, Yes, I am after all a chemical engineer!

What topics did you find the most difficult during your degree?

Differential equations problems

What line did you choose to focus during your degree? Why? (Process Engineering, Catalysis, Modelling, Environmental Engineering etc)

Mostly process engineering, but not limited to it, I am more of a generalist.

Did you already during your engineering education, take any courses or actions towards setting up your start-up? If some students wish to pursue this line of career, what would you suggest they should be doing and focusing on?

Yes, I have. I have always had a dream of having my own business. I also did not want the same courses as everyone else, I wanted other tools in the toolbox. I have taken some courses where you learned about economics, business law and how to run a business. I have also chosen courses where the focus was on working on projects from cradle to grave.

Put in a funny way, an engineer can only spend money since it is only the best is good enough for an engineer. But unfortunately, that is not how the world is put together. One must learn to only go as far as your customer will pay for. Another important thing to think about is what value you create for others and what the extra value means to them. Being the owner of a business is not the same as being an employee, so you also need to think about how good management is. If you want to start a business yourself, then I think these things are important to work with. Then you can choose courses based on whether they work with those topics.

If you study at DTU, you MUST take the course TEMO, it is so important, here you learn many of the things that are good to know.

In your opinion, how does chemical engineering prepare the students in being able to go ahead and make start-ups? Do you feel that chemical engineering skills can be used in that way?

It's funny that I'm a chemical engineer. I only work with it in my part time job. My start up has very little to do with chemical engineering. So, the short answer is only if one wants a start up within the chemistry world gives you some useful tools. The education for chemical engineering at DTU gives you the freedom to go the way you want. Whereby one has the opportunity to take start up courses.

That said, my education has also taught me to be able to learn new things. For me, the most important thing regarding my education is to be an engineer. I have learned to work with technical topics in my head and with my hands. It provides a number of benefits if your company is manufacturing products. As an engineer, you learn to solve abstract problems with real tools, compared to other educations.

Did you have student jobs during or between your education?

I have worked at the library at DTU. Otherwise, I have been an assistant teacher. In addition to these, I did a lot of volunteer work besides my studies.

Work Life

As mentioned earlier, Kim is not your typical chemical engineer. Therefore, just like you, we were equally interested into knowing about this work-life but at the same time about his start-up and what role did chemical engineering play in getting him there.

First thing first, why did you go ahead with a start-up, when you could have gotten a high-paying job in engineering?

Hmmm money is not everything all the time! I have actually said no to my dream job of working with Alpina & Newton. Yes, you can do that if you want to spend your time doing tasks that others think you should. I think it's more fun to do something I think is fun and it's me who decides which way we should go. I've been to places and seen how to work in big companies, I could not see myself in there.

It must be fun to work, you only have one life, so I do not want to spend it on someone I think is boring!

PS. You never get really rich as an employee. You must have some ownership interests in companies for the real fun money to get into your account.

Juggling two jobs at the same time, what is your daily work routine like? What do you do at your job and at your start-up?

Both of my roles are very different. At my start-up, my daily routine involves product development and business operations. Meanwhile over at my part-time job, my routine consists of working at the lab and mostly R&D work.

What hard and soft skills are the most important for your job?

Hard skill: excel (haha) and lab work.

Soft skill: think creatively, out of the box, see solutions and talk to everyone.

What skills have come the most handy for your start-up which you got from your engineering school? Which topics from your degree do you use the most on the workplace?

Hmmm, thinking in a new way and being able to learn fast.

What is the best thing about your job?

I'm my own boss! I have a start-up... I'm more "free"

What are you future plans for your career?

Develop more on my business

Could you kindly tell us a little about your start-up?

We produce a pair of skis where the rigidity and structure would change depending on skiing conditions. Snow can go from hard packed snow to more slush snow or even turn into bumps also known as moguls. This means that our ski would be ideal for both slow and twisty skiing on a more slushed snow as well as high-speed skiing on hard packed snow. Different types of skis in one pair of smarter skis and they will improve the skiing experience!

That skis we design and develop is to be a fantastic varying carving ski for hard and soft snow on groomed terrain. At the same time, it is in no way compromising on the slow slalom run. In other words, the ski is the best ski for varying speed and snow, that does not limit you on the slopes.

You can find us on alpinanewton.com – Soon also on Facebook and Instagram.

Any suggestions for future graduates? Something they should be doing while they are still in university getting their degree.

(Drinking beer) I stared my start up in a bar. Okay, talk to everyone you can, you do not know who they are and the vast majority will help you. Do not plan too much, it can stress more than it benefits. You can not control everything and things do not always turn out the way you want them to.

What skills should they focus on during university years?

It is not always what is written and does not appear on your diploma that gives you a job. Be social!!!! But of course you need to be able to do a good job.
And most importantly, Do not Stress and Have fun! :-)
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