An interview with Michiel van der Gaag | SiRM

An interview with Michiel van der Gaag | SiRM

Sara van Stratum
19 januari 2024

I had the opportunity to visit the office of the strategic consultant agency SiRM in Utrecht. Their office is on the 17th floor in the WTC building next to Utrecht central station, offering a beautiful view over the city. Here I interviewed Michiel, who finished his master’s degree in econometrics in Groningen a year and a half ago.

Can you give a short introduction about yourself and your academic background?

My name is Michiel van der Gaag and I’ve been working as a consultant at SiRM since February. I studied econometrics in Groningen, I finished both my bachelor's and master’s degrees there. I was also very active at the study association VESTING, where I participated in several committees and also did a board year. I had a great time studying there before graduating last year. Now I’ve had a fulltime employment for almost a year, working on many different projects in different sectors, but I’ll get back to that later.

Can you give a general introduction about SiRM as a company?

SiRM is a strategic consultant agency where we mainly focus on healthcare, which contains about 95% of our work. We also have some projects in the energy sector. We have three main types of assignments we do with one goal which is to keep healthcare accessible and affordable, keeping future challenges in mind. An assignment could be giving strategic advice to different stakeholders, like hospitals, industry associations, sometimes even a municipality, all concerned with healthcare. A different type of assignment we do is research and policy evaluations, these are usually bigger projects. For example, a ministry, or administration like ‘Zorginstituut Nederland’ could give an assignment to look into something. The last form of assignment is joint strategy development, helping guide multiple parties towards collaborative and mutually-beneficial approaches.

What is your function within SiRM and what kind of projects do you work on?

I work at SiRM as a consultant. We have different function levels at SiRM, there are consultants, senior consultants, directors and partners, ranked from junior colleagues to the most experienced colleagues respectively. As a consultant, you mainly work on the execution of a project. There is not one fixed type of project a consultant works on. We have several colleagues with a background on econometrics, and they usually work on more quantitative projects because this is often there interest and it aligns with their skills as well. But we’re not bound to work only on projects in a certain sector.

Projects have different durations, depending on the client. We start by reading up on the topic of the project and with desk research, as consultant I’m also involved with this, working on it with a senior consultant. After this we check what thing we need to actually start the project. Eventually, we end up in a more analytical phase where we can use data or documentation from the client, we often have sessions with the client as well and hold interviews with other stakeholders to collect many different perspectives. In the end we join all this together to provide the client with advice or a different finished product. As a consultant, you’re involved in all these different phases.

Do you mainly work in a team or alone? What is the working atmosphere like at SiRM?

We always work in a team, on projects we often work in teams of 3 people, a consultant, a project leader, which is usually a senior partner or director, and an accountable partner. Everyone is involved with the whole process of the project, everyone does have their own tasks to do, but we do go through it together. Consultants are more involved with the research and analysis, while the project leader is in contact with the clients. Partners are mainly overviewing the progress of the project but are also very involved and work together with the team to get the best result as possible.

I really like the working atmosphere, SiRM is not a really big firm and we work at the office with approximately 20 people. This means that we all know each other very well. We also deal with quite a lot external clients, so we also visit other offices and places for meetings. Besides, we do always work from the office, so I see my colleagues a lot and I got to know them very quickly as well. Outside of work, we also do things with each other like the monthly after work drinks, which is always super nice. We also have training days which are really nice for personal development and trips we take to other citys for trainings and company visits. 

Are there possibilities for students to do an internship here or write their thesis at SiRM?

We do provide internships for a master’s thesis. We have two people working here now who did a six month internship with us and wrote their master’s thesis in that time last year. These internships are a research project in the healthcare sector, so as an intern you’re not actually working on projects. But you do get guidance from SiRM and you are provided with some knowledge about the healthcare sector. There is also the possibility to try some tasks on a project besides your research and see how it is to work as a consultant.

How does SiRM distinguish itself from other consultant agencies in the healthcare sector?

First of all, I think we definitely distinguish ourselves because we mainly focus on healthcare, so we have specific expertise in this area. We combine this with a strong analytical approach which distinguishes us from other agencies. On a more personal level, we know each other very well among colleagues, see each other a lot, and work closely together. There is little hierarchy and partners work closely together with consultants during projects.

Would you like to add anything else?

I would like to advice anyone who is interested in working or doing an internship at SiRM to take a look at our website, here you can find examples of projects we do. I personally thought it was really nice to look at this before I started working here. And if you’re really interested in SiRM you can always contact us to have a talk about it in person and get some more information.