People Data

Combining work and school: the best of both worlds

Date:May 14, 2024

If there’s one thing Laura Iglesias Gondar enjoys, it’s being pulled out of her comfort zone. Not only has this young data engineer studied in four universities across three countries, she’s also currently combining a full-time master’s in AI with a full-time job for a global organisation. She really likes to give herself a challenge.

Laura Iglesias Gondar was born and raised in Spain. She started her academic career in the university of León, studying a bachelor’s in computer science engineering. For her third year, she went to the university of A Coruña as an exchange student. For her fourth year, she went to the university of Coimbra in Portugal. And now, she’s enrolled at KU Leuven for her master’s degree in computer science engineering, specialising in AI.

Some people enjoy the comfort and predictability of staying in one place, but Laura clearly is not one of them. “I like meeting many people and getting to know different cultures, different ways of teaching and methodologies. It’s very different from country to country,” she explains. “For example, in Spain, professors would be closer to you, almost like teaching assistants here. And what you’d learn in class would be closer to what was asked in the exam. In Belgium, they consider what they teach in class as the basics, and they expect you to study further on the topic on your own.”

Destination: data and AI

During her bachelor’s in computer science engineering, Laura was exposed to a wide range of subjects across various fields within computer science. She quickly discovered her interest in data and artificial intelligence. That’s why, after graduating from her bachelor’s degree, Laura enrolled in a master’s in AI at KU Leuven. However, she decided to add a little twist to this already challenging endeavour. “Since the bachelor’s programme in Spain lasts for four years, and the master’s in Belgium is two years, I decided to start working before finishing my master’s. After spending so much time studying without any practical experience, I really felt the need to get some hands-on experience,” she says.

Currently, Laura is working full-time for a global materials technology and recycling group as a data engineer. What she likes most about her job – apart from working with data, which she loves – is the thinking process. “I like being given all of these data sources and thinking about how we can put them together,” says Laura. “And then, there’s the moment when you’re coding and you feel that you’re on the verge of reaching the solution, you feel that excitement building… That’s the best part.”

And then, there’s the moment when you’re coding and you feel that you’re on the verge of reaching the solution, you feel that excitement building… That’s the best part.

Managing the workload

Next to her full-time job, Laura’s also doing her master’s full-time. To balance it all, she’s being smart about her workload. “I’m choosing subjects with my workload in mind. For example, I’ll take a maximum of two subjects with exams per semester. The rest of the subject are evaluated through projects. That way, I can work on the projects during the semester, and then when the exam period comes around, I only have worry about one or two exams.”

Pros and cons of the work-school combo

They say the grass is always greener on the other side. But Laura has found a way to combine the greenest plots from both sides. “The best part about combining work and study, is the hands-on experience that a job provides. This is something I missed when I was only studying. On the other hand, now that I’m working, I also find myself enjoying my study sessions more because that’s a type of experience I don’t get on the job as much. And I like learning, I like improving my skills. So for me, this combination really is the best of both worlds.”

But even with such interest and motivation, it’s not easy to do. “The most challenging part of this balancing act is time management. It’s very important to allocate time after work for your studies, but you also need to make sure that you get enough free time so you don’t burn out. Because even with excellent time management skills, a significant portion of nights and weekends goes to staying up-to-date with my studies. I realise that this demands an effort that not everyone is willing to make. But personally, I love learning so much that I can see myself pursuing further studies after completing my master’s.”

The joy of giving and receiving feedback

For a person who loves learning, Projective Group was a great fit, because we offer a lot of training and coaching as well. “During our kick-off weekend at the castle in the Ardennes, we had a training on giving and receiving feedback. This has been very valuable for me,” Laura says. “This training has helped me to be less scared of receiving feedback. I’ve even learned to ask for it proactively. After all, it’s always nice to know how you’re doing, to not have to guess. Additionally, the training has helped me find ways to give feedback to coworkers without sounding threatening or mean.”

Join a project that you really like. That way, when things get complicated, it’s not so hard to stay motivated and keep going.

Words of wisdom

To conclude, Laura has a few words of advice for people wanting to follow her example. “If you’re considering pursuing studies while working at the same time, I would recommend choosing a programme that allows for a lighter workload, so you can have enough free time besides work and school. It can be quite stressful otherwise. At work, I’d advise you to join a project that you really like. That way, when things get complicated, it’s not so hard to stay motivated and keep going. And finally: do your best, be kind, and always be willing to grow.”


Moving to different schools, different countries, combining a full-time job with full-time school: it’s clear that Laura Iglesias Gondar enjoys a challenge. The key to it all? Choosing a field you’re genuinely interested in, and excellent time management skills of course. With determination, motivation and some discipline, the sky is the limit.

About Projective Group

Established in 2006, Projective Group is a leading Financial Services change specialist.

We are recognised within the industry as a complete solutions provider, partnering with clients in Financial Services to provide resolutions that are both holistic and pragmatic.  We have evolved to become a trusted partner for companies that want to thrive and prosper in an ever-changing Financial Services landscape.