Sarah Van der Auweraer
PhD candidate, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business

How did you become a forecaster?

After my master in business engineering I got the opportunity to pursue a PhD at KU Leuven in 2015. The topic of the PhD aimed to research service logistics and spare part management. When starting to read up on the topic, I came across many papers on intermittent demand forecasting, which I found a very interesting matter. I was encouraged by my supervisor, Robert Boute, to explore this topic more.

To support me as a beginning researcher in the first year of my PhD, my supervisor took me to a workshop organised by the International Institute of Forecasters in Lancaster. It is here that I got to meet many people in the field, and where my interest for spare part demand forecasting got really sparked.

Deepening myself in my topic, I discovered a possibility for a literature review paper, now published in the International Journal of Forecasting. Through this review, I discovered research opportunities which defined the future development of my PhD. It is from that moment on that I started to see myself as a forecaster.

What areas of forecasting interest you?

My main interests are spare part demand forecasting, exploring the connection between forecasting and inventory management, and the impact of data and information (non-) availability on forecast quality.

I am very interested in exploring approaches that have a practical value, that is, that have potential to be applied in company settings. For this reason I am very grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate closely with industry during my PhD.

How has the International Institute of Forecasters influenced you?

The IIF organized a workshop in Lancaster in 2016. I was at the time at the very beginning of my PhD. Being able to attend this workshop, and meet people like John Boylan and Aris Syntetos, among others, and many PhD students, inspired and motivated me to focus my research on forecasting.

At this workshop, I was also encouraged to apply for a travel grant for the International Symposium of Forecasting that would take place the next summer in Cairns, Australia. I was lucky enough to be granted the travel award and to attend the ISF. The conference itself was an amazing experience; I was provided with a lot of feedback on my work from many experts in the field, and the conversations with other participants inspired future research ideas.

In my experience, the IIF has presented itself as a great community to be part of. The IIF has been very welcoming, even (and especially) when I was a beginning PhD student without a broad network. The IIF continuously shows itself as a great supporter of young researchers, like myself. The new Early Research Careers (ERC) initiative is another proof of this.

What do you do in your free time?

I spent most of my free time as a volunteer for the Red Cross. I am a certified Red Cross teacher, educating adults and children in First Aid. Besides, I am the provincial coordinator of the Red Cross youth movement.