Alumni in the spotlight

Mohamed Ridouani, mayor of Leuven

We’re delighted to stay connected with our alumni network throughout the different stages of their careers and capture inspirational testimonials to share within the practice and beyond. This is Mohamed’s story.

When did you work at Deloitte and what was your position?

I graduated from the KU Leuven in 2003 and started immediately at Deloitte as a business consultant. The next four years I learned and travelled a lot for the company; it was a glorious time.

What initially attracted you to join Deloitte?

The Alfa Romeo with fancy red leather seats, of course! Actually, I was intrigued by the world of consultancy, which appeared to me to be moving fast-forward with a sharp learning curve. This proved to be true.

What has your career path looked like since Deloitte?

In 2007 I was elected as city counsellor (as part of one of my side projects). Louis Tobback, Minister of State and the previous mayor of Leuven, asked me to become deputy mayor. At first I refused, because I didn’t want to leave Deloitte. However, my gut feeling kept nagging me. I started to believe that I could impact the hopes and dreams of young citizens. So, I became deputy mayor, responsible for Education, Sustainability, Urban Development, and Economy.

Fast forward 12 years, since 2019, I'm now the mayor of Leuven. It’s the best job in the world (so far).

What inspired a career switch to politics?

The conviction that I could change things for the better. I believe in a society that creates opportunities; a society that brings people together. I want to give it my all to help realise the hopes and dreams of all Leuvenaars. Leuven must grow further into an empowering green city where we embrace diversity as a force of positive change. In Leuven, we care for each other, no matter what background one has, in openness and solidarity.

What are some of the biggest professional challenges you’re facing today?

Mobility in the cities poses a challenge – one that we have to address while keeping the quality of life and accessibility in balance. We want to realise a modal shift, from motorised traffic to walking, cycling, and public transport. That way, our city not only becomes healthier and more sustainable, but also for those who really need a car to move around in not have to be in traffic all the time.

You always have to keep in mind that it’s a slow process. On the one hand, you need to convince citizens and visitors this is the way forward, and you have to ask them for change, which is always difficult. On the other hand, we need to transform the infrastructure in the public domain to fit new traffic flows with more space for pedestrians and cyclists instead of for cars.

We welcome 1,000 new citizens every year, which is enormous. This brings prosperity and opportunities, but also challenges like the cost of housing. Over the past years we invested a lot in social housing, something we will continue to do. Apart from that, we are taking measures for the modal medium incomes. We are also looking at new forms of housing, like Community Land Trusts and other ways of ownership.

All in all, it’s the system of supply and demand. We only have limited space to increase the supply, so collaboration with neighbouring towns is inevitable.

Are there any skills you learned while at Deloitte that still help you today?

Long-term thinking, a spirit of collaboration, connecting people around a common vision, and… getting it done!

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