Niek van Breederode
Groundbreaking innovations cannot be achieved without a stable and safe ICT infrastructure. This is the responsibility of Niek van Brederode (and his forty colleagues). ‘What we deliver here is truly high-end’
‘What we do here at Infrastructure may at first glance not seem to differ too much from what happens in the ICT departments of other companies. We maintain networks, set up systems, and store data. The Infrastructure team is made up of forty ICT professionals. Together, we make sure everything is always running smoothly.’
‘Still, in terms of ICT, there’s plenty that makes TNO different from other employers. The complexity of the infrastructure alone is worth mentioning. TNO employs around 3,500 highly-educated specialists, whose specialisms and research make high infrastructural demands.
And not only our Defence research requires us to meet the highest security demands; we also need to deliver good work for Healthy Living, since their research often involves real people. Collaboration with external partners, on the other hand, is done in quite an open infrastructure. Every day, this presents us with interesting challenges and surprising insights into what TNO is doing.’
‘Personally, I find it fascinating that we can use our hardware to contribute to research into global warming. There is a TNO satellite with measuring equipment floating through space mapping out ammoniac emissions on Earth. The calculations are made on the high-performance computers in our data centre. You can simply see them doing their job. And when the evening news reports on the latest thing TNO has been working on, I have to admit, it’s quite cool.’
‘One of the challenges of our ICT concerns classifications. Some data is stored in the cloud, but a lot of it isn’t. Much of the research being conducted at TNO is classified. That data needs to be maintained and processed in entirely separated compartments without any link to undesirable traffic streams, such as the dark web. At the same time, access to that data may be precisely what other research needs. This requires smart security solutions, and we’ve developed those here.’
‘Our ICT here at TNO is cutting edge. You really need high-end ICT for innovative research. That’s why we have the latest hardware. From network components to servers – we exclusively use the most modern technologies. Learning and innovation are also in our blood here in the ICT department. We each have our own areas of expertise and complement each other well. “Smart solutions can be arrived at together” also applies to ICT. TNO has created attractive training budget for this.’
‘A lot of the ICT staff has been working here for a long time. That’s because this is such an inspiring environment. I’m currently in charge of the team. I joined TNO in 1978. A chemical analyst at the time, I had myself retrained into a statistical analyst. My interest in ICT was roused when the first Commodore VIC-20 made its entrance at TNO.
I was doing my calculations in the terminal room, a cooling space that also had a printer. I started working in the ICT department in 1988 when we first became acquainted with networks. Working in ICT at that time meant doing a bit of everything. Towards the end of the nineties, I became the coordinator of the ICT team, consisting of six members at the time. The current ICT team is made up of at least a hundred people.’
Just try it out
‘What I love about TNO is that you’re given the freedom to shape your own career. We have so many disciplines here that the step from administrator to developer, for instance, is easily made. Even if after some time you want to spend more time on the substantive side of ICT, closer to research, there are options. “Just try it out for two months” is what I often tell people. Personal experience has taught me that this brings out the best in us.’