Being a Trainee in Corona times

The art of staying connected • 08 Sep 2020

Before applying for the TNO Trainee Programme, I was following a rather standard academic path: First a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, then a Master’s in Physics, followed by a PhD in – guess what – Physics! Initially, my plans were to stay in research and eventually become a university professor. But at the end of my PhD, I started doubting. There were so many other fields and roles outside of academia that could make me happy - I wanted to go out there and explore what I could do! And I wanted my work to have societal impact. When I heard about the TNO Trainee Programme, I immediately knew what I wanted. It was the perfect opportunity!

First trainee spot

Together with Emilio, Marlijn, Lisa and Mathilde, I got through the selection process. In February 2020, I was excited to start as a researcher/consultant in my first spot: STL Sustainable Transport and Logistics. And then, just 5 weeks later, the “intelligent lockdown” due to COVID-19 hit. No more working at the office, no more face-to-face contact! Luckily I had already had a quick chat with nearly everyone in my department to get to know them before we had to stay home. And with my cohort, we even had a day out together in Scheveningen a few weeks before starting! Still, nobody was particularly thrilled about the new situation…

Corona impact

On a positive note, the lockdown slowed down life a lot, which gave me time to process all the new information that comes along with starting a new job! It also made me realize several things about TNO as an organization – in particular how incredibly open and flexible it can be! Technical difficulties like the limited number of VPN connections were fixed in no time.

And also my colleagues adapted very quickly to the new home-office situation. People cared for each other and there were many creative initiatives to stay connected –in the trainee group, in my department and in TNO as a whole. We had online coffee breaks and borrels, photo challenges, vlogs about working from home, online escape room games, live streams of private living-room-concerts and tips on how to stay physically and mentally healthy. Also I got inspired myself: I re-wrote the lyrics of a song and played it on the ukulele for all my new TNO colleagues to hear. On top of this, TNO launched the Brains4Corona initiative, in which we fight the impacts of the corona crisis on our society and on the global economy in several innovative projects. Wow! I was impressed!


Of course, the lockdown also posed some challenges. We all had just barely gotten to know each other when many Trainee activities got canceled. This includes the fun Trainee weekend as well as the Trainee Selection Day. And the latter meant that suddenly the five of us would be the only Trainees starting in 2020!
Also in my department work, things turned out somewhat more challenging than initially expected: In the beginning of the lockdown I had quite a good idea of what my work and my tasks entailed. After a while, however, I found myself not knowing very well how to proceed. And that’s when I realized just how important communication is! The only thing I had to do was to email and call people to stay connected, let them know how I was doing and share my successes and challenges with them. And when I did that, we were always able to have a nice chat together, help each other out and make a successful plan.

By now, my time at STL is nearly over and I am looking for my second Trainee spot. While most of my search is taking place online, it is again possible to meet each other face to face every now and then. It’s nice to grab a coffee together and look each other in the eyes to discuss new work opportunities! What my next spot will be? That’s still work in progress… 😉


Name: Shari Finner

Background: Physics

Start Date: February 2020

1st Spot: Scientist/Consultant, Sustainable Transport and Logistics (STL), Den Haag

Eager to know if a traineeship would fit you?

Reach out to Tycho Brug ›


New group of trainees started

28 March 2020
In these challenging times, our focus is on everyone’s health and that of elderly or sick persons in particular. It is truly a special moment to join TNO as a new colleague. Read more

Sustainable Transport and Logistics

In the Sustainable Transport & Logistics department, we help make the transportation of goods and people more efficient and sustainable. In the logistics sector, we help accelerate innovation by conducting... Read more

Eager for innovation? Join the TNO Trainee Programme!

Contributing to the world of tomorrow. Join TNO as a trainee and envision it. At TNO we innovate for a healthier, safer and more sustainable life. And for a strong economy. How do you want to contribute... Read more
TNO Traineeblog

TNO Job alert

Would you also want to be a trainee at TNO?