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“One week Mozambique?”

Blogger: Maarten Huijgen • 26 Jul 2016

“Hey Maarten! You don’t know me yet, but you’ll start at my department next week. Sorry for bothering you, but I am flying to Mozambique in three weeks. Any plans for that week? In other words: you can join me.” Yeah, whaaat…?!

Flashback to four months ago. With a healthy dose of nervousness I arrived at the Van Mourik Broekmanweg location of TNO in Delft. I had been invited for the trainee selection day, and I had no clue what to expect. Therefore, I had decided to just go with the flow. Several weeks later I got the call: selected for the traineeship! Yeah baby! On February 1st I could start my traineeship at the Geological Survey of the Netherlands.

I expected to work on a project as a researcher, but something else was waiting for me at TNO: as a trainee for the Geological Survey of the Netherlands I am helping to get some international attention for this department. An enormous chance, but also a big challenge – as a geologist I have no experience with international business development. I knew that the traineeship would have me step out of my comfort zone, but I had decidedly not expected such a challenge this quickly.

Two weeks into my traineeship I found myself on an 11-hour southbound flight. Together with my manager and an experienced business developer I flew to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. In Maputo I got a first taste of business development: TNO has an enormous amount of expertise that can be valuable for various parties in Mozambique. But for which parties? And who should we contact? Four days of meetings ensued. For me, as an inexperienced graduate this was a massive learning experience. No slow warm-up, straight into the deep!

At the moment, I spend 70% of my time on international business development for the Geological Survey of the Netherlands. Market segmentation, value proposition and business model have become familiar expressions in no time. The other 30% I spend on traineeship activities, in which personal development and teamwork play important roles. Together with several fellow trainees I am working on a internal project that impacts all of TNO. Furthermore, we have peer group meetings, receive regular coaching and follow several workshops. In short, the ideal stepping stone for a sunny career.

I missed my first operational meeting (Mozambique…), but attended the next one. At this meeting I noticed how varied but cohesive the trainee group is. Everyone is focused on a different topic, from solar panels to autonomous ships, but we still have in common that we are all trainees: focused on personal development and a healthy dose of fun. I have been told that the weekly drinks and occasional diners are a crucial part of the trainee calendars…

I thoroughly enjoyed my first two months - I really like it here. If the last months are resemble the things to come, I am looking forward to the rest of my traineeship.

About the author

Name: Maarten Huijgen
Background: MSc Earth Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
First department:  Geological Survey of the Netherlands

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