Time for coffee

Blogger: Eric Bonet • 06 Sep 2016

New work, new content, new life. Welcome to the Traineeship at TNO. I started July 1st at the Buildings and Infrastructures department at TNO and expected a lot of business related infrastructure work.

What I got was a Kenyan style fabrication shop in the courtyard of my Amsterdam apartment, a project looking into the effectiveness of office flex working and an assortment of projects ranging from working with corrosion sensors to developing a retrofit for steel bridges with plastic! So how, after two short months, did I get here? Well… it all starts with a lot of coffee.

During my first weeks, while having coffee with a colleague, I mentioned that I’m very interested in field work. A day later I get asked if I can help monitoring the installation of some corrosion sensors in the south east of Holland. For sure, I’d love to! During another friendly chat, over a cup of joe, I discover that a team in the steel reliability group has a project that relates to what I developed during my master’s studies. Can I explore this work further and see if what I developed during my masters studies can be utilized? Absolutely! Innovation, that’s what TNO is about and that’s what I’m getting to do here. If your ideas can somehow be linked to an existing project then you’ll probably be given a few hours to explore those ideas further.

With the Traineeship it’s simple to connect with people from different departments. For two years before moving to Holland I lived and worked in rural East Africa. So on my second week at TNO I got in touch with the Innovation for Development group, a group that is heavily involved in Africa and the developing world. The head of the Innovation for Development group invited me for a coffee chat. Next thing I know I’m placed on a project where we are trying to develop, manufacture and market in Africa, a socket which uses a thermal electric generator to power lights or phones. After a month of discussions the team has given me the green light to fabricate version 0.1 of the prototype. To ensure the socket can also be manufactured in rural Africa I’m given a budget to create a simple, African inspired fabrication shop outside my apartment!

Besides the freedom to explore new ideas what I’m enjoying most about the traineeship are the social aspects of it. As someone who’s never lived in Holland before I was expecting it to be quite some time before I made friends. With the traineeship, that’s not the case. My first week here we had a Friday night beach party! Multiple times a week I’m meeting fellow trainees for lunch in parks. Friday afternoon drinks have become as regular of an event on my calendar as “coffee and catch up”. The trainees are getting to know each other personally as well as professionally which absolutely makes it easier to work together on our projects. This clearly is not the corporate setting which I imagined and if things ever do get dull, I can always have a cup of coffee and chat about the weather.

About the author
Name: Eric Bonet
Background: Civil Engineering
First department:  Buildings and Infrastructures


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