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Out of your comfort zone: the next level

Blogger: Floor van Riggelen • 06 Jul 2017

Applying for the job as trainee at TNO, I was perusing the website of TNO. I found out that TNO has an office on Aruba: TNO Caribbean. The work done there is about subjects that strongly interest me: sustainability, renewable energy and implementation of innovations in society.

The project that caught my attention in particular is Smart Community Aruba: sustainable technologies tested in real life circumstances  in a community with twenty houses. This (plus the fact Aruba is an island with about twice the number of sun hours per year compared to the Netherlands) made that I knew at which department I wanted to work, even before I was hired.

Once I started as trainee, I found out that none of the trainees before me had gone to work for one of the offices abroad. But someone has to be the first, right? So I started talking about my ambition with several people: the trainee manager, my fellow trainees and the director of TNO Caribbean (among others). After more than a year of investigating, talking, organizing and with a lot of  help, everything was set for my Aruba plans. It turns out a lot is possible at TNO if you have the right motivation and some persistence. Something I appreciate a lot.

Now, when I am about to return to the Netherlands after working and living on Aruba for six months, I am looking back on a great experience. I have worked on a project that suited me well: doing research on the influence of the tropic climate on the performance of solar panels, in preparation for Smart Community Aruba. I have enjoyed it a lot, it gave me the opportunity the to expand my knowledge and skills and I got valuable results.

Some trainees go out of their comfort zone by trying a type of work that they are not familiar with, such as project management or business development. For me it was everything surrounding the work that was new, different and challenging. For example, the team working on Aruba is smaller than most of the departments in the Netherland and is working on a broad spectrum of topics: from solar energy to waste management and from sustainable building to algae technology. This means that there is about one specialist per topic. Working in such a team, I had to learn fast: by trial and error and mostly on my own. Another difference is the culture. Aruba is an island of very friendly and polite people, where a Dutch direct and efficient (or rude and nagging, depending on your cultural background) approach is not always appreciated.

All in all it was a very nice and valuable experience, during which I learned a lot on a professional and personal level. I would not be surprised if at some point I will return to this ‘One Happy Island’.

About the author

Name: Floor van Riggelen
Background: Physics and Astronomy (BSc), Liberal Arts and Sciences (BSc) & Advanced Matter and Energy Physics (MSc)
First department:  Nano Instrumentation
Second department: Electronic Defence
Third department: TNO Caribbean

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