The story of Stephan van den Broek
‘Pushing technological boundaries is what excites me.’
‘After finishing my studies in Aerospace Engineering in Delft, I started my career as a Stress Engineer in the Aerospace industry. While I started in specialistic technical engineering roles, I quickly experienced that the coordinative and interactive nature of project management appeals to me. For me, the real magic happens when working on complex technological challenges with multidisciplinary teams and developing integral solutions - this gives me tremendous energy and satisfaction.
In my role as Project Manager at the unit High Tech Industry at TNO in Delft, I lead projects in two domains: Space Systems Engineering and Smart Industry. My role requires interacting with the team and a diverse group of stakeholders. I regularly check in with the team on progress, plans, needs and challenges, and make sure they are provided with everything they need to perform optimally. I strive to anticipate or address any tensions, issues and setbacks that might occur. And of course I keep stakeholders informed on budget, progress, risks, and resource needs.
From laser systems to AI
One of my current projects focuses on the development of a highly complex optomechatronic laser satellite communication system for Airbus Defence & Space. Here, I work with a multidisciplinary team of experts. Whereas for the project AI-MATTERS , in Smart industry, I am leading a wide spectrum of experts from various units within TNO, as we are working alongside 25 European partners in a consortium to stimulate the development and adoption of AI technologies by the Dutch and European manufacturing industry. Focus areas are: operator support systems, factory-level optimisation, flexible manufacturing, digitally connected supply chain, and circular economy.
The learning never stops
I really enjoy working with experts in so many different fields and being exposed to such an abundant variety of scientific knowledge. The learning never stops! Moreover, I get a great sense of fulfilment and pride from knowing that the scientific solutions we are developing at TNO are aimed at helping society – and do so every day.
In my experience, having a strong technical background is advantageous for a Project Manager at High Tech Industry. The better I am able to understand the – often complex and highly technical – challenges of the team, the better I can anticipate issues, perform risk management and help the team perform. It is all about keeping the fine balance between stakeholder needs and interests versus workload and feasibility.
Since we are pushing technological boundaries for our customers within the unit High Tech Industry, customer wishes often evolve in the course of a project. As project manager in the Unit High Tech Industry, it is therefore particularly important to stay sharp that customer wishes are kept accurately reflected in the contractual scope of work. With that, scope management is one of the most important and challenging responsibilities of project managers in our unit.
Make the difference
When it comes to project management, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is up to me as Project Manager to select the most suitable approach to a certain project or challenge. That can make the difference between success or failure.
TNO is active in a vast amount of domains and I have freedom to take on the projects to which my interest goes out most. A career at TNO is mostly what you make of it, with enabling support from your manager. There are opportunities aplenty to take on interesting projects, if you explore and engage pro-actively within the organisation.’