in the workplace

“No two days are the same on my traineeship at TNO”

24 May 2017 • 3 min reading time

From research into new solar cells to assignments for Rijkswaterstaat. As a TNO trainee, you get to work on a range of projects in three different TNO departments. Lucinda Kootstra and Aleid Oosterwijk are very enthusiastic about their traineeships at TNO. “We would very much like to stay on and work here at TNO.”

Lucinda Kootstra, 27, is a consultant in the Climate, Air and Sustainability (CAS) department at the TNO site in Utrecht. This is her first day in her third department. Lucinda took a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in applied physics at Delft. Aleid Oosterwijk, 24, has been working at CAS since early February - this is her first trainee period. Aleid studied mathematics and physics in Utrecht. She then went on to do two Master’s - one in mathematics; and the other in meteorology, physical oceanography and climate. She considered doing a PhD in both. “But that means you have to commit to one subject for four years,” says Aleid. “While on a traineeship you can work in three different departments.” Lucinda adds: “I deliberately chose a TNO traineeship, because the work at this organization is more closely related to real-life practice and is socially involved.” Aleid nods in agreement.

“I am now doing new research for TNO. It means that I, a trainee, will become one of the two specialists in this field at TNO. Unbelievable!”

Trainee Selection Day

Towards the end of their studies, they submitted a letter of motivation together with their CVs. “I also had to pitch myself in a short video,” recalls Aleid. They were both invited to the Trainee Selection Day. “It was an intense experience, but it was also a lot of fun. I started with a group assignment. There were also two discussions and you had the chance to put questions to current trainees.” Lucinda adds: “During the group tasks, your communication, collaboration, creativity and other skills are observed.” Of the 25 participants, around nine progress to the Assessment Day. This is organized by an external company and consists of intelligence and personality tests, individual interviews, and a group assignment. After this day, four to seven of the participants can start on their traineeships.

“When I started in the Sustainable Urban Mobility and Safety department, I knew nothing about mobility. So it was all very exciting!”

Working as a project manager

TNO trainees spend three periods of eight months each working for various departments. For the first period, you are placed in one particular department. However, you get to choose which departments you work in during the second and third periods. You can also change role during your traineeship - scientist, project manager, consultant, or business developer. Lucinda started as a scientist in Eindhoven and carried out research into new perovskite solar cells. “The work was an extension of my studies. My second period was in the Sustainable Urban Mobility and Safety (SUMS) department in Delft. At the time, I knew nothing about mobility. So it was all very exciting! I worked on various projects, serving as a project manager on two of them. For example, I worked on assignments for Rijkswaterstaat and the Rotterdam City Council. I had a really enjoyable time at SUMS. No two days were the same. For me, it’s clear - I would like to stay at TNO.”

“For me, it is clear - I would like to stay at TNO”

TNO Academy: sharing knowledge with professionals

Trainees work 3.5 days a week for their departments. A day and a half is reserved for the traineeship with trainee projects, workshops, coaching, peer reviews, and initiatives such as projects for other departments. Aleid and Lucinda know each other from the trainee group: “There’s an open atmosphere and the working relationships with other trainees are very important for your personal development.” Lucinda continues: “On these trainee projects you are working on very different subjects to those in your own departments. The most interesting thing as far I was concerned was the question of whether there should be a TNO Academy for sharing knowledge with professionals. Together with five other trainees, we spent six months investigating what form such a TNO Academy should take. Part of this work involved a visit to the Fraunhofer Academy - the German TNO, if you like.”

Research into nanoparticles

Aleid, too, knows that she would like to stay at TNO. Using an air quality model, she is currently researching the interactions of nanoparticles in the atmosphere, among other things. The research is closely related to her Master’s degree. “This week, I am flying to Finland with a TNO colleague. We will be attending a workshop there, entitled ‘Analysis of particle flux measurements’. Fluxes are flows. This is new research for TNO. It means that I, a trainee, will become one of the two specialists in this field at TNO. Unbelievable!”

“The most interesting thing as far I was concerned was the question of whether there should be a TNO Academy for sharing knowledge with professionals. We spent six months investigating what form such a TNO Academy should take”

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