"Diversity of the work – that’s what gives me a boost"

Sjors Braam is a Junior Scientist Integrator at the Networks department of TNO. He enjoys the variation in his work and the fact that hierarchy never stands in the way of cooperation. He gets energy from the fact that his role in the organisation can go in any direction.

“At Networks, we provide connectivity, wireless or wired, and in any domain. The basis is making connections, ensuring that people can link up. We are involved in this at all levels, from close to the user to the physics in the network. At which level do I work? I am everywhere! Currently, I am doing about eight projects at the same time. In each project, my role is different or I work in a different domain. Sometimes I am really in the network. Then I deal with mathematical models and create network simulations. Sometimes I am on the business side: talking to customers, looking at which technology has added value for them. So not just one task and then repeat the same trick endlessly. There is one technology that really appeals to me: Open RAN. It's still a bit of an oddity, but it has a lot of potential. Of course, open source has already been widely developed in the Linux and Android worlds, but now this idea is very slowly starting to gain a foothold in the world of mobile networks. The ultimate goal: generic network hardware on which you can run any software you like. Together with various colleagues, we are now looking at the opportunities that Open RAN can offer the big three operators in the Netherlands. But it can also be interesting for smaller private networks. Think of a festival for which you want to scale capacity up and down very quickly. We are in the early stages, but are working on a lab set-up that will enable us to put sceptics in their place. Why not drop soon and see for yourself that it works!”

TOTALLY ACCEPTED FROM THE VERY FIRST MOMENT

“I studied electrical engineering in Eindhoven and graduated at TNO. So I had been around for a year before I actually started working here. I stumbled across TNO through a guest lecture on 5G. I was immediately enthusiastic and made an open application for an internship. It then transpired that there was also room for me to graduate at TNO. No, they did not suggest their own subject! They just said: come up with your own graduation topic, as long as you make sure it is interesting for yourself and for us. That was also an important reason why I wanted to work at TNO: as an intern you are included from the very first moment as if you are working here. You attend all the meetings in full and so immediately get a foretaste of how the organisation works. There is a relaxed atmosphere and little hierarchy. If you want to ask an important question to an expert with 17 years' experience in the subject, you can just approach that person. It is not for nothing that my fellow graduates have all decided to stay, they liked it that much.”

DISCOVER WHAT YOU LIKE DOING

“It is now two and a half years since I graduated. So what are you going to do then? Not that you know what’s nice to do! That is the great thing about TNO: you are not only given room to do what you like doing, but also to discover what it is that you actually like. I recently started a project on glass fibre, for instance. It is in the ground in various places, but it’s not really successful. What is the reason for that? A nice question to investigate. And I have become project leader on two projects - another new role in which I can indulge myself. Even during graduation you sit down and talk with your manager once a month, and that continues when you are employed. Very accessible. And in my experience, problems are often solved before they even arise.”

CREATING THINGS TOGETHER

“I like it best when I can make a difference together with my colleagues. Of course, sometimes it is nice to be able to work alone for a few hours. But creating things together is what gives me energy - and preferably something that seems impossible! My role in the organisation now goes in all directions: theoretical, practical, commercial. Since the summer, I have also been the head of our commercial team. I like the diversity. And it also makes me stronger. Maybe I'll look at it differently in five years' time, but right now I love it when I open my mailbox on Monday and see: hey, what exciting things await me this week. No two weeks are the same.”

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