Stories#036 Leon's, Michiel's and Arno's talent development

#036 Leon's, Michiel's and Arno's talent development

The story Edwin's nutty plans is a story of Leon's, Michiel's and Arno's talent development

HR manager Leon Steenbergen, coordinator of the Education and Research Office Michiel Bresser and head of finance Arno Jonkman, all work at the faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth observation (ITC). Their fields of expertise differ considerably, but diversity is one of the main ingredients for great collaboration. Assistant Professor Creative Technology Edwin Dertien tries to find out what other things help building good working relations.

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Monday 21 June 2021

Discovering together

Edwin: ‘I have the honour to interview not one, but three colleagues. What would you say is your greatest common denominator?’

Arno: ‘Development has been an important overarching theme for us recently. We have organised talent sessions with all our employees. If we have a good overview of all of our in-house talent, we can also see where there is still room for improvement and we can optimally value and motivate our people – so that they can thrive. We decided against organising talent sessions per team or department. Instead, we organised them across the entire faculty. It is nice to see that employees got to know themselves and each other better and now know where to find each other. We also took a closer look at ourselves. And in order to reinforce other types of personalities within our team, we had coaching sessions.’

Michiel: ‘The Shaping2030 expert group Individuals & Teams, for which I got the chance to provide input, really recognises and appreciates employees and their talents. This includes guiding principles such as safety, trust, diversity and inclusion. How can we guarantee that UT is a working and learning environment that does not exclude anyone or create barriers, but offers possibilities and opportunities? Does everyone here feel invited and challenged in a pleasant way? It’s super interesting to think about these things.’

Edwin: ‘ITC is the most international faculty of UT. What do you think of this work environment?’

Michiel: ‘About 95 percent of the students come from outside the EU. And I estimate that about half of the staff members are of non-Dutch origin. Many of the people we work with have different backgrounds, are from different cultures and bring different views and ideas to the table. That diversity is fun and dynamic.’ 

Leon: ‘Our mission is to strengthen the knowledge and skills of students from developing countries, so that they can improve organisations in their country of origin. Which is great.’

Edwin: ‘Indeed! Do the students see it that way too?’

Arno: ‘ITC students are usually slightly older than the average UT student and often already have a job and a family. It’s a huge opportunity for most of them that they can come to the Netherlands to study. And yes, you can notice - they are very passionate.’ 

Michiel: ‘They often have a grant for two years. Most of them graduate within that time - it is not really possible for them to take longer. By the way, I see the same enthusiasm among teaching staff. They want nothing more than to teach their students something of real value, with which the students can help improve their village or city. A number of ITC alumni have even become ministers in their home countries. This drive motivates us and our colleagues enormously.’ 

Edwin: ‘I bet that’s very nice for an HR manager to see and hear.’

Leon: ‘It certainly is, because my aim is to improve employees and through them the ITC education and organisation. I set the bar high. From my own conviction – and because it’s possible to do so here.’

Edwin: ‘How do you do that?’

Leon: ‘For example, I always look beyond the standard CV when filling a vacancy. I look for people who like to try new things, come from a different world or work environment. I wouldn't be quick to hire people who have completely mastered a specific task. Would you want to make someone dean again who has years of experience of being dean? No, I would much rather choose the associate professor who wants to continue as dean. That particular person will go out to discover, will have real drive and courage – and hopefully add a dose of creativity.’

Edwin: ‘Ha, the latter really appeals to me of course! No diversity without creativity. Arno and Michiel, do you recognise what Leon says?’

Arno: ‘I think so. I had quite a bit of the requested experience, but controlling was new to me. Still, I was allowed to work as head of finance. Especially in the beginning I had to figure out a lot myself. I could not fall back on experience I had picked up before. That was quite nerve-wracking, but mostly very interesting. It forced me to question: why are we doing particular things and in what way? Leon will agree: a fresh perspective is not only educational for yourself, but also keeps your colleagues on their toes. And the entire organisation benefits from that.’

Leon: ‘Indeed so.’

Michiel: ‘I also took the plunge, in a way. I did have managerial experience, but the education world was completely new to me when I started here. I really appreciate that I was given that trust and responsibility. I also experience plenty of encouragement to develop myself. For example, I am now getting a master's degree in public management at UT in order to gain new insights and skills on management in the public sector. When you work here, there’s always an opportunity to learn new things.’

Edwin: When do you feel satisfied at the end of a days’ work?Leon: ‘When I feel energy flowing. When I get my team as excited as I am about something, when I have been able to plant a seed during a brainstorming session or when a meeting has provided solid ideas on paper; that makes me very happy.’

Michiel: ‘I like to work on something as simple as my overdue emails. But I really enjoy speaking to everyone on the team again – about work or anything but work. Corona made me realise how important that is. It is fun, you get to know each other better every day and it helps cooperation.’

Arno: ‘I feel the greatest satisfaction when I successfully complete a project together with others, and we managed to take down a few walls.' 

Leon: ‘Do you know what is also important for a good day? To take a break and finish on time. Take that moment between 12 and 1 pm, walk outside for a while. And if you are sitting behind your laptop at 8 in the morning, unplug by 6 pm at the latest. Oh yes, and regularly share what's going on with your colleagues. We start the day that way – so we never run behind.’ 

Edwin: ‘Great tip to conclude this interview with, thank you!’


is a Creative Technology lecturer, researcher and creative robot designer at the Robotics and Mechatronics department of the faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EECMS). At UT and beyond, he works on robots for industry, healthcare and the art world. He is also co-founder of AssortiMens, a creative-technical workplace for people with autism.

After his degree in business economics, Arno Jonkman continued his teaching career with a master's degree in Accountancy at Nyenrode University. In addition to his education, he gained work experience as an assistant accountant, auditor and audit manager. In 2019 he became head of finance at ITC. At the end of March 2021, Arno switched to Eshuis Accountants and Advisors, where he is now a senior manager.

Leon Steenbergen studied human resources at Saxion Hogeschool in Enschede and then worked as an intermediary at Randstad for two years. He then switched to Royal TenCate, where he went from HR advisor to HR manager. Dubai was his place of employment for six years, after which he worked in England, France and Denmark. When he found out about the ITC vacancy for HR manager in 2017, which explicitly asked for international experience, it was easy for him to make a decision.

Michiel Bresser came to Enschede twenty years ago to study business economics. Besides a five-month internship in Sri Lanka, the UT city of Enschede has always remained his home base. He was a team manager at Essent, worked in recruitment at Xerox and started as the coordinator of the Education and Research Office in 2018. The Education and Research Office (BOOZ in Dutch) supports and guides students from their enrolment up to and including their deregistration, with non-academic issues, as well as provide support to the educational programs.