Make it feel less like work

Make it feel less like work

12/05/2023 - 14:53

In 2018 he graduated in Logistics Engineering, he put his heart and soul into his work and suddenly it was over. Tom Ouwendijk on pink clouds, the path too-easy and new energy.
Logistics NL
  • Stories

‘For four years I worked day and night. Not just my morale, but that of the entire team was sky high. It felt like a school project, in a positive sense, I mean, it did not actually feel like work at all. It gave me a huge boost to be able to work with such a dedicated team on something so cool, to really make an impact!’

Making an impact with? (for the readers at home, you are so enthusiastic about your story ;-)

‘A solar-powered electric car!’ Tom seems to glow when the topic is raised. ‘I was working for Lightyear. The co-founders of this start-up were TU Eindhoven students. They had just won the Solar Challenge in Australia and wanted to convert the prototype into a consumer product.’

That does sound cool. How did you get there as a logistician?

‘I had stuck with ASML after my graduation. I worked there for a year as a Production Planner, but in the end that did not feel right to me. Then you start asking yourself, what do I really care about!? Sometimes you have to pause to find out. And I ended up with automotive. I got to Lightyear through a recruiter. The team, the vibe, the culture, it all felt so good right from the start!’

What did you feel?

‘When you are engaged in something that does not feel like work, you can move mountains. That feeling. I had it during my studies too, when I worked on projects with other students. I am really a feelings person, and the feeling of going for something together, achieving something together, that was strong in the Lightyear team. Going to Katwijk in the middle of the night, which was in June 2019, because we wanted to prepare everything for the presentation of the car. Things like that.’

We all know how it ended, the start-up went bankrupt. How did this impact you?

‘Five days after the birth of my son, which was last January, we were asked to join a call. There were 700 of us in that call, so you already knew. But the fact that the project was terminated completely, that hit hard. At Lightyear, I had more friends than colleagues, we had worked very hard, and when things do not work out, it hurts. There was still talk of a relaunch for a while, but the collective spirit was broken, I think.’

A new episode for you?

‘Within two or three weeks I had found something else. I was able to start as a Supply Chain Coordinator at Prodrive Technologies. I was going to work with some people I knew from Lightyear and I already knew the company through my time at ASML. In retrospect, it may have been too easy. But hey, I saw an executive who was excited about my personality, so...’

A pink cloud after dark cloud?

‘I was still on that pink cloud anyway after the birth of my son. That is why I allowed myself an extra month off before going back to work. So that dark cloud has definitely brought me something good too, I have had over four months of paternity leave! How posh is that!?’

You already stated, maybe too easy a path? What happened at Prodrive?

‘I discovered very quickly: so, this is reality. At Lightyear, I lived more in a fairy-tale world, I now realised.’

And what did this reality look like?

‘I worked extremely hard, often ten hours a day. No big deal, I did the same at Lightyear. The difference was, I did not feel it. That says more about me than about the company, by the way. The number-oriented nature of the job just did not suit me as much. What I was working on did really matter. I was responsible for the materials that go into all finished products, but I did not feel it. To me, it felt like I was analysing the same data every day.’

Surely it was not a careless choice, logistics. I mean you graduated from both secondary vocational education (mbo) and a university of applied sciences?

‘Yes, and I am not saying I do not like logistics either, do not get me wrong. But I need to be in a more people-oriented position. Of course, the numbers are important, look at Lightyear, but I prefer to focus less on that. I have since discovered that I enjoy conveying something. Maybe I will end up teaching, in any case I want to help young people. That is what gives me energy. And if I can combine this with logistics, that would certainly be nice!’

How did you find out you wanted to go in that direction?

‘Together with a Job Coach, I found out that the social side suits me. But of course, I already knew this at Lightyear. That is why I said that the move to Prodrive was too easy. At Lightyear, we worked a lot with students. Often first-year students from TU Eindhoven who earned a little extra in the evenings working with us. I selected those students and mentored them. That is how I discovered that this really suits me. I know very well how to make those boys and girls work very hard.’

You laugh, but I think you mean it?

‘I think I have a good sense of it all, yes. Of course, the students at Lightyear were also really motivated, they thought it was super cool to work for such a start-up, but they were also still very malleable. I introduced them to logistics and procurement; I think it was a very meaningful experience for everyone. And that is how I would like to continue. I think it was all good for something, for me personally, I mean. I now know where my strength lies.’

How do you envision this? Say you are a Logistics lecturer. What would you do differently?

‘In the lion's den, now I have to be careful...’ Laughs. ‘The corporate culture in logistics is often business and numbers-oriented. Find out if that suits you. That is what I would especially emphasise. I want students to think about what they really want to do. I want the students to uncover that for themselves; it is not just about the theory. Not that BUas is just about cramming theory, far from it, maybe I was just not sufficiently involved myself. To managers in logistics, I now say: include that social side too, build your team. The trick is to show to your team the impact that they are making together with their work and to make it feel less like work.’

Interview by Maaike Dukker-'t Hart