Academy Job Shadow Days Report

Jindra Kessener at NIOO

Jindra Kessener, Head of Personnel & Organisation and General Affairs at the Academy Bureau, visited NIOO.

I call Jindra while she’s cycling to her next meeting at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO) and getting some fresh air at the same time. Super-efficient of her!

How has your day been so far, Jindra?

Great! Really, really great.
So, you’re thinking of switching careers and becoming an animal caretaker?

No, I’m highly allergic to animals. But it’s been a fantastic day. First I met Marcel. I think he was only supposed to welcome me, but in fact we spent an hour talking about the changing nature of work. I then shadowed the people who look after the birds. Then Ciska took me to the lab. That’s where they analyse soil, air and plant samples. And then I helped Christa splice genes!

Splice genes?

Yes, that was really amazing. NIOO does a lot of research involving the Parus major or great tit. But because young fledglings can’t be fed by human hands, the researchers put just-laid eggs into nests outside the institute so that ‘real’ great tits can feed them once they hatch. After ten days, they round up the ‘foundlings’, but nobody knows which fledgling belongs to which parents. And that’s what they use genetic research for.
Jindra suddenly falls silent. Have I asked the wrong question?

Here I am. Sorry, I had to listen to the route planner. Where was I? Oh yes, birds also play an important role in the institute’s research on climate change. Birds are highly adaptable in changing circumstances, and they generally choose the right time to migrate or lay their eggs. Using that information, the institute can learn a lot about changes happening in the world.

I certainly learned a lot today. But the most important thing is that all this work is people work. You can do your best to organise everything, but ultimately it’s the people who make it happen. Feeling safe, having a good atmosphere at the institute, the Academy spirit: it’s all down to the people.

Another thing is that a lot of the work at NIOO is technical in nature. And so much has changed in that work over the past twenty or so years. That means that analysts are constantly working on self-improvement. They’re very important transmitters of knowledge in an environment like NIOO. They train the new research assistants and postdocs and so they have years of experience using all sorts of methods. Analysts are given a lot of responsibility and autonomy at NIOO. They continue to evolve and adapt to new circumstances.
Got any final tips for us?

Let’s take more time for each other. From one institute to another, and from institute to Bureau and vice versa. Visit each other and really listen. Person to person. It doesn’t seem urgent, but it is important. Listen first, and then make policy.
Thanks, Jindra! Now keep your eyes on the road. And enjoy your next meeting!