Younes’ Challenge: To become proficient in as many programming languages as possible

Younes just came back from the Middle-East where he provided support in the commissioning phase of a complete production line for cooking oil. “This region is known for its unrest,” says Younes, “I don’t think I would go there as a tourist. Nevertheless, I never hesitated when I was asked to provide support on location. I have been to the region four times now and really got a good sense of the atmosphere. It is beautiful and the people are very hospitable. They work very hard to rebuild the economy, this huge vegetable oil refinery is a good example of that effort.”

Younes works in secondment for an international machine manufacturer in the food industry. “With the automation of such processes, several machines and installations need to communicate flawlessly. For this project, I have automated the production process with Siemens’ TIA Portal. The refinery is the end-user of this product so for me it’s a great opportunity to be completely involved from the beginning to the end. The project will be coming to an end soon, then it is time to deliver the final acceptance test.”


Younes is very aware of the nice variety in his job. “Some days, I can easily work from home in Antwerp, other days I work at my client’s office in Brussels or I fly out to whatever city to provide support or after-sales on site for the end-user. That flexibility gives me a great feeling of freedom in my work.” Now that this assignment is coming to an end, Younes and his Operational Manager (OM) are discussing what his next project is going to be. “My OM suggested two different projects from which I can choose. One is with a pharmaceutical company that is growing very fast. In this project, I would have to determine and describe the automation specifications for the suppliers of new pharmaceutical machines. The new machines must be able to communicate with the existing production lines to guarantee continuity in the 24/7 operational plant. The other project is at a machine manufacturer for compressors and generators. They have in-house programmers who are writing new software for their products and they are looking for a trouble-shooter for the aftersales team.

“At ICT Belgium my curiosity is constantly encouraged and I really appreciate that. Because of that, this is not just any job but I really love my job.”

Making choices

“This is not an easy choice” Younes adds, “but I’m really grateful that I have a say in the matter. My OM is convinced that I will develop new skills on both projects and leaves it up to me which way I want to go. The project in the pharmaceutical industry will help me to further develop my leadership skills as a coordinator. The project with the machine manufacturer could really help me develop my professional skills. I could advance my knowledge of generic programming languages like C# and Java. For me, that is currently the biggest challenge in my work, I really want to master as many programming languages as possible. I am quite comfortable with industrial programming languages like Step7 and TIA Portal by Siemens or Rockwell’s RSLogix. It would be great to have the opportunity to focus on C# and Java, these are for software engineers the equivalent of English in the spoken languages. At ICT Belgium my curiosity is constantly encouraged and I really appreciate that. Because of that, this is not just any job but I really love my job.”

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Sarah’s Challenge: Make old and new installations communicate with each other

Sarah’s father introduced her at a young age to the world of electronics. At first, only to computers and software followed by analogue electronics. After her education, Sarah started working in software programming but she always knew that her real passion included the technology of hardware.

The choice for ICT group was made easily when she was offered the prospect of developing her professional skills in Industrial Automation. “I now work in secondment on a project in the paper industry, a plant that turns fibre into all kinds of high-end cardboard and paper products. Here, I get to work with the automation of electro mechanics, engines and hydraulics, but also smaller electronical systems, control technology, PLCs, HMIs, SCADA, I feel like a kid in a big playground. Right from the start, during the job interview, my curiosity was triggered and that drew me to this company. I really feel encouraged to learn and develop myself at ICT Group.”

Dutch company

ICT Belgium was founded in 2017 as a subsidiary to grow ICT Group’s business and secondment activities in the Belgian market. The Belgian branch has already grown into a lively organisation with many different nationalities. “The Dutch influence on the organisational culture is evident, especially the informal atmosphere. In general, Belgian companies are more hierarchical which can be pleasant for people who like clear internal work relations. However, I must say I have adopted the Dutch way and can really see the benefits. Everybody is very accessible and even management is easily approachable. It is important that employees reach their highest potential and are encouraged by means of the Dutch coaching culture to keep learning and move forward. The message is not ‘this is your job, just do it’ but they look at how your talents and interests can be fulfilled. Receiving a compliment is nothing out of the ordinary here. When a project runs well or the client is happy with the work, it is shared. That makes me enjoy my work even more.”

“I feel free to lay out my ideas when I think something can be done better and it is always taken seriously.”

Tech support

Sarah’s job is to help build a complete machine park for the papermill. “My role is to assemble information on the installations and about the different vendors, document how it everything works and interacts, from the arranging the fibres to rolling up the end product. I document the kinds of breakdowns and errors that can occur, how to diagnose these emergencies, and how to solve the breakdowns.” Currently, Sarah’s work consists mainly of tech support services. ”I’ve had a good day when I am called to a breakdown which we can solve rather quickly. Preferably without interrupting the production process. For me, that is a good experience as I learn how to stay calm when ten people report some emergency at same time. Without keeping your head cool, nothing gets solved, and I’ve learned that a little humour can help keep everything together.” An additional challenge in Industrial Automation is that modern programming languages like TiaPortal have to collaborate with legacy codes like Step7 and even Step5. “I can see where everything is coming from and at the same time where it is headed in terms of automation. Introducing modern systems and techniques is not always easy because in these big factories all machines, old and new, must be able to communicate with each other. I find that a very interesting challenge.”

Women in technology

More and more women are working in technology, but in practice the balance is still off. “During working hours, I meet women more often, not only in support roles but also as peers. For myself, I never really thought about it because from a young age I have always been the only girl interested in technology. After a while, gender is not an issue anymore as colleagues just want to know what I can contribute and if I can do my job. But the same goes for any new colleague. I feel free to lay out my ideas when I think something can be done better and it is always taken seriously. I am very happy with the outlook and the opportunities I am getting here.”

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Eric’s Challenge: plenty of variety in technical projects and job roles

Eric Gelders is a technical consultant with the Industry unit at ICT Group. He manages production automation projects as a lead engineer and facilitates the engineering team to find the perfect collaboration mode. “I fully immerse myself in the group of professionals and make sure all members can reach their full potential. The better the teamwork, the better the achievement and it is my goal to make everybody part of that. As a consultant, I often communicate with clients about technical and procedural matters, and since my language skills are quite good, I usually document the automation processes. In the future, I hope to develop my coaching skills and integrate the human factor even further in my work as engineer.”


Eric is an expert in Wonderware, a programming system specifically for industrial automation processes. Having had some years of experience in providing software training, at ICT Group another dimension was added. “Together with some colleagues, we developed an applied Wonderware training with a basic guideline for how we want to build systems. In general, engineers are quite inventive and will find a solution for any challenge they find themselves confronted with. But if each of us does their own thing, it will become very complicated to follow up on each other’s projects without compromising the high standards in quality we all strive for. Due to the increasing complexity of projects, it is evident that we need to apply a consistent approach to warrant the quality.” In the meantime, dozens of colleagues have been trained in the Wonderware guideline and clients are already benefitting from this method. “The best thing is that we haven’t taken away the autonomy of engineers and still reach an optimal implementation. It is great to make such a big step in professionalisation with the support of so many colleagues. Sometimes, I feel things aren’t moving forward fast enough, but I’m very pleased with these results.”

“Soon enough, I noticed that my talents and competencies were put to use.”

Work-life balance

“When I joined ICT Group seven years ago, my decision was based on the good work-life balance they stand for. In my previous job, I travelled the world for many years and I loved every minute of it. But my oldest child has just turned eight and I really wanted to always be there for my family. Nevertheless, I never feared a lack of professional challenges at ICT Group. Soon enough, I noticed that my talents and competencies were put to use. I’m being involved in recruitment activities, I counsel graduate students, and I’m working on a variety of projects. I’ve studied engineering, but psychology would also have matched my interests. At ICT Group, I have the opportunity to do both.”


“Just recently, a junior engineer and I delivered a major migration project for a client in the biochemical food industry. We’ve upgraded a Wonderware system with 80.000 I/Os (input/output data) 16 servers and 35 clients while the production plant was fully operational. Beforehand, we invested quite some time in designing a solid structure for the migration, resulting in a virtual flawless upgrade on location in only four days. Such a professional accomplishment makes me proud,” Eric says with a big smile. “In my experience, ICT Group offers employees a lot of space to pursue their professional interests. For me, it’s important to find a good mix between challenging engineering projects and other work. Other work refers to internal projects, the Wonderware training and recruitment activities. I also want to use my technical expertise as a senior project engineer and design systems as a technical consultant. It’s the variety that keeps me on edge and that is the reason why I’m very content with my job.”

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Eric’s Challenge: being involved from the beginning to the end

“As a Control Designer, my work consists of designing and implementing software for PLC systems. These PLCs operate large machines or installations. I am also regularly consulted when new hardware needs to be purchased. I’ve deliberately chosen this field of work because I enjoy to work hands-on and stay involved throughout an entire project, from the initial design until the final commissioning on site. I want to deliver the total package, a reliable solution for the client with which the end-user is best served.”

Maritime installations

“I’ve been working for more than a year now for a client in the maritime industries. It’s an international manufacturer of solutions for heat, liquid, and gas transportation. I’m posted with the department that builds inert gas systems for vessels and it’s my responsibility to manage the entire process in the gas installation from the PLC. The User Interface is another part of my job, every single detail of the process in this immense installation must be displayed flawlessly for monitoring purposes. I’m also designing the database that is linked to the PLCs to analyse the production process. This combination makes sure that the installation is continuously optimised. Originally, the project was supposed to run short term. However, the client had several other interesting projects waiting and they were very satisfied with the quality of my work. Therefore, I’m happy to still be here.”

“The best projects are the ones where I’m involved from the beginning to the end, from the initial design to the final commissioning.”

A variety of disciplines

“I chose to work for ICT because of the many different disciplines in which the company is represented. It is certainly not my intention to keep switching jobs and therefore I’m pleased with the idea that it would be possible to work in a different field without leaving ICT. It’s not an issue at this time as I am very content with my position at the unit Water and Infrastructure, plenty of new challenges available in the near future. ICT Group was the only employer who could offer this perspective when I was in the market for a new job.”


“I am really looking forward to do a project outdoors. That’s what you picture working at the Water and Infrastructure unit, being outside at a lock or in a tunnel wearing a helmet. My first project at ICT was an outdoors project at the locks of Terneuzen. ICT Group certainly has those great projects being the preferred supplier of Rijkswaterstaat, enough opportunities at hand. My OM (operational manager) is keeping an eye out to spot these projects for me. We are training a replacement for my current project as I would never leave a project without its continuity warranted. The support of my OM in this matter is very encouraging and I’m exited to be starting a new challenge soon.”

Personal development

“Another important reason to join ICT Group are the opportunities they offer. The personal guidance is quite intense and because of that, I’m more aware of my own professional effectiveness. I have enrolled in the Professional Leadership training through ICT Academy which will add significantly to my personal development. At ICT, I am encouraged to make the most of myself and use my full potential. The organisational structure that provides you with an OM, someone who keeps your best interest at heart while you’re posted with a client, works really well. My OM checks if I’m still enjoying my work, monitors my training needs and whether I’m ready to start another project. My OM also keeps me updated about social team gatherings coming up and company events that could be of interest to me. These activities are always enjoyable and very much worth my while.”

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Jeffry’s Challenge: Finding the perfect work-life balance

The work involved with data standardisation at Waternet is a daunting task, presenting quite a challenge for Jeffry Withagen and his family life. ICT Group understands the importance of ensuring the optimum performance of employees and is always happy to provide personalised advice to each employee to help them find the perfect balance between their work and personal life.

Jeffry has currently been contracted by ICT Group to Amsterdam’s water company Waternet as a Senior Control Designer, where he is jointly responsible for programming, advising and organising new standards. “We develop technical standards for four different water treatment plants and pumping stations with associated field installations. While working on this project, I became the project leader’s right hand. In this position it is my duty to provide substantial motivation as to whether a certain task, idea or standard should be implemented.”

Working from home

Jeffry enjoys a special arrangement which allows him to successfully perform his work at Waternet and spend time with his young family. “With a second child on the way, my mind is mainly on my family at home for the time being, so I am ever so grateful to be able to spend more time at home.” Jeffry works from home two days a week and at the Waternet offices in Amsterdam three days a week. “I am partially compensated for my commuting time, allowing me to spend more time with my son.”

“ICT Group came up with this solution together with their client. Thanks to their full cooperation, I can perform well both when working from home and at the office.”


Even though Jeffry is not in the office every day of the week, he is closely involved in the developments at Waternet, and is enthusiastic about the company’s transformation. “The water company is shifting from being a water supplier to an energy distributor. For example, there are various projects in which heat pumps are used to generate energy from groundwater. Process technologists are also constantly exploring areas for improvement, such as the recent process adjustment for the pumps between Utrecht and the treatment plant in Leiduin, resulting in annual cost-savings of several thousands of euros. Developments like these mean we also get to develop new standards and benefit from these improvements.”

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Twan’s Challenge: I’m aiming to become a software architect and work with even more complex matter

It’s a piece of cake to order a new pair of shoes or a book online. Nobody is surprised when the package is delivered next day. What it took to get that done is a fine piece of clever engineering and process automation. Twan works on a project for an international manufacturer of logistical solutions in warehousing and for luggage handling.

Process automation

“The project I am working on right now is an advanced shuttle system for warehouses. Shuttles, elevators and robots are managed from a User Interface to pick up the pair of shoes you just ordered from the webshop. Keep in mind a warehouse the size of several football fields in which these shuttles with little baskets on top are moving around on sort of a light rail track. No need for anyone to climb in the storage racks anymore and no forklifts riding around, resulting in significant time gain and virtually no errors. Subsequently, the pair of shoes you’ve ordered is packed, labelled and ready for distribution.”

Social events

During his professional career, Twan has worked for several different IT companies. “What I appreciate about ICT Group, is the informal atmosphere. There is no stiff-upper-lip culture or a rigid dress code, that would make me quite uncomfortable. Most people are very approachable, even management and colleagues from other business units. The company is quite dynamic and organises regular business and social events. Although I am stationed with a client right now, I would never miss a dinner with my team at ICT Eindhoven. I not only enjoy keeping in touch with my ICT colleagues, it is also important that they know what I am working on and what I am good at. That will help me find a next challenge when I finish this assignment.”

“I find a challenge in any new project, the more complex the better.”


“The client I work for now wants me to extend my stay. I really enjoy projects I’m doing here and there are several interesting challenges coming up, for example a couple of visits to end-users abroad. For me, that is like the cherry on the cake, being away in a different environment, solving problems, and a content customer as a result. The shuttle system will also be used at airports to temporarily store luggage for delayed flights. When a flight is late, the luggage can’t be boarded and needs to be stored safely without getting lost in the system. A reliable, short term and flexible storage solution for luggage is crucial.”

Software architect

Twan has been a Senior Software Designer at ICT group for two years now. “I find a challenge in any new project, the more complex the better. I generally work with C# and .Net to build a great variety of applications. I see myself as an all-round specialist who likes to be involved in all aspects of the process. It helps that I am curious by nature, can quickly analyse a problem and get to the bottom of it, and that I am solution driven. I am eager to keep up my knowledge of the field, I have taken all the relevant courses at ICT Academy. Together with my OM (Operational Manager) I’m investigating what could be the logical next step for me. My ambition is to become a software architect and deal with even more complex matter. ICT facilitates me to achieve my personal goals.”

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Hassan’s Challenge: If everybody says it can’t be done, I’ll keep looking to prove the opposite

Hassan has a passion for cars. At ICT Group, he combines this passion with another one: embedded software design. The automotive industry uses embedded software on a large scale to make cars smarter. “The challenge for embedded software designers,” says Hassan “is to create the best possible output with very little space, memory and processing power at your disposal. Everything needs to function in the best possible way and there are hundreds of plausible solutions. Only one is the best, and I really enjoy these kind of puzzles.”

Dutch directness

“When I started my job at ICT Group in 2017, it meant I had to move from my native country Egypt to the Netherlands. It took me some time to feel at home but I’ve really come to appreciate most of the Dutch peculiarities. One example is the directness for which the Dutch are famous. At the beginning, I didn’t get it, it felt so utterly rude. But after some time, I started to notice the positive effects of being straightforward. No misinterpretations, people know where they stand and what is expected, it makes everything much more efficient. I’m a hard worker and quite ambitious, the Dutch directness actually fits me like a glove. Now my family in Egypt has to get used to my bluntness,” Hassan says with a big smile.

“It makes me proud to contribute to the daily lives of people.”

International experience

“Graduating from university makes you knowledgeable in a way but in reality, you don’t know anything, yet. At my first job in Egypt, I learned a lot and gained some practical experience with AUTOSAR, an open software tool for ECUs (Electrical Control Units). At ICT, my first project was to design the embedded software for displays in high-end electrical cars. Our client was a major German manufacturer of smart technology for the automotive industry. After having worked on this assignment for almost two years from ICT Eindhoven and ICT Deventer, the client decided to assemble all design teams in a lab in Germany to gain some time. For me, it was a great opportunity to work in an international setting with colleagues from Germany, Romania, Hungary and China. This experience was enriching for me both personally and as a professional, something my colleagues at ICT will benefit from as well.”

Embedded software for car displays

“My work consisted of programming car displays for both the driver’s side and the passengers’ side. Who stops to think about the implications of making a plastic screen understand that the touch of finger means a playlist should begin to play or the temperature must be adjusted? But it takes some serious programming to make a screen smart enough to recognize the touch of a human finger, acknowledge the touch with an acoustic feedback and then generate the requested output. The embedded software design for the two ECUs I was responsible for, communicates data through the entire vehicle to make it as smart as possible. Most people have no idea how much software programming goes into automotive design, but cars can’t do without anymore. They wouldn’t be as safe, economical and comfortable as they are today. It makes me proud to contribute to that.”

Formula 1

“Nowadays, I work on a project for a Taiwanese manufacturer of displays. What makes this assignment interesting, is the fact that the client has no experience with AUTOSAR and I can share my knowledge with both the client and my ICT colleagues. We’re designing displaysfor mainstream cars on a smaller production budget. This requires even more creativity and solution mindedness.  That’s what I like most about this project, especially when my colleagues think it can’t be done within the planning and the budget. ‘Just leave it to me’ I’ll say to myself and will not stop until I have figured it out. It is my ambition to continue to develop my knowledge in embedded software for the automotive industry. I see Formula 1 as the pinnacle in automotive design and one day, I hope to work with the ICT team that’s involved with the development of F1 engines. It won’t be for my ambition or determination!”

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Diederik’s Challenge: Put my passion for technology to good use for as many clients as possible

Two years ago, Diederik came to ICT Deventer for his internship followed by a research thesis. He studied electrical engineering which was mostly geared towards knowledge of hardware systems. At ICT, however, the conversations he had with colleagues and his OM (operational manager) challenged him to take up embedded software design, something he also developed an interest for during his education. “I was mostly interested in LabVIEW, a programming language that enables engineers to write code. ICT offered me the opportunity to become involved in a related project. I enrolled in a few courses and earned some certificates, I think it is safe to say I’m a LabVIEW expert now.”


“In school, I learned a lot but I hardly knew anything. I learned very little about software programming, everything I know I learned at ICT. At the beginning, the learning curve is steep, not only professionally. The first thing I had to work on were my networking skills within ICT Group. The more people you know, the more you’ll hear about interesting projects that are about to start and could use an extra pair of hands. With this information, I would see my OM and she would get me in. In my experience, ICT offered me plenty of space to explore what I enjoy doing professionally and to become involved with interesting projects.”

Project on location

“My first big project was with a manufacturer of heating systems. I started with an assignment to validate the functionality of the new display, in particular the alignment of the protocol between the processor of the kettle and the processor of the display. Next was a LabVIEW assignment to develop the interface between TestStand and the test hardware. It was especially important to structure the communication with the hardware in a framework. And finally, I used LabVIEW to program a manual test application for the engineers of the Research and Development unit. I really enjoyed that assignment because I was making a reliable tool for professionals who will be using it everyday. The tool required a nice User Interface which is quite a challenge in LabVIEW. This programming language is made for practical use, not so much for aesthetic purposes.”

“My challenge is to make reliable software applications for our clients.”

Professional development

After a year of working on several assignments for the same client, Diederik wondered what else he could be doing at ICT. He made a deliberate choice to work for ICT because of its extensive project portfolio with renowned clients. “It is my goal to work on a wide variety of projects with as many different companies as possible. The variation will keep me sharp. My OM suggested to switch to a new project even before I could raise the issue. The fact that she is looking out for my professional development, makes me feel acknowledged as an employee and that’s nice.”

New challenge

Diederik is currently working on an a project with a manufacturer of production lines, seriously big industry. He is assigned to the Vision department of the unit that makes tire manufacturing systems. These systems carry camera’s to record the production process. “It is my job to make the recorded images interpretable. The software needs to be able to recognize a deviation in the application of the rubber strip beyond the allowed number of millimetres and initiate the appropriate action, i.e. stop the machine. I work in a Linux environment with the programming language C++, perhaps not very embedded this time. But I’m still programming with limited space and memory available, so the challenge is certainly comparable. Part of my job consists of making new applications for camera’s in new positions. Another part is the improvement of existing applications but the majority of my time is spent on providing support to end-users around the world. I have to go to Canada shortly to provide on-site support, another great opportunity I think.”


“My challenge is to make reliable software applications for our clients. It’s great to know that the R&D engineers of my first project are very content with the tool I made for them. I’m currently testing an improved version of the Vision software that will make the camera’s function even more stable and reliable. This kind of impact makes me happy. Moreover, I appreciate the opportunities for personal development at ICT and the guidance from my OM and Business Unit manager. The chance to work with LabVIEW, even without any experience, learning networking skills and how to communicate with clients, taking courses and workshops at ICT Academy, it’s all invaluable for my career. It take pride in the fact that day in, day out, I’m happy to go to work.”

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Danny’s Challenge: Exceed clients’ expectations with our self-managing team

Six years ago, Danny joined ICT Group after graduation and is still happy with that decision. For some time now, he and a couple of colleagues are being assigned as a permanent formation to big industrial projects. “Our team is interdisciplinary and self-managing which makes us agile and flexible. We usually manage a complete project, from the initial conversation with the client to the design and implementation of the software applications, and finally the test phase and commissioning. Clients are often a bit sceptical when we arrive without a project manager. But soon enough we’ll exceed their expectations and they’re convinced. Our team runs like clockwork.”

Tissue technology

The team is currently working for an international manufacturer of industrial solutions for pharmaceutical and nuclear medicine. The assignment at hand is a software application for an incubator that makes bone and skin tissue. “It’s not hard to imagine how precisely the production of tissue must be executed, a minor deviation in temperature or humidity can influence the quality of the product. We have designed an application that collects, saves and interprets all relevant data for the production process. As a result, the manufacturer of these machines can secure and guarantee the quality of the production process in which tissue is made to cure patients.”

Comfort zone

As a software designer, Danny has knowledge of both PLCs and the programming language C#. That makes him quite unique, not only within his team. “I will take on any challenge, stagnation simply is not an option. Technology is developing fast and I want to keep up my knowledge and be capable of doing everything myself. The organizational culture encourages a curious mindset, I don’t think I know any colleagues
who aren’t eager to learn new things. For this project, I have developed a new web application while I had never done that before. That’s how things are done at
ICT, you just learn how to do it. Not only with regard  to technology but also regarding communicative skills. There’s a first for everything, for example having your first conversation with the client or going on your first trip to China to solve some problems on site. Perhaps you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone, but the effort will empower you.”

“I will take on any challenge, stagnation simply is not an option.”

Sharing knowledge

“Another great opportunity,” Danny continues, “was teaching a course on TIA Portal by Siemens for my colleagues. I have taken many of the courses taught by my colleagues, how nice to share my knowledge with them in return. Some of my colleagues were still working with the old version of the software and were assigned to a project with the new software. The software optimizes all planning and processing procedures, and saves engineers a lot of time. I showed them the upgrades and how it works. The ICT Academy offers a wide range of courses taught by our own people as well as external trainers, both for your professional advancement and personal development.”

Success story

“The current project is in the commissioning phase, we only need to perform and evaluate the SAT (Site Acceptance Test). As a team, we will continue to work with the client on a new assignment. We’ll be making an application for clean rooms, an installation to work with radiation or bacteria. The gloves attached to the clean room may not leak. A device has been developed to test the integrity of the gloves and I’m writing the software for the single board computer that will assess and save the data in one central location. The best part of this new assignment is that the client was a bit doubtful about our team’s method at first, especially because we weren’t going to be on site all the time. Now, we’re being presented as a success story towards their Italian headquarters because we delivered on time and within budget, something not too common in IT projects.”

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Eric’s Challenge: learning by doing with startups

As a Business Development Manager Energy at ICT Group, Eric van der Laan is no stranger to the corporate world: energy companies, grid operators, and major industrial companies alike are considering our energyNXT platform in order to monitor – and where possible optimise – their energy consumption. “I deal with all kinds of complex technical and organisational issues that often take quite some time to resolve.

Adding intelligence to batteries

Eric continues: “That makes it all the more fun when you run into startups willing to work with us. One of these startups is iwell, a company that supplies batteries to housing associations and homeowners’ associations. The business case focuses on using one of these batteries to reduce their peak load and operate with a smaller grid connection. The investment usually pays off in six to seven years in the case of straightforward implementation.

But what if the battery is equipped with additional intelligence? What if you could closely match the supply and demand of energy and use a fully automated process to adjust energy purchases to fill the battery during off-peak times at reduced rates and reuse that energy at peak times when the price is high? What if apartment buildings installed solar panels on the roof, thereby adding a third source of energy? How much more could be saved in terms of carbon emissions and costs? “This is exactly what we configure and make transparent with our energyNXT platform.”

Learning by doing

“Working with startups gives me energy. That’s because iwell sees the potential and shares our enthusiasm. While partnerships with energy companies and grid operators can be highly successful – but it can also take quite a while before you can reap the benefits – startups can adopt an agile approach based on the mottos ‘trial and error’ and ‘learning by doing’. That makes working with startups highly inspiring.” Eric finds that they have a completely different energy level, pace and way of working than many major businesses. “And all things considered, it makes sense: they’re two different worlds – and I get to work with both, which is great.”

“Working with startups gives me energy. That’s because iwell sees the potential and shares our enthusiasm.”

Conceptual and practical challenges

Thanks to the various stages of a project, Eric has a very varied job, in which he faces all kinds of challenges. During the preparation stage he focuses on the conceptual challenges. The implementation stage can present practical issues, such as a meter’s response speed not being fast enough to use the battery at the right time. The next step is to tackle the conceptual challenges based on discussions, calculations and so on, which involves a great deal of desk work. Eric continues: “The practical challenges are best tackled using the previously discussed ‘trialand-error’ approach: let’s try this solution and see if it works. And if it doesn’t, we’ll just try something else. One of the great things about working at ICT Group is the tremendous amount of practical skills and knowledge we have available in our company; we’ll even take out a soldering iron if that’s what it takes to get the job done! I am supported at iwell by my colleague Leon Huijsdens, who knows a lot about both conceptual and practical matters – he’s basically my technical conscience.”

Win-win situation

“The Agile approach most startups use is a great match with our own processes at ICT Group. Similar to startups, we like to be quick on our feet. An added bonus is that we learn a lot from them, because the people at iwell and other startups we work with are extremely intelligent and know all about the latest technology developments. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned about different battery technologies just over the last year!” Startups are very keen on adopting an open and transparent mindset in their partnerships with other businesses. They always aim for a higher level and anyone is welcome to contribute. But startups can also learn a lot from ICT Group: how to produce robust and scalable solutions with wide implementation possibilities, what is involved in the administration of the solution in the long term, and how to be cost-efficient. Eric: “These are areas in which we can share our skills and knowledge with them – so collaborations with startups really are a win-win situation.”

Case study

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