‘Being a real team as the new Executive Board would make 2019 a success for me’

The holidays are approaching, and so is the turn of the year. What will 2019 bring us? For this series we asked four TU/e people about their view on the new year. What goals are they setting for themselves, and what dreams do they have? In this article: the new vice-president Nicole Ummelen.

It was a well-kept secret until mid-September, when a press release was issued announcing that TU/e will have two new faces on its Executive Board in 2019. One is a top European official in Brussels and will become president, while the other is the current university secretary. The latter will take up the position of outgoing vice-president Jo van Ham on 1 January.

Nicole Ummelen (1968) seems relaxed and is clearly looking forward to her new job. The word 'connecting' is often used, reflecting on the near future. As a director, she skips the classic '100-day introduction'. That is not for her. “I don't think in terms of boundaries.”

What do you hope to achieve in 2019?

“First of all, I want to make a good start on the implementation of our new Strategy 2030. This year, a lot of positive energy has gone into this and we must retain that flow.”

“My key word? Collaborate! I see a lot of room for improvement. Think of the connection between departments and services. Between the services themselves. But also between OBP (administrative and support staff) and WP (academic staff). I would advocate a greater understanding of work that happens outside of your own field of vision. And: make use of each other's knowledge and strengths. The walls between operating entities and between people should simply be reduced.”

“For me personally, I want to begin my new role as vice-president well. I'm currently doing a lot of reading work. Not that I'm a devourer of dossiers, but I do

How will we hear from you in 2019?

“I find that difficult to say. It will take some getting used to. I am used to operating from the wings and now I am more often in the spotlight. It will be different. What is important to me: I want to maintain informal contact. Yes, I will become a director. However, I want to make sure that the distance is kept within bounds. Regardless of whether I am vice-president, I want to be able to talk normally with colleagues about each other's work. Eating a sandwich or drinking a beer. I think that is the way to keep in touch with the organization. I have to be able to see how policies work out and are being experienced without only hearing it in formal meetings. (laughing) Just write down that I will do my best in that regard.”

What would make 2019 a success for you?

“That as a new Executive Board we are a real team. In a relatively short time, we will say goodbye to two very experienced directors and I hope that we can learn a lot from Jo van Ham and Jan Mengelers in the coming months. I want us to be there as a new trio. That's quite exciting: I know now that we click with one another, but you don't know how it will go when we come under pressure or suddenly disagree on content. What is it like to manage together then?”

“It will also be different in private. 'Mama is becoming a director'. My sons were immediately very enthusiastic, but it does mean that I will work more often in the evenings and during the weekends. We need to find a new way of doing this, a good balance between work and home. In addition, my eldest is about to make his study choice, which is really exciting. I can now see in practice what we at TU/e come up with to interest and attract students. A nice process to experience.”

What do you wish for all TU/e students in 2019?

“First of all: as a human being, I wish everyone lots of luck, health and success. Two things are extremely important within this: the right work-life balance. Workload is an issue that keeps appearing on the agenda. I sincerely hope that people are brave enough to choose what really matters. If you are well balanced as an individual, then you are happier and more effective in all other areas. I think it's important that we help people to find that balance. Just believe me: saying no is really not a bad thing. Sometimes people just have to wait a while.”

“Secondly, I hope that everyone will find their way in the new Atlas building. That will be quite exciting, all together in such a large office landscape. Acclimatization will be necessary, for sure. On the other hand, you will meet colleagues from all kinds of TU/e services and that is of great value.”

“Oh, and what do I wish for myself? I want to take a really beautiful trip with my children next summer. That's the top priority. And if possible, also one or two nice music festivals, something like Best Kept Secret, or the Early Music Festival.