Interview - Nicole Segers

Nicole Segers, founder TalentCaching

'It has never been easier to be important in the world'

At TU/e, Nicole Segers was an architecture student who was always interested in psychology and the human side of design. Now, many years later, she is still using what she learned at university as well as her enthusiasm for moving people forward. But no longer in architecture. Nicole's life now revolves around laughter, splendor and making the world a more beautiful place.
Talk to Nicole and you feel that enthusiasm and creativity are in every fiber of her being. You can't help but become joyful and enthusiastic yourself. She talks infectiously about how her career started at TU/e, and how it developed – actually following a very logical path – to where she is now.


Building for people
"I began studying Architecture at TU/e in 1992, majoring in architectural design. I was good at math and drawing. I saw engineering as a means and prerequisite for good architecture. I wanted to acquire the know-how to make a good building. At the same time, I had always been interested in psychology. The two things fit well together; after all, architectural design and building is what you do for people. For children who build a hut under the stairs in their house, or for dancers who want to get the best out of themselves in a dance academy. I wanted to bring that human side into my designs. You can't have one without the other, I think. That's why I took both technical and psychology-related courses within the study program Innovation Sciences "

Different way of thinking
What Nicole finds most valuable about her studies at TU/e is the way of thinking that you are taught. "You are encouraged to think in a different way than the one that might be obvious. Switching gears in your head, looking at other possibilities. My student days were so rich and I was inspired by so many people. It was a home, nice and cozy. It widened my world. I went from being a teenager to becoming an adult."

After completing her studies, Nicole went on to earn her PhD in 1999, and as part of that, she addressed the question: How can you use a computer to support the architect in the creative process? "Virtual reality and 3D was very much in at the time. I explored how those techniques could be supportive in the design process. This brought together many fields of study that interested me a lot: semantics, creative cognition, CAAD systems (computer aided architectural design), computer science, design systems, psychology and architecture. I also found out then that I have a nose for new things. Something that still comes in handy today."

Through a project on ‘the language of the city’, Nicole landed a job at architecture firm and software developer De Twee Snoeken. With a small team they developed tools for interactive, inspiration and co-creation processes by and for the city. In 2008, she worked briefly as a business developer ("that's where I was paid to brainstorm") and sustainability coordinator at Heijmans where she developed a dozen concepts for sustainable real estate development. It was only then, while collaborating on the vision around sustainability, that she discovered how important the subject was to her.

All this experience came in useful in the development of a new Landscape Design course, in the Geo Media and Design study and Innovation Class graduation topic (HAS-wide) at HAS University of Applied Sciences. She again drew inspiration from the Innovation Class. "I saw how students from all kinds of studies in the Innovation Class harnessed their passion and talent to start working on their own innovations. Such an innovation process really brings you face to face with yourself. Then I thought: this shouldn't just be for students. This is a process that everyone deserves! I'm also going to start for myself. That led to the company I have now: TalentCaching. That step to self-employment was also made possible in part by the Marina van Damme Grant."

In TalentCaching and the things she and her companions do there, everything comes together. Not only the design side, the human side and sustainability but also Nicole's enthusiasm and creativity. How? She helps people from companies and organizations who are in the process of transitioning to sustainable operations, and ultimately to a sustainable society. A positive perspective. "It has never been easier to be important. And is it difficult at the same time. If you save someone, you're a hero. But to my mind, anyone can be a hero. Maybe not right now, but by engaging in transition to a more sustainable world, you are actually a hero for people in the future."

Serious games
Making the world a more beautiful and better place, then, requires change. But change can be quite difficult for many people. This is precisely where Nicole's company provides support. "I design and make serious games along with other creative work forms to make it easier to get people on board with a transition. Our processes ensure more results, movement and involvement in change processes. They give employees and change leaders the tools and perspective for tomorrow's change task. My starting point is always 'sustainability with a smile'. After all, you always want more of those things that put a smile on your face. Having fun together when playing a serious game, for example, allows you to let go of your role in your organization so that you are freer to gain new experiences, knowledge and ideas. I also try to place people not 'in their strength' but 'in their splendor': that which makes everyone a wonderful person, your essence. When you bring that to the surface, you start living and allow your personal leadership and your unique talents and goals to enable you to make the world a wonderful place."

Psychological side of change
That may sound a bit tame, but it works, Nicole says. "If as a company or an organization you pay attention to the psychological side of change, the chances of a successful transition are greater. People become inspired and motivated. We see this happening during our serious games. A lot of interaction, fun and involvement occurs. People really want to get started."

Nicole and her companions are already working for super clients, such as Johnson & Johnson in the Benelux. But their methods and processes can also be used, for example, for network meetings, team building, coaching programs or information meetings. Nicole enjoys her work, and is always thinking of new things, new concepts, new designs. Does she have any more dreams for the future? "I always want to achieve a good experience: something that stays with you. I hope that with TalentCaching we are able to take on many more great assignments in the (near) future. And that I can continue to be involved in giving a listening ear to people and bringing together different viewpoints. So that more and more people get and take the room to make the world a more beautiful place."

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Alumni of TU/e are all heroes, each in their own way. Some are more visible than others, but all are equally valuable. Many alumni still have a warm relationship with the university. They stay connected. Some give guest lectures or share knowledge by coaching students, for example. Others give a donation that contributes to research or talent development. In this series of interviews, we seek out alumni and ask them the following question: how did TU/e shape you into the person you are today?

Do you want to contribute to our alumni network or do you have suggestions for us? Please, reach out to us.