Interview - Kjille Hoeben

Just as Formula One is the cradle of innovation in sport, so alumna and entrepreneur Kjille Hoeben sees the broader sporting world as a driver of technical innovation in general. The winner of the Marina van Damme grant dreams of a future in which she is helping startups. Alumna Kjille Hoeben is constantly maneuvering herself out of her comfort zone. She was doing it while still a TU/e student studying Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, as she aspired to a career in elite sport, and today this habit is helping her to forge ahead in her work as CEO of start-up myTemp. As always, the common thread running through all she does and takes on is sport.

 

Kjille Hoeben enters Atlas and is at once struck by how the building - called Hoofdgebouw (Main Building) back when she was studying Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences - has undergone a metamorphosis. “It's so vibrant, it's buzzing with life,” says the alumna, full of admiration.

Her recent contact with the university has made her keenly aware that entrepreneurship is now strongly encouraged among students and employees. “I could have done with that in my time,” says the CEO of startup myTemp. “Back then the focus was on going to work for a big company after you graduated. I wanted to start my own business, be free to make my own choices, and I would have liked to have learned more about that pathway during my student years. I had to discover so much for myself and I've certainly made mistakes, still, they are your best teacher.”

She is keen to share these life lessons picked up en route to running a successful company with TU/e students who are themselves keen to start a business. “I would like to be involved with startups related to sport and technology. I can offer coaching and help them find the right network that will act as a springboard.” 

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

And so, via The Gate, Hoeben has been coupled with a fledgling company set up by a student of Biomedical Engineering. “We're still getting to know each other, but he is a terrifically smart young man with appealing ideas. I am impressed by his drive and how high the standard is here, how much infrastructure there is to support enterprising students. That's a great step forward. I certainly didn't excel in technical and engineering subjects, and I often wondered whether I belonged here. Now I know we also need people who have the ability to build connections and to apply technical knowledge. And that's what I'm good at.”

Hoeben doesn't like to beat about the bush. She is open and can be painfully honest and critical about herself. “I think I'm a classic example of someone with imposter syndrome,” she says. This is where successful people put their success down to luck or the right timing, or the fact that others believe them to be smarter than they themselves feel they are. “I'm aware that by thinking this I'm selling myself short; and the glass ceiling is created by me, not by others. I've had so much help from men who have supported me in my career. It is up to me to break the traditional pattern.”

SPORTS INNOVATION

This help came early on in her career, when she followed up her degree with a position at Brainport, in Sports & Technology. “I was forging links between knowledge institutions, companies and the sporting world. The aim was to use sports innovations to help athletes while also giving the region an economic boost. I'm good at seeing the connections between disciplines and at bringing people together. At Brainport I had good teachers in Hans van Breukelen, Cees van Bladel and later at InnoSportNL George de Jong. I learned so much in those years and met so many people, even now I'm plucking the fruits of that period.”