Interview - Wenny Raaijmakers

Wenny Raaijmakers, Plant Manager at Organon in Oss


‘The breadth of the degree program I took still helps me every day’

In 1999, she entered the Organon premises in Oss for the first time, to start working in supply chain management after graduating and earning her doctorate at TU/e. She never left. Today, 22 years later, Wenny Raaijmakers (50) is Plant Manager at Organon. A woman heading a company that is active in women’s health; Organon produces medicines and other health solutions, and thus contributes to making the lives of women around the globe better and healthier. Wenny likes that.

Born and bred in Nistelrode in the province of Noord-Brabant (‘my parents still live in the farmhouse I grew up in’), in 1989 Wenny decided to study at TU/e. “I wanted to study something technical, but wanted more than just that. I ultimately chose Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences. It took me some time to get used to the university culture initially, but once we formed groups and started working on projects I started feeling more at home. And I still have good memories of our field trip to Brazil. I still have contact with some of the people on the program. When ‘our’ Pavilion was demolished, we met up and went out for dinner together.”

Specialism
Once she graduated, she started working towards her PhD. “I considered myself too much of a generalist, and my PhD allowed me to specialize more. I was Jan Fransoo’s first PhD student. My PhD research was about supply chain optimization in the batch process industry, a field of study somewhere between Management Sciences and Mathematics. This was a lovely time, even though I did discover then that I’m not really a researcher.”

 

Opportunities
Once she had graduated and completed her PhD, Wenny started working at Organon in a supply chain position. After eight years, she felt the lure of the company’s high-quality manufacturing side, and started concentrating more on this aspect of the company. “The reason I’ve been here so long is that I was given every opportunity to develop in whatever direction I felt drawn to. The physical production aspect has always appealed to me a lot. You make something, and you actually see what it’s good for. In our case, it’s good for the women who use our medicines and health solutions. The fact that the production process is so hectic also appeals to me, as does its varied nature. You get to discuss all kinds of things on a single day – from operational problems in the factory to a strategic investment worth 50 million.”

Breadth
Along her path through Organon, Wenny has now reached the position of plant manager. This is work that she does with enormous pleasure and pride. What aspect of what she learned at university does she find useful in her job as plant manager? “The breadth of our degree programs; I can talk along when it comes to financial matters and consult with process technologists or the HR manager. What’s more, in addition to knowledge about processes in my field of expertise, I also have a feel for the human processes: what is it that motivates people, what works and what doesn’t, how do you run an organization? Besides this, I also always use my analytical skills. I have become a generalist – partly through my training and partly through experience. I’m in charge of a factory in which eleven hundred people work; there’s no way I could still remain a specialist doing this job.”

 

Looking ahead
From the supply chain to being manager… is there anything left for you to look forward to in the future? “I’ve been doing this for three years now, and I think I’d like to do it for about another two years. Someone else can take over then; that’s something I find important. A company needs a breath of fresh air every so often. What I’ll do after that? My youngest son is 14; something international might be nice in a few years. Working abroad perhaps? I have also followed the training cycle for supervisory directors at Nyenrode and am now a member of the supervisory board at SNB, a company involved in the processing of sewage sludge. This is tremendously exciting – and completely different from what we do at Organon. Who knows, I might take on more supervisory directorships. Besides this, I especially want to do work that is relevant to society. I’d like to mean something to other women, for example. In what form I do not know yet.”

Heroes
On the subject of the theme for TU/e’s 65th anniversary ‘Heroes like you’, Wenny is unassuming. “Me? Not really. I meet so many individuals that impress me as people I could learn from. People who really inspire others. I only hope that I can do that too.”

 

About alumni

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 via: alumni@tue.nl