The strong connection with sustainability and the environment is what brought Hilde Vandecruys (43) to VITO in 2018. Although she has no direct involvement on these topics, she contributes every day from the ICT department to an optimal working environment for research and related activities. ‘Ultimately, as a support service, we share a common goal with our scientists and researchers.’ Besides the content, Vandecruys also appreciates the frequent social contacts in her job, plus the variety, participation and opportunities to continue developing personal skills and influence your own career path. This makes VITO an exciting and pleasant employer, also for people in ICT. ‘They are very welcome here. We have several vacancies at the moment.’

Topics such as sustainability and environment, which are characteristic at VITO are also close to your heart. Yet those are not really things we associate with ICT.

‘They are more in line with my education at the De Nayer Institute in Sint-Katelijne-Waver. I studied bioscience en-gineering, specialising in environmental science. This has  interested me ever since I was young. For example, at  secondary school, I did my thesis on recycling and  composting. It was only later that I became interested in ICT. When I graduated as an industrial engineer in biochemistry  I continued with a postgraduate in ICT.

It was partly due to this ICT programme that I ended up at Pfizer in Puurs for my first job, a company that is now most famous for its coronavirus vaccines. There, I supported production as a project engineer. However, after five years, I was keen to do something more relevant to society. That’s how I ended up becoming an ICT coordinator at the Public Centre for Social Welfare in Mechelen. Then I worked for ten years as an ICT consultant. That involved lots of business travel, which meant I was away from home frequently and for long periods. In the end, this became a strain and I wanted a more stable work environment. I found that at VITO, and its strong focus on sustainability allowed me to engage again with my own personal values.’

ICT is one of the supporting departments at VITO. What exactly does your job involve?

‘We actually try to take the strain off our researchers and scientific colleagues as much as possible. We are continuously optimising their work environment and facilitating their activities. In this way, although indirectly, we contribute to VITO’s core activities. With our team, we make sure that digital environments and platforms work well and keep running smoothly. Also, we resolve ICT-related problems whenever they arise. As far as new digital challenges are concerned, we work with the colleagues in the relevant departments or units and search for a suitable and desirable solution. This means we were also closely involved in the selection and implementation of the new CRM system.

Something else I appreciate as an IT person at VITO is all the different technology. As well as supporting purchased packages, we also develop and programme a wide range of new applications ourselves, such as a track&trace system for parcels containing chemicals, which are destined for our laboratories.

During the coronavirus pandemic and mandatory teleworking, the ICT department was in the firing line. How did that go?

‘We were forced to go up a few gears. Just imagine: when coronavirus broke out, we weren’t even using Teams. Now, our colleagues use it daily. However, in the end, our activities back then were in line with the work we were already doing: namely providing the best possible support in the digital workplace. This remains our focus, even post-coronavirus. In doing so, we continuously track the ‘digital fitness’ of our colleagues, which can lead to targeted activities. But we also do smaller activities, such as our weekly ‘digital snack’ that we send out via the Channel V-intranet. For example, we recently did a short video, showing you how to activate the dark mode in Office 365, which is easier on the eyes.’

VITO has several vacancies for ITers, who are already in short supply on the labour market. So why should they choose VITO, just like you did back then?

‘The job variety here is a real bonus. And what you do has an impact. Just look at the tools that we developed ourselves: they are also in constant use. As well as impact, we are also able to participate. That was quite a different story when I was a consultant. VITO also takes care of its employees’ mental well-being. And gives them the chance for further self-development and to influence their own career path. This is supported by a stable working environment. Personally, I also really enjoy the many social contacts in my job. And yes, we are actually looking for some new colleagues – both ITers and data scientists.

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