Meet our CEO: Bas Kerkwijk

Thursday 29 February 2024
Meet our CEO: Bas Kerkwijk

Since January 1, 2024, Novel-T has a new foreman: Bas Kerkwijk (52). This brings a renewed energy to the office. We introduce him in this interview.

Welcome to Novel-T! How did you find us?

Bas: “Last year, I participated in the GROW program with my previous organization, Flexiramics. That's how I got to know Novel-T better. During the program, we analyzed whether we were doing the right things appropriate for our phase. This showed that we had to make significant adjustments in some areas, and that caused me to reflect on my own role and future in the company. I have been in business for 25 years, but I noticed I was less interested in merely pursuing business goals. And because I'm a real ‘Tukker’, I wondered how I could contribute differently to the region I love. Then, the vacancy at Novel-T came along, which fitted in perfectly with my background: I know what research is, and I used the TOP scheme to start a business and learned from it when that business failed miserably. Moreover, I know what it is like to be in business, both corporate and SME, and a spin-off of MESA+, and to help develop such a spin-off into a full-fledged company. So the pieces of the puzzle fell together.”

So then we received your application.

Bas: “Not yet. The feeling that I wanted to do it was immediately there, and my other half also thought it suited me. But it's quite a step, so I went on holiday first. When I came back, I was still enthusiastic and attended Enschede Slush'D. I found that incredibly inspiring, making it clear that I wanted to take this step. Then, you received the application. During Jaap's farewell reception, I looked at the organization and the people there with a completely different view.”

What was it like for you to be at that reception knowing that you might be Jaap's successor?

Bas: “Very exciting, but I was still very early in the application process. There were all kinds of high-ranking figures from circles that I had no relationship with then. As a result, doubts set in for a while. “Can I do this?” You know, that 'imposter syndrome'. But I also know that discomfort is part of stepping out of your comfort zone. And with results, of course! Fortunately, my first introduction to the team was not frightening at all, and my new colleagues welcomed me with open arms. Moreover, walking up the steps of my old faculty again felt very familiar: just like coming home.”

You've been on the job for two months now. Does it feel like home yet?

Bas: “Two months? It sometimes feels much longer than that. So yes, I definitely feel at home, although I still have much to learn. That's why I spent a lot of time listening and observing. I have already discovered that I get to work with a great group of people. During the introductory meetings with all colleagues, I mainly focus on who sits opposite me. I want to know what makes everyone tick. I think that attention to people is really important.”

It's interesting that you emphasize the team so much. That is precisely what Jaap was going to miss the most. In his farewell interview, he also advised his successor: “Cherish what is there, but be critical of what is not.” Have you already discovered something that is missing within the organization?

Bas: “I completely agree with his advice; it suits me exactly. Fortunately, I have not yet encountered anything that made me fall off my chair, and I already see great challenges in the field of operational excellence that I can work on. Novel-T is a growing organization at a tipping point where we need structure. That depends on discipline. Not to limit things but to work more effectively. When you want something and agree on something with each other, I think it is important that everyone sticks to those agreements. If you find out that doesn't work, make a new appointment. You need discipline and structure within an organization; around that, you can be flexible and enterprising, which is exactly what suits Novel-T. I sense the will of everyone in the team to go for it 100%, which means that we can achieve a lot together this year with small adjustments. So I'm curious to see how far we can go.”

That would be a great next step for our organization. What other ambitions do you have for Novel-T towards the outside world?

Bas: “Novel-T has its roots in Twente, and it is imperative to keep them here. Everything we do must ultimately benefit Twente. That also means that we have to look beyond the region's border. Colleague Tim de Kraker put it very succinctly: 'Sharing knowledge is also power.' That's how I see it. Sitting on your own island doesn't work; you must share knowledge with others. That is why the collaboration with, among others, the 4TU and REACH is crucial. Collaborations ensure that you cultivate goodwill and ultimately accelerate impact. So, I also want to expand that further on the way to our BHAG. The egos can stay aside. My basic attitude is that I assume the good of people and have an open attitude. In this way, I would like to lead the way for and with Novel-T based on our annual theme 'Accelerate Impact Together'.

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