21 June 2022

Tata Steel Spotlight: 15 questions with Jolanda Van Beek

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We caught up with Jolanda Van Beek, Senior Product and Process Technologist for Protact®, to find out about her role at the Tata Steel site in IJmuiden, Netherlands.

Jolanda Van Beek

What is your current job title and how would you describe your job to a group of children?
I am a Senior Product and Process Technologist for Protact®. In my job, I make sure we consistently produce the right product, of the right quality, every day. 

How did you first learn about Tata Steel?
I first learned about Tata Steel during my university degree. We visited Tata Steel as students. After my graduation (I studied Biomedical Materials/Polymer Science), I first joined a plastic film extrusion company, and I worked there for over eight years. Then I learned about the Protact® project within Tata Steel as my boyfriend had already been working for Tata Steel for a decade – and it turned out they had an interesting vacancy for me within this project.

How has Tata Steel helped you in your career development?
I started as a process technologist more than six years ago, which was not a senior position. Working as part of the Tata Steel team has really helped build confidence. I’ve been in this senior role now for coming up to five years and we experience a lot of responsibility early on at Tata Steel which helps push us to perform to our best capabilities.  This is a very supportive group of people, and so as the demand and volumes for Protact® are increasing we find more pressure on good performance. But we succeed as a team and this pressure keeps us sharp. 

If you could swap your job with anyone else within Tata Steel, whose job would you want?
What I like at the moment is that our job here is related to the last stage of production, which is the final production step before the product is shipped to the customer.  We respond to what the customer wants; when we know what they’re doing and how our processes affect their processes, the theory behind Protact® is applied practically and I find this the most interesting. So, I would find it interesting to spend some time as part of our Customer Technical Support Engineers to understand even better our customer’s needs. 
I’m also working with a team on educational lessons for high school and this is engaging too. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise with others; however I do not see myself as a full-time teacher!

What advice would you give a school leaver?
I would advise students to look at different companies to see what kind of roles are available. My university was very active in organising company visits, which helped to get a clear view of job perspectives and experience. In my opinion this makes it much easier to find motivation – to have a vision of a job in the future that you are actively working towards.

What do you find the most challenging? 
Giving myself enough priority; taking enough me-time, rest, set boundaries. I think self-care is something we’ve all come to recognise the importance of, during the pandemic.

What gets you out of bed in the morning and into work?
The very enthusiastic and motivated group of colleagues I work with are a huge motivator. They all come to work every day with a very positive mindset to improve our processes. I also feel very responsible in my job, so I always see room for improvement in what I have done so far – and you have to get up and show up to do that. 
I also like the day-to-day technical side of my role - the problem solving. There is never a dull moment. I made this move to Tata Steel from a R&D role which felt like it was based too much in the long term, where it was harder to see the application. Here, we are much closer to the customer which is much more satisfying. 

Has Tata Steel and the company ethos changed over your time at the company?
I see more and more focus on customer requirements – so, listening more to customers’ needs and improving to meet those needs. Customer focus is one of our main drivers.

What has been your favourite project at Tata Steel –what are you most proud of?
Since I joined Tata Steel, I am part of one big project: the introduction of Protact® production in IJmuiden. The journey is still ongoing, and we are still making progress every day in further improving our processes.

What would you like to achieve in your next 10 years?
At the moment I see the biggest personal challenge to me is balancing my job and private life with two young kids. As a team we’ve looking forward to more growth and volume for Protact® as demand rises. I am motivated to achieve and deliver, and I hope that in 10 years we may have very efficient processes. 

Just for fun:

If you could do another job in another industry for just one day, what would it be?
In my next life I would like to be a doctor. I worked with some medical products in my last job and in university I worked with materials applied to medicine (hip replacements for example). Protact® is used in food safety, and so still related back to what is used and consumed by the human body, so this is a definite interest of mine. 

What’s your favourite activity or hobby outside work?
I started mountain biking two years ago – although in The Netherlands we don’t have so many mountains! I try to bike every weekend and then during my holidays I’d like to try some trails in other regions of The Netherlands. I enjoy walking and biking with my kids, being outdoors in general, as well.

What is your favourite book? What’s a fun fact about you that people may not know? 
At the moment I am reading a range of books and online articles for gardening tips and ideas because I recently became the owner of a vegetable garden.

Where is your favourite place to travel?
I have travelled to many places in Europe but also further abroad. Those travels were great experiences. But spending time in the mountains, for instance the Alps in Austria, is one of my best holiday experiences. I like skiing, but also hiking in summer and autumn is great, enjoying the nice weather and beautiful scenery.

What skill do you think everyone should learn at school?
Languages are an important life skill, especially English of course. I have worked for a German company, where English has been used – so for students here it is very useful. I also think we should centre more education on applied subjects. Theory is all well and good but teach in context which practical applications that bring subjects to life - connect them to jobs and life. This is how young people will engage with more enthusiasm. 

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