In People of ASTRON we share stories about the people at ASTRON. Who are the people behind the discoveries and innovations and also, who are the people that make sure that everything runs smoothly? In this second part of the series, we’ll be sharing the story of Jorrit Siebenga, who joined ASTRON in 2017 as research instrument maker.

Published by the editorial team, 5 August 2020

What was the happiest moment in your working life at ASTRON?

My career at ASTRON has only just started in 2017. Still, it is a challenge to name only one single moment. I think in my job, the fun is in the little things rather than in the big achievements. Modelling, programming and manufacturing parts and assemblies. Seeing things work out as you intended, and ending up with a physical self-made end result is a joy which reveals itself nearly on a daily basis.

But certainly, completing a test setup after weeks of building, finishing a large scale model of the Dwingeloo telescope or getting offered the opportunity to proudly illustrate your role and tasks within ASTRON to our King and Queen last September are surely some examples worth mentioning.

Which person was the most important in your career?

After successfully completing the Leiden School of Instrument Making, I was personally offered a job by our country’s best known watchmaker Christiaan van der Klaauw. I was his first employee, and his workshop was equipped exclusively with conventional machinery. Within a few years, me and my close colleague Gregory upgraded the workshop and improved the quality, complexity, and production numbers of the astronomical complications of the wrist watches.

For that period of time we worked together very closely, but particularly kept each other on our toes on quality and innovation. We made sure we both performed to the maximum of our abilities. At the time, I foresaw a bright future in watchmaking for the both of us.

Things took a whole different turn however, when in 2016 I decided to leave the company, and two years later Gregory passed away unexpectedly.

I still profit from his outstanding mechanical excellence today.

When continuing my career at ASTRON, I was a bit shocked to discover that I had been isolated in a niche industry for almost ten years. My general knowledge of production techniques and general mechanical skills had faded into the background a bit. To help me polish and shape those skills (pun intended) I am thankful to have Sjouke Kuindersma around. With his broad making skills I got offered the chance to quickly broaden my horizon, and to develop myself professionally more quickly and more efficiently.

Jorrit Siebenga (credit: ASTRON/Ewoud Wasse)

What was your inspiration to choose this field of work?

Ever since I was little, I took joy and satisfaction from making. Blocks, Legos, trains, miniature making, scale modeling (in chronological order) led me to choose an educational path towards making things. At the age of 17, I discovered the above mentioned school. After completing the Higher General Secondary Education, I wanted to get my hands dirty and decided to enroll.

But specifically this field of work? A loose interest in astronomy originated when making astronomical watch complications, and triggered me later on to commence my career with ASTRON, when I saw the job offer.

Why did you choose for ASTRON?

Mainly the well-equipped workshop was a clear trigger for me to accept the job offer. Once started, the friendly colleagues, relaxed atmosphere and excellent caring and involved employer were a bliss. The delightful natural surroundings of the Dwingelderveld National Park is a very welcome bonus; the first thing I do when I get out of the car when arriving at work, is take in the fresh pine forest air. There is no better way to start your day!

What does your day look like?

Most days I am awakened by either one of my two sons (age 3,5 yrs and 12 months), exact time differs per day. After a quick breakfast with our family, I bring both to day care twice a week.

A 45-minute drive from our home near Heerenveen, Friesland to ASTRON is a well-appreciated moment to relax and listen to music or a podcast.

Once at work, I have a cup of tea and discuss the upcoming tasks with Sjouke. Each day is different, with one being occupied with programming and guiding CNC milling jobs, and the other one discussing, modeling and making 3d-printing designs with requesters from all across the building.

During COVID-times, this routine has only been different for a few weeks in March and April. Fortunately, due to the nature of our work, we returned to Dwingeloo at the end of May. A regular working day is already nearly the same as before the start of the crisis. (with ofcourse lesser colleagues around)

After returning home at around 5.30 PM, I prepare dinner and after the kids-to-bed-rituals, I enjoy a short walk with my girlfriend, do some home or garden improvement, or play some acoustic guitar.

That’s about it!


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