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Kai Jonasson

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Robert Schippers

Age: 35, Group geotechnical helpdesk manager, VWS Geotechniek, the Netherlands

This article is also available in: Dutch

My love for the profession has grown
I have been involved in soil and foundations since my work practice and I never want to do anything else, says Robert Schippers. He is a member of a select group of people belonging to VWS Geotechniek, the geotechnical knowledge and information centre and the helpdesk of VolkerWessels. Schippers describes the centre as a safety net for difficult cases.
The knowledge of soil and foundation engineering was distributed around the sister companies and subsidiaries of VolkerWessels. The geotechnical engineering bureau was established to increase the level of cooperation. On request, we examine design specifications and evaluate the risks, including the financial risks. The bundled knowledge is available centrally, because it is a great waste to repeatedly reinvent the wheel.
Schippers worked for seven years as a designer for Visser & Smit Bouw in Papendrecht until he started the bureau with two colleagues five years ago. Now there are eleven in the bureau.We do things that don't occur every day. And that makes the work so great. We operate as a group of people who share knowledge with each other. That makes the company less dependent on individuals. By sharing knowledge we create flexibility up to a certain knowledge level.
My first attempt to gain a diploma from the higher technical school wasn't a great success. So I then attended an intermediate technical school during the day and went to the higher technical school in the evening. I did my work practice for Visser & Smit Bouw in my home town of Papendrecht.

Room for creativity
The managing director probably saw that I was a pusher. I had set my sights on creating things underground. Moreover, I found work practice to be extremely instructive. When I became a permanent employee, I learnt to make the required calculations and I also found learning about the daily routine outside on-site to be very valuable. And then I decided: I'm going to do this for the rest of my life. There is lots of room for creativity in this profession.

working towards European harmonisation
Robert represents the Dutch foundation sector on behalf of the NVAF in a CEN group which operates in writing a harmonized European code for testing geotechnical constructions such as piles, anchors, nails, etc.