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Lisette Atsma: how a Korean and Asian Studies alumna became an ICT specialist

She studied Korean and Asian Studies and, four years after graduating, is now working as a specialist for an ICT secondment company. This is the story of Lisette Atsma’s career (27).

You read everywhere that there is a host of job vacancies in ICT, but can you also work in the industry without formal ICT training?

“Yes, it’s possible. Secondment companies will train you themselves. You need to be smart and critical and a quick learner, and preferably have some experience with ICT. I ticked those boxes. I grew up with video games and I felt like I had a feel for them. Already at six years old, I used to help my brother when he got killed in a video game or couldn’t get to the next level. I just kept trying all the possibilities until he was able to progress. I also gamed quite a bit during my studies, with fellow residents and in the hall in the Pelikaanhof. We heavily influenced each other. We used to play Left for Dead and Raving rabbits, for example. I also gained some experience as a teenager by changing the styling codes of the website Livejournal - which allows people to keep a journal online – to expand the layout. I was exposed to the language of computers in this way. And whenever something was wrong with my PC, I figured things out myself.”

During a work trip to the US in 2016

How did you get into ICT?

“After graduating, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I did all kinds of jobs to earn money. From a grant applicant, to a home care provider and from a postal worker to a campsite employee in France. I also wrote several commissioned papers. I hadn’t even considered earning my living in ICT as an option until I saw friends getting jobs in the sector without specific training in the field. A friend worked at Sogeti and I decided I would also give it a try. I applied for a Java-related position, but was hired as a test engineer.”

Does that mean that you work in companies and institutions to test whether new software and applications perform as intended?

“Exactly. A major revolution is taking place. It used to be that a client said what they wanted, and the programmers would build it. Once that was finished, or nearly finished, testing began. With agile working, it is now a different story. Now, construction already begins before the client knows exactly what he wants. You actually begin with half an idea. The work is split up into small projects that are tested separately. If something doesn’t appear to be working, you don’t have to break everything down, but can just devise a new solution. This working method offers a lot of flexibility. Agile working also plays a role in testing. Testing is now automated, with software checking whether the applications up for testing are working properly. This is much faster and more efficient.”

Lisette

What do you like about your work?

"You meet lots of people, mainly because you are always working at different companies. The work is creative and my background knowledge of both writing and graphic aspects is widely deployed. I have a good eye for detail, which means I can sometimes surprise people. That is of course nice as well. And because, with your position, you always have a good overview of the project , you're always there to help.”

Where have you been seconded so far?

“My first client was a start-up that launched the Tickr platform. After that, I worked on a project at the Public Prosecutor’s Office, involving the Integrated Criminal Procedure System. The authority is located in Utrecht and not in The Hague, which is great for me since I live in Amersfoort. Of course, distance to your place of residence is considered, but if you have a specialisation and a client requests assistance on the other side of the country, a hotel will be booked. Since January, I have been working at Centraal Beheer insurance in Apeldoorn, a rather pleasant distance from Amersfoort.”

Who: Lisette Atsma, graduated in 2013; the photo below is from 2008.
Study programme: Bachelor’s in Korean Language and Culture, Master’s in Asian Studies
Student association: member of Duivelsei for a short time
Favorite location in Leiden: “The English pub North End. I regularly went there with a group of friends to grab some beers.”
In love, engaged, married...? “I’m currently single. I rent an apartment in Amersfoort with two other people. Even there, it is difficult to find affordable housing.” Sharing the costs means I can save a lot.”

Do you want to keep doing this work?

“Yes, but I am also thinking about the future of course. I am now busy training to become a Full Stack Developer, which is on the development side. At Centraal Beheer, I helped in the development of their website and found it fascinating. I began the training programme in July and I will finish the theory portion in November. I then have to complete a project, which can be integrated into my work. Both my employer and I are investing in this training programme. It is actually rather challenging to study another 12 hours a week on top of your regular 36-hour job, but it feels a bit like a hobby. Ultimately, I would like to start my own company.”

One of Lisette’s hobbies is archery. “No, I’m not very good, but I am improving slowly.”

What was your student time like?

“A lot of fun. I really enjoyed living on my own for the first time and then meeting the study challenges... The people I lived with at the Pelikaanhof are still friends of mine and we meet up regularly. We’re going to a restaurant in Utrecht together next week. We stay in contact through WhatsApp and are planning our first weekend away together.

What did you learn at Leiden University that you still benefit from?

“Asking critical questions is definitely something. But above all, I learned how to learn. At high school, everything came to me pretty easily, but at university, I really had to buckle down. I learned how to plan and do work that wasn’t my favorite, which is part of a language degree. Now that I’m studying again in addition to my work, I can use these study skills very well.”

On 2 October, Lisette Atsma was ‘Techgirl of the week' in the online magazine Techgirl. If she gets the most votes, she will become ‘girl’ of the month, and possibly Techgirl of the year. But, she says, it’s also fine if someone else gets that title.

(CH)