Seizing the day - Sjoerd van den Brom | Heroes

Sjoerd van den Brom, General Manager Survey with Royal Boskalis, is passionate about his work and devoted to pushing at the boundaries of innovation and creativity.
Sjoerd van den Brom can't imagine what it must be like to turn up for work in the morning without enthusiasm or passion for the day ahead. He doesn't know what it's like to be bored by his job and only excited by a paycheck at the end of the month. Lack of dedication to the task in hand is simply not his style — and never has been.
“I couldn't live like that,” he says, sounding utterly bewildered that anyone would. “I'd have to find a different occupation. Because how do you motivate yourself if it's only about the paycheck? That doesn't work in my view. When it comes to doing your job well, your primary motivation should come from within..”

Driven by commitment

Sjoerd loves what he does. As General Manager Survey at leading global dredging and offshore contractor and marine services provider Royal Boskalis Westminster NV, he's based at the company's head office in The Netherlands, and is responsible for all in-house survey work. This puts him in charge of a team of 10 people in the office, 40 in The Netherlands, 110 worldwide and around 80 freelancers. Co-ordinating lots of different people and projects makes him a busy man, but that's just how he likes it.
“Passion runs through my career,” he explains. “I'm passionate about survey work and have a genuine interest in wanting to understand the science behind it. I don't want to do my job mechanically. I'm not here to push a button. I'm here to make sure the process goes well — and if I see a possibility to make it better or more efficient, I want to grasp it.”
At the start of his career, Sjoerd worked as a field surveyor on various international projects, including Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong. In 1995, he took a job as a surveyor for Boskalis Netherlands and was the first surveyor to have a permanent desk within the organisation. Over the years, he's taken on increasingly senior roles until, in 2014, he was given his current position heading up the (inhouse) Survey team. “It was decided that Survey was so important to the company that it should become a department on its own,” says Sjoerd. “And I was the lucky one chosen to lead it.”

Empowering safety at work

When Sjoerd needs to find competent and experienced survey personnel, Atlas Professionals is one of the agencies he contacts. “They fulfil our needs and we have a good relationship with them,” he says. “Atlas is an important supplier for us. There are a number of competences that survey personnel need in order to operate on projects — and Atlas makes sure those boxes are ticked for us.”
While Atlas Professionals operates its Zero Harm policy to boost safety presence and awareness for all personnel, Royal Boskalis has developed its own safety initiative called NINA (No Injuries, No Accidents). “Traditionally safety is about following rules,” explains Sjoerd. “But in our world that doesn't always give you the required outcome. NINA is different in that it makes people responsible for their own safety and their colleagues' safety. It makes them think before they do something and observe others around them; and if they see something that isn't safe, it helps them feel empowered to do something about it.”

Well-aligned philosophies

NINA is a good example of Royal Boskalis's focus on innovative thinking. Indeed, the company often talks about 'creating new horizons'. Is this what Sjoerd is trying to do in his job, too? “To me, 'creating new horizons' means we undertake challenging initiatives and projects that haven't been done before,” he says. “We do that by doing things in a different way or with innovative new solutions.”
The success Sjoerd has enjoyed over the years has simply been a byproduct of his love for Survey work and wanting Boskalis to advance. “On a number of occasions I've been at the right place at the right time, and had discussions with the right people. Luck plays a part in that. Of course, it's hard work, too — although hard work isn't really hard if you're passionate about it, because then it becomes fun. And I've been lucky to work with a company that has the same philosophy as mine. I like that we're all trying to do something on the edge of what is technologically possible, while keeping innovative and creative.”