'UT really needs to take a step towards simplification'

| Peter Koehorst

We work together almost every day, but how well do we really know our colleagues? U-Today is curious about the personal stories behind the support staff and features them in this section 'On the spot'. Speaking is leadership and talent specialist John Winter (55) from Hengelo. He will be saying goodbye to the UT at the end of the year.

Who is John Winter?

‘Let me start at the end: as a specialist in leadership and talent, I will conclue my career at the UT at the end of this year, where it started in 2001 as a senior hr-advisor at what was then called technische bedrijfskunde. After that, I had various hr roles, such as hr manager at the BMS faculty. Particularly notable was the establishment in 2008 of the Career Development Center, of which I am the founder. In all the roles I had at the UT, talent and leadership have been a kind of common thread.’

‘But now, after 23 years, it's time for something else. The decision to leave the UT was not made overnight. Last year, I was seriously ill and spent several times in the hospital. That prompted me to think about my future, resulting in the decision that the time has come to recharge with new energy. My new employer will be the Safety Region North and East Gelderland, the VNOG, starting from January 1st. There, I will reinvent myself as a senior hr-advisor, as I feel it.’

What does working at the UT mean to you?

‘The UT is a place of ideas and a wealth of knowledge. When you bring that together, you get a rich and vibrant environment, like a huge beehive. There is an endless amount of information. At the same time, there is much less exchange of ideas and actual discussions compared to the past. I find that very unfortunate. Why is that? Work pressure has certainly increased, leaving less time.’

‘And then there is also the regulations. Goodness, there are so many rules here. You see that not only at the UT but also in society. It sometimes seems like the more smart people you put together, the more regulations and hassle you get. However, too many rules can also paralyze you. In my opinion, the UT really needs to take a step towards simplification. I genuinely wish that for the UT: that it becomes a place again where there is room for ample discussion and exchanging ideas.’

What gives you the most satisfaction?

‘I derive the most satisfaction from the daily interaction with colleagues and employees, including managers. Managers are very important because they are co-responsible for the development of their employees. Why is it important for employees to develop themselves? It helps them take steps in their career and life.’

‘After 23 years at the UT, I now, more than ever, believe that everything revolves around people. People simply make the difference, even in the most technical study programmes. Everyone is unique. To make all of that run optimally is quite a task. For me, hr is not human resources, but human relations. Especially in such a large organization like the UT, the relationships and connections between people are extremely important.’

What is your life motto?

‘I come from a down-to-earth Twente family. My father always said, 'Even if it's not good, it's still good.' He meant that if you do your best and it doesn't work out, you just try again. Another life motto is 'dare and do!'. In the 23 years that I have worked at the UT, for example, I have changed roles or functions five times. That change adds so much value. We have five factories at the UT, as I often call the faculties. It is crucial to know how the machines there operate. Find out who is pressing which buttons and why. In this way, you can empathize much better with issues or other perspectives and respond appropriately.’

‘For example, I really don't understand why employees stay in the same place for an extremely long time. I genuinely believe that someone working in a central service department should have also worked at one of the five faculties. And vice versa! Rotation should be mandatory in my opinion. The UT will perform 30 percent better, I am convinced of that.’

What is your favorite travel destination?

‘Asia! I have been going there for over twenty years. Especially Thailand is my favourite. That country, for me, is the personification of kindness and respect for others. That kindness is not feigned but genuine. Everyone gives each other a lot of freedom there. I am like that myself. My wife Miriam, with whom I have been together for 25 years this year, and my 15-year-old daughter Ebby, are even more in love with the country than I am, haha. Could I live in Asia? In the past, when our daughter wasn't there yet, we seriously considered working and living in Thailand or Asia for a while. The very limited number of free days there I found a too significant disadvantage. That is a different story here, especially at the university.’

What is the most beautiful gift you have ever received?

‘A print of a photo of four men: three of my best friends and me. Unfortunately, one of those friends passed away five years ago. That photo hangs in my kitchen, and I look at it every day. It reminds me that friendship is incredibly important. I cherish that, and I hope others do too.’

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