The key moment: Digitalization

Thanks to digitalization Gert Buurman’s career took a whole new direction.

Turning points: sometimes you recognize them at once, and sometimes only in retrospect. In the series The Moment, WUR folk talk about a moment they’ll never forget. This time, Gert Buurman, who has been at WUR for nearly 50 years. His career took a whole new direction thanks to digitalization.

‘I was born and bred in Wageningen and I stuck around for my career too. That started in 1975 in the graphic design room at the Biotechnion on the Dreijen campus. I drew illustrations there for academic publications and theses, and I was jointly responsible for the technical drawings for big machinery in the Biotechnion.

My skill was soon replaced by digital drawing programs

We still drew those by hand in those days. When researchers made changes to their apparatus, it was my job to update the drawing too. Later on, I also worked with researchers and combined the graphics work with making the apparatus itself in the workplace. Scientists would bring us an assignment, we would brainstorm about it and make the technical drawings and the apparatus itself.

Then everything changed in the 1990s. Computers became widely available and found their way into the university. A lot of my work disappeared due to digitalization. We no longer had to draw everything by hand, and researchers became more tech-savvy every year. My skills were soon replaced by digital drawing programs. When that part of my work was taken away, I felt stress levels go up; I knew my career in technical drawing was coming to an end.

After various reshuffles, periods at home and job applications, I ended up back at WUR after all. I’ve been working there for 12 years now, facilitating practicals. My colleagues and I provide the materials and apparatus for student practicals and repair them when necessary. As an example, I was recently handed a microscope that had got completely stuck. It’s not the best job I ever had, but I now get a lot of satisfaction out of my hobby: making and selling historical clothing and shoes. My wife and I do that together. I’ll be retiring in 18 months and then I can spend more time and energy on our business. That is something to look forward to.’

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