Erwin Gelens speaking: Team Manager Airport Control

Not everyone comes to work smiling and goes home feeling satisfied with what they’ve achieved. Team Manager Airport Control Erwin Gelens is well aware of this fact. That’s partly why he enjoys his work at Schiphol so much. ‘You’re allowed to make mistakes here. To experiment. As long as you achieve the best possible result in the end. And along the way, you enjoy what you do.’

Name: Erwin Gelens
Role: Team Manager Airport Control
Age: 30
Has worked at Schiphol since: 2011
Educational background: Business Management

Team Manager Airport Control

As Team Manager Airport Control, Erwin Gelens has a responsible job at the heart of operations. He helps employees with their work, performs HR tasks such as reviews and personal development and is the first point of contact for changes, developments and issues. ‘My main task is to ensure that people have a good day at work,’ he says. ‘I can only do this by listening to what people want and by investing in good policies, good opportunities for development and a good working environment.’

Started out as a ‘polar bear’ coordinator

When he first started working at Schiphol, Gelens worked in a different field entirely. ‘Just before I graduated I got a temporary job working with the ‘polar bears’. In other words, the people who clear the snow and ice away from the runways in the winter. I made sure they were able to do their work effectively by automating and improving procedures in consultation with the department. I introduced a planning system, automated shift changes and an alert via a computer system when snow was expected. I got to know a lot of people during my time there and I was allowed to take on more or more different tasks. When a position came up for a project manager in ICT, I applied straight away. Even though I didn’t have much experience of ICT, I got the job. At last, I was part of the team.’

Encouraged to think ahead

Gelens is now back in operations. ‘I really enjoyed my job in ICT but I was keen to get back to operations. The good thing about Schiphol is that everything is possible. You can get experience in lots of different departments and really broaden your horizons. In fact, this is actively encouraged, through in-service training, for example. Friends and acquaintances are often amazed when I tell them how many different courses I’ve been on in recent years. Not all companies are as good as Schiphol in this respect. Here, you’re constantly being encouraged to think ahead. To take new opportunities.’

The Schiphol bug

Did you always know that you would work at Schiphol one day? ‘Certainly not,’ says Gelens. ‘I didn’t have any definite plans about what I wanted to do “later”. Some things just happen. As soon as I started working here I got the Schiphol bug. There’s a real sense of community here. Everybody helps everybody else and they’re always genuinely interested. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t intend to leave Schiphol any day soon. Although that’s a dangerous thing to say, because one thing we try to avoid here is working on automatic pilot.’