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Yolanda van Dinther - Leading women in technology #3

Yolanda van Dinther
Director Software Development, Thermo Fisher Scientific

As Director Software Development, Yolanda is responsible for the global software strategy and for supporting software development in the electron microscope division of Thermo Fisher Scientific. Thermo Fisher Scientific provides technological products for research purposes including equipment and software. Before her current position, Yolanda worked in several leading roles in consumer electronics, medical systems, online printing and laboratory applications.

Yolanda studied Technical Computer Science at Eindhoven University of Technology.

Were you a girl who played with Lego instead of dolls?

Actually neither. I liked doing crafts and drawing. I really loved to create things. However… I did use Lego. I could spend hours building domino tracks as a kid. So I used Lego to make all kinds of obstacles for my tracks. But my real technical interest came later on, in high school.

“You do not have to only score ‘A’s to choose a STEM field!”

Why did you choose this field of expertise?

When I was in high school, my father bought a computer: a Commodore 64. You could program simple games on it. And I got fascinated by it. But what triggered me to actually choose a technical field was a poster in one of my classrooms. It was part of a campaign to get more girls to choose a study within a STEM field after finishing high school, as this was not so common back then. It said: ‘Engineer Noortje de Vries, what’s so crazy about that?’ I scored only ‘A’s in mathematics, so why not do something with it? – “May be I should not mention the straight A’s because it will scare off girls. Of course, you don’t only have to score ‘A’s to choose a STEM field!"

“The more I learn about my field, the more I love it.”

Curious about the possibilities of computer programming, I chose Technical Computer Science. I was one of four girls among more than a hundred boys. And my learning process continues today – because you never stop learning. The more I learn about my field, the more I love it. I have been involved in developing so many new possibilities and applications. 

What have been your biggest challenges so far?
And how did you overcome them?

Having to prove yourself because you are a women is not always easy. I have had people ask me where they could find the manager. There are still a lot of unconscious biases. But you can use this to your advantage. If people don’t expect much of you, you can amaze them by exceeding their expectations. So don’t be disappointed, feel challenged!

And know that we cannot change the whole world at once, especially when challenging the status quo would harm your business. When I was working for Philips Semiconductors, for example, we had to deal with a customer in Korea. Although I was the manager of the team, as a women I would not have been accepted as a business partner there. So I sent one of my male colleagues instead. Sometimes you have to be pragmatic. 

What are you most proud of?

There is not one specific thing I am proud of. I am proud of my whole career. Looking back, I just took the chances that were offered to me. To be honest, it didn’t always happen because I took matters into my own hands. I was asked to take on my first management role. Apparently they thought I could fulfil the part. I was a bit surprised by it.

Women are too modest about their qualities and capabilities. We have to speak up more and ask for what we want instead of waiting until it is offered to us. Nowadays I am in control of my own career.

How is your field of expertise going to change our future?

As more and more devices are equipped with embedded software, our world is becoming easier and smarter by the day. We have developed electron microscopes that can show more than just an image. In the scientific field we will soon be able to improve outcomes and even predict future behavior through the combination of software and artificial intelligence. You can imagine the revolutionary impact that this will have.

For example, in the energy sector, by analyzing battery production our customers will be able to develop better batteries that are able to store more energy and last longer. So we contribute to a more sustainable world.

Looking back, what would be your advice to your 18-year old self?

I am very grateful for my life and career! So, I would not change anything. But I wish I would have been more confident about myself and my decisions at that age.

>> Watch the panel discussion at Female Tech Heroes event Yolanda participated in - May, 2019

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This interview and its contents are on no account associated with the existing or any future relationship with TMC. It aims to inspire women in technology and came about in collaboration with High Tech Campus Eindhoven and the Female Tech Heroes Network.

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