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Break the stereotype: my journey as a woman in nanotechnology

My journey at TMC started on LinkedIn. When my current business manager contacted me, I immediately realized this was a unique opportunity. TMC is not just an employer in the traditional sense of the word. They go beyond that by creating a meaningful collaboration and win-win opportunities.

One of the best things about TMC is that it is not just a company, it is a community as well. To me, one of the biggest advantages of being part of TMC is the sense of belonging. You are surrounded with motivated and supportive colleagues with a lot of interesting initiatives and projects that you can join. For example, in addition to my project at TNO, I am an executive board member of the Expat Community and I am also part of the TMC works council. There are also a lot of interesting workshops and seminars organized as “Pizza Sessions” and group activities as well as personal career development courses and coaching.

One of the best things about TMC is that it is not just a company, it is a community as well.

Being a woman in the tech world

I grew up in Mashhad, Iran and moved to Stockholm, Sweden when I was 21 years old to pursue my Master studies. My parents have always been very supportive of my decision to pursue a career in engineering and move abroad. I was also lucky to have many amazing female role models around me to look up to while growing up. I think having support and seeing role models is really important for girls to pursue a career in STEM fields. Microsoft recently conducted a study in the UK about young girls’ interest in STEM subjects. They found that young girls become interested in STEM fields at around the age of 11 but this drops significantly by the age of 16, 17. Later on, less than half of them would consider a career in STEM. So, how did they fall out of love with STEM? The research suggested that the lack of role models is a big turning point for young girls as they can’t really picture themselves workings in those areas successfully. As Marian Wright Edelman, American civil rights activist, rightly said: "You can't be what you can't see".

Having support and seeing role models is really important for girls to pursue a career in STEM fields.

When I started working in the Netherlands, equal access to opportunities was one of the positive things that I experienced. In an ideal world, your gender, race or place of birth should not be a limiting factor for you to reach your goals. Your success should only depend on your capabilities and competences and how hard you try to achieve it. As a woman working in the high-tech industry, I know this is not a given in each country and culture. I therefore appreciate where I am now.

Choosing my career path

I studied Materials Engineering in Iran. I chose this study due to the fact that it is an interdisciplinary program and could pave the way to different specialties in the Engineering field. It was during my Master studies that I realized most of the cutting-edge technology and advances in research happened thanks to developments in nano science. I therefore chose Nanotechnology as the focus of my Master project and later on in my career. I gained experiences as a Researcher in the United States and Germany before moving to the Netherlands in May 2018.

Via TMC I am currently working on a project at TNO-Holst Centre at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven. I am part of the High Performance Batteries group as a Process Development Engineer. We are developing a new concept on 3D solid state batteries. One of the main challenges towards green and sustainable energy is energy storage. Conventional batteries are still unsafe for a lot of applications due to toxic or flammable electrolytes. We are developing an all-solid state battery with high-aspect ratio 3D architecture thanks to our expertise in spatial atomic layer deposition (sALD). But there is still a lot of research to be done for example, how can we maintain the energy capacity of the industrial batteries with this new concept?

My life has changed a lot since I moved to the Netherlands. I get to experience different aspects of being in the high-tech industry. As much as it feels great to be on the front line of state of the art research, I would like to be more involved in team management and strategy planning. In addition to the positive experiences that I gained in my career, I also met my partner in life. He is also an expat, but not as much as me since he is from Ireland! We live in Den Bosch and we will get married there in August. We hope to celebrate our marriage with a ceremony next year with our family and friends once the Covid-19 pandemic is hopefully under control.

- Sepideh Khandan Del, Process Development Engineer

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