- About us
- What we do
Jesse Robbers is Director of Industry and Digital Infrastructure at Quantum Delta NL and the coordinator of Catalyst Programme 2: National Quantum Network. He studied Electric Engineering & Telecommunications at HU University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht. An expert in digital infrastructure, Robbers previously held positions as Chief Commercial Officer at the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), technical director Benelux at Ericsson Broadcast and Media Services (now REDBee Media), and several leadership positions at KPN. Jesse lives in the Utrecht Metro Area, the Netherlands, with his wife and three children.
The unpaid labour of mothers is a significant factor in burn-out and can cause women to fall behind in their careers. As a father and a husband, how do you and your wife support each other while allowing both to pursue opportunities in your careers?
We both work full-time and have three children aged 11, 9, and 3. My wife works at Manager Production in the aerospace industry. She studied Aerospace Engineering at the Delft University of Technology. She’s very passionate about her job.
We share household responsibilities equally and help each other wherever we can. I’m very involved with the children. I’m on the Childcare Centre’s Parent Advisory Board, and I take our eldest to field hockey on Saturdays and Sundays. I love doing fun things with the children. I’m a real family man.
I do everything I can to support my wife in her full-time job. I’m the one who takes the children to school on most days, and I make sure to be home with them one day per week.
From the moment our first child was born, I’ve told my employers, from KPN to Ericsson to AMS-IX, “Listen, I will always work from home on Fridays. And I will never make it to the office in Amsterdam before ten o’clock because I will first take my children to school. No exceptions.” Quantum Delta NL also gives me the space to do that.
Work and family are all intertwined in our lives, and it’s a lot of fun. Something that helps me balance my family and work is by involving the children in my career. I’ve taken them to work at every job I’ve ever had. They know what I do, what I’m working on. The kids give presentations at school about our jobs; my 9 year old daughter is holding a show-and-tell about quantum computers at school this week.
You’re a big supporter of diversity in the workplace. Can you see a common thread throughout the organisations you’ve worked for if it comes to equal representation of women in the workplace?
Looking back on all the companies I’ve enjoyed working for, and where we achieved great successes, the male-to-female ratio was always in proportion. Even twenty years ago. There was a good balance of people with different knowledge and experiences. I had a great and inspiring female manager at KPN.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work in teams where you could talk to each other, listen to each other, and complement each other. People had an intrinsic interest in connecting and hearing each other out. And it was key to the success of all those companies.
Diversity is one of the core pillars of Quantum Delta NL. How are you actively creating a diverse ecosystem in a strongly male-dominated field?
It isn’t easy. Everyone at Quantum Delta NL agrees that we want to hire women for various positions. We are very aware of the importance of equal representation of women in the workplace. Our people are intrinsically motivated to achieve it. We respect diverse opinions and appreciate that you need different knowledge to move forward as an organisation. I think that’s very special and also the key to success.
Unfortunately, the pool of women in quantum technology is very small. And that’s the pool of people we need to recruit from. To illustrate: the Quantum Delta NL team and I went to the Eindhoven University of Technology last year. They have very few PhD students at the time.
One of our goals is to promote education to build the right talent pool for the future. We need to make sure it’s interesting for women to go into STEM research. And we need to encourage them from a very young age.
The most important thing for Quantum Delta NL is to promote quantum technology among the young and upcoming generations. How can we share our knowledge as quickly as possible with primary schools, secondary schools, museums like the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam or the technology museum in Twente, and so on?
You have a daughter. What do you think some of the major underlying problems are, and what do you do to counter that?
I firmly believe that we don’t foster girls’ interest in technology until way too late. That’s a major problem. I’ve seen it myself. As early as the first year of primary school, girls are automatically directed towards the doll corner and boys towards construction toys.
Also, everyone agrees that it’s good to teach children about things like plastic pollution. But STEM and technology are, for some reason, deemed as not necessary or too complicated. We don’t explain to kids what bytes are or how the internet works when these things are cornerstones of life today.
I feel very strongly that we should make children interested in technology from a young age. We should teach them about digital technologies and how to build things, the same way we teach them about plastic pollution or flying.
My daughter is now nine years old. When she was in her first year of primary school, parents were invited to talk about their professions. Since she works in the aerospace industry, my wife was invited to talk about flying. To me, they said, “Oh, you work in the Internet industry? Let’s not do that.” I insisted.
I went and explained to the children how the internet works. “Here’s a shelf, here’s an iPad, and here’s a Sesame Street book. Now let’s form a big chain of children and pass the book from child to child – from internet chain to internet chain.”
Some of the children thought of it as a game, which was fine. But you could see other children’s minds working to connect the dots. They said, “Right, there are things I’m not allowed to touch on our iPad at home!” or, “My dad couldn’t transfer money because there was a cyber-attack!” It shows you can foster how children talk about technology among themselves, the girls included. And that’s when we need to keep going. It’s extremely important.
I had this book on the development of the internet. I offered it to our primary school headteacher for the school library. He said, “This is interesting, but it’s way too difficult for our children to understand.” So what? They can assess that themselves or even just let them look at the pictures. Ironically enough, they did have a book on the antiquated fax machine.
My daughter also likes Lego Friends and handicrafts. But it’s not mutually exclusive. Just a few weeks ago, she said, “Daddy, I’m going to give a presentation on quantum computers.” Yes! Please do it!