Nieke Roos
24 June 2021

An electromechanical designer turned operations manager, Roel Vossen is the prototypical Neways employee. “Looking to combine a diverse working environment at the cutting edge of technology with a familial atmosphere.”

“When I applied at Neways, almost thirteen years ago, I had an interview with Hans Ketelaars, who at the time had just started as our managing director. The first few minutes, I addressed him as ‘sir,’ but that quickly became ‘Hans’ and it stayed that way – to this day. Our management team and even the board are very approachable, for everyone in the organization. This open culture, the direct lines of communication, the no-nonsense attitude – that’s what characterizes Neways to me,” tells Roel Vossen, operations manager at the Son-based system developer.

Vossen’s career at Neways is also characteristic of the opportunities the company has to offer. “I started as an electromechanical lead designer. Over time, my responsibilities grew and I got the chance to become a system architect. When I decided that I had seen enough of that role, I was given the opportunity to switch to project management. And right when I felt I had mastered that and was thinking about developing my operational skills, the previous operations manager chose to take a step back and I had the good fortune of my current position presenting itself.”

As operations manager, Vossen is responsible for the engineers at Neways Technologies, the company’s development organization. “We’ve got 220 people in ten groups, distributed across our four development sites: over 100 people in four groups in Son, 50 people in three groups in Erfurt, 45 people in two groups in Echt and a group of 25 in Enschede. They’re clustered by discipline: embedded systems, electromechanics and mechanics. With these groups, we’re doing more than sixty projects.”

“It’s my job to support the team leaders in assigning the best available engineers to each project and to ensure we deliver results and focus on the strategic development of our engineering pool,” continues Vossen. “To my fellow managers, I often say, jokingly, mine is the easiest job in all of Neways. I just have to keep the team leaders happy. Because if they’re happy, the teams are too. And happy teams deliver. Which, in turn, makes our customers happy.”

Change of scenery

According to Vossen, there’s something for everyone at Neways. “If you just want to concentrate on your own discipline, you can grow as a software specialist, a mechanical engineer, an electronics developer or an electromechanical designer. If you like technology but also like to work with customers, you can become a system architect. If you like to work with customers and less with technology, you can move into a more commercial position. If you like to manage people and budgets, you can progress to a team leader or operational role. If you have the ambition to become our next managing director, you’re welcome to go for it.”

The 60+ projects currently running at Neways Technologies are also very diverse. “We’re serving customers in different markets, mainly automotive, industry, medical and semicon,” explains Vossen. “We’re doing relatively short projects, lasting a hundred hours, but also big ones, taking three years with teams of up to twenty people, and everything in between. We can accommodate engineers who are looking for a less hectic working environment by assigning them to a longer project in a more stable sector, but also those who are looking for more adventure and aren’t scared off by three new projects every two months.”

Neways Roel Vossen Valencia
Credit: Neways

This diversity is exactly what drew Vossen to Neways almost thirteen years ago. “At my previous employer, a big OEM, we made only one product. When we moved to the next generation, we kept building more or less the same thing. Likewise for the generation after that. Being involved in two generations of basically the same product, I really missed the change of scenery. That’s what I found at Neways. One moment you’re doing a project for an agricultural client, the next you’re working on semiconductor equipment or an automotive system.”

The wide range of customers and industries provides a change of technology scenery as well. “To stay competitive in all the different markets we’re operating in, to be able to contend with the market specialists, we need to stay on top of all the latest developments,” says Vossen. “That’s why, two or three years ago, we started maintaining a technology roadmap. We’ve set up a special task force of system architects and business developers to scout up-and-coming technologies, both in the short term, 2-3 years from now, and in the long run, ten years or more. We then select a dozen for further research, going from a theoretical study to a prototype or demonstrator. Currently, we’re exploring the next-generation internet of things, smart sensoring and GaN technology for more energy-efficient electric motors, power supplies and solar converters, to name a few.”

Remote care

As a result of his company’s DNA, Vossen finds his people to be of a different breed than those at many other high-tech companies, certainly the big OEMs. “Neways engineers are looking for more than just work at the cutting edge of technology. They also seek a diversity in projects and a familial atmosphere. That’s why they chose to come and work with us.”

“At Neways, we pay a lot of attention to making people feel at home,” Vossen points out. “Last year, we hired fifty engineers. Due to corona, they haven’t had the chance yet to meet in person, but thanks to the remote care of colleagues, they received the warmest welcome possible considering the circumstances.”

This care by colleagues is an integral part of the 70:20:10 model for learning and development, which is highly valued by Neways. “10 percent of what people learn comes from coursework. 20 percent they pick up from their developmental relationships, like coaches and colleagues. 70 percent they take in on the job,” Vossen clarifies. “We offer our people classroom training and one-on-one mentoring but above all, they learn by doing, through knowledge sharing in the workplace. This dissemination is very important, not only for themselves but also for Neways as a company.”

This article was written in close collaboration with Neways.