Wietske Sijtsma: ‘During my daily walk I try to think as little as possible’

Wietske Sijtsma: ‘During my daily walk I try to think as little as possible’

Nightmares, daydreams, and unfulfilled wishes: in the ’13 questions’ section, TiU staff members show themselves from a different side. This time: Wietske Sijtsma, policy officer and Head of Planning & Control at the Finance and Control Division, and for weeks the undisputed number 1 of the university walking competition.

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1. Where do you prefer to walk?

“The Pannenhoef near Rijsbergen is a favorite hiking area of mine. Beautiful nature, very varied.”

2. What are you most proud of?

“Of my Division. I think we are one of the few organizational units that really work from home on a structural basis. Every day, we have an online start of the day, and every Friday we end with online drinks. And this has been going on for about fourteen months. We coordinate our work, talk about what’s on our minds, laugh together, and share our frustrations.

“Just prior to the pandemic outbreak, we as a unit had identified a series of issues that we wanted to improve. From streamlining processes within our unit to the way we design the 4-monthly management reports, for example. The fact that we were able to realize that ‘improvement agenda’ together during this period makes me proud.”

3. Who is your great role model and why?

“The English presenter, actor, and writer Stephen Fry. What can’t this man do? He is the creator of Out There, the most impressive documentary I have ever seen. In that documentary, which is all over YouTube, he confronts fanatics and people with entrenched prejudices with knowledge, facts, and alternative views.”

4. What aspect do you find difficult about your job?

“The university is a political organization. We all agree on the main lines of the strategy. But for a Division or a School, the interpretation of that strategy can be slightly different.

“To make sure that that is always clear to all parties, a lot of communication and consultation is needed. As a policy unit, we are often involved in this. That mutual coordination and clarification of matters is not always easy.”

5. Which book would you recommend to everyone?

“Phew, and you ask that of someone who reads an average of two books every three weeks? Recent books that I can really recommend to anyone are The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins and Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams.

“The book that touched me the most is the classic De Metsiers by Hugo Claus. I was seventeen when I read that, about the same age as Claus was when he wrote it.”

6. What should be general knowledge?

“Then I’ll stick to literature, and say that everyone should read the book Wuthering Heights by Emily Brönte. A story that gets under your skin. And after you’ve read it, preferably in English, you should then go to Yorkshire sometime in the fall. Go for a walk in the Moors, preferably, when the weather is not too good. In the mist and rain you will feel Heathcliff beside you and hear Catherine.”

7. What do you think about during your daily walk?

“Since the first lockdown, I start and end the working day with a walk from home. We live next to an outdoor area. As soon as I’m out of the street, I walk among the cows, herons, and chirping birds. Those walks replace my car rides to and from work.

“By walking before I start work, I feel like I actually go to work and not go and sit behind my laptop straight out of bed. So I try to think about as few things as possible, especially clear my head and take lots of beautiful pictures.”

8. What should you actually do (more of)?

“Saying ‘no’ at work a little more often.”

9. What wise lesson would you give to your younger self?

“There are many roads that lead to Rome. You may have an idea and a vision, but goals are realized together with others. That means your idea is not sanctifying. Listen to the people around you; value their input. It can be done their way too.”

10. Your house is on fire and you can only save one possession. What do you take with you?

“That’s simple. My photo albums.”

11. English or Dutch?

“English. My interest in that language began as early as high school. Eventually, after some wanderings, I started studying English Language and Literature. During my studies, I was mainly interested in the real (solid) linguistics: how does the grammar of a language work, can you have a computer generate texts on the basis of linguistic models, that sort of questions. I spent almost two years in the United Kingdom during my studies for a second Master’s.”

12. Water landscape or meadow?

As Bruce Springsteen sings in Jersey Girl: ‘Cause down the shore everything’s all right. ‘ So a water landscape.”

13. Never hike again or never on vacation?

“This is a mock dilemma. On vacation, I like to visit cities, museums, and of course, you do that on foot. But if I have to choose: never walk again but travel to new cities and countries.”

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