Love of technology at first sight for Hieke: ‘Steel smells delicious’

It was love at first sight with technology student Hieke when she walked into the workshop. Her nose played a vital role. The open days will start soon, also for her training and who knows, it might lead to more technology ladies. “I am now the only one in my study program at my location … Of all grades!”

Her father is head of technical services at a cheese factory. Proud as a peacock of course of his ‘technology daughter’, “but my mother too, you know.” Hieke van Rijswijk from Vlaardingen laughs. “Although she sometimes finds it quite difficult when my father and I only talk about pipelines and stuff during dinner and she doesn’t understand anything about it!”

Fish in the water

Hieke at work with the nails painted and earplugs in.

If you ask Hieke about her training and what she can and does with it, it will take you an hour. To then get another twenty exciting action photos appaped, with welders, large plates, drills and with text and explanation. “Working in the workplace, even with nail polish!” She adds, with a crying-with-laughter emoji behind it.

At machine factory Blozo she works in her free hours and, as can be seen in the video on YouTube, she feels like a fish in water. Or water tank, “I’m welding it today.”

The enthusiastic student is in the third year of the Technician Engineering work field Mechanical Engineering course (level 4) at the Technology College in Rotterdam.

It was a completely new world for her, but when she walked into the workshop during the open day she immediately “felt” it. “I’m going to do this!” She stared at the hustle and bustle on the shop floor and her nose played a crucial role too. “Steel smells wonderful,” she discovered then. “I still smell that scent that smelled in my face every time I walk into the workshop. I am back home, I think. ”

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She still remembers her first lessons when she learned the differences between a screw and nut. Also, that very first lesson, she did not know what the teacher was drawing on the board. “WTF,” she thought. “What is that?” So it was a drill, she laughs, “I had never really looked at that before … There is a big difference between looking and seeing.” Now she doesn’t turn her hand from TIG welding to drilling and milling, edging and force calculations. “How many kilos can the wheels of a trolley on which pipelines are transported?” She cites as an example, a question to which she now knows the answer. “I really enjoy making calculations.” Incidentally, not to be confused with this trolley.

Problem means solution for this inventor-to-be.

But also make something from nothing, such as the steel clock with 3D printed numbers. Other students decorated the thing, not Hieke. “Beauty is often in the simplicity.”

Almost finished, the clock.

Inventor in the making

She used to want to become a pediatrician. “That didn’t quite work out, that operation didn’t seem like anything to me either.” Now she has a new ambition: to become an inventor. She likes problems, because then she can come up with solutions for them. The inventive student is well on her way. As we speak she just came up with something to test a grid for water tightness. “I’ve drawn a template that can stand upright, so that the grate can stand up and we can put the garden hose on it.”

Only lady

She is the only technology lady at her location of her studies, of all grades. Unknown makes unloved, she thinks. “I also had no idea that technology went so deep.” So she emailed her old high school last week asking if she can’t even give a guest lecture about her education, “I have yet to get a response.”

Perhaps many girls also find technology a bit intimidating, she muses aloud. “And they are afraid that the old guard has trouble with women in the profession.” But that’s really not the case, she shakes her head hard through the phone. “They often like it a lot and are happy to help you.” Sometimes even when it is not necessary at all. “Then they think something is too heavy for me, well, then you just have to have me! Even though it is indeed a bit too heavy, I just do it myself. No velvet gloves for me. ” Hieke has indeed become a lot stronger since the training, she agrees. “I’ve gotten quite a bit of muscle.”

Hieke ‘Meis’

Does she ever regret being the only ‘lady’ (‘I think sounds better than girl or woman’)? Well, sometimes yes, but also not. “When we could no longer go to school due to corona, I noticed that I really missed the boys.” They call her “girl.” She likes it. “Hey girl, can you do that for me? they ask, and that feels like a compliment. It sounds like an affectionate nickname. Also nice and easy for them, after all there is only one ‘girl’! ”

And of course there were sometimes silly jokes in the beginning and they might have to get used to a lady in the workshop or in the classroom. And also very clever: “Now they come to me with questions, I have the highest grade average of everyone.”


Andrea Withaar is working at the Technology College in Rotterdam with “more girls in technology.” By means of campaigns, open days and the use of role models, they hope, as well as other technology courses, to enthuse girls.

“We hope that we can interest more girls to choose a technical education and actually move on to a technical job, because here too we sometimes see that women eventually do something different, and that is a shame. Not only for the business community, but also for all those girls who need role models to make a choice. ”

Job guarantee

Technology remains a direction that is not very popular, she continues. “Young people choose technology, because their father or grandfather often also has a technical profession. They are already familiar with it. So it is up to us to make other young people enthusiastic about a technical training as well. When you see what the job guarantee is like and what career opportunities there are, you don’t understand why it is so difficult. ”

A good job guarantee follows after the training, Withaar emphasizes. “For example, students often linger after their last internship. The business world would like to have them. So a good prospect. ”

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Love of technology at first sight for Hieke: ‘Steel smells delicious’


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