Background and inspiration
From an early age, Van Dam enjoyed subjects such as mathematics and physics with their clear answers to problems. In high school, she dreamed of becoming a pilot in commercial aviation or in the Royal Netherlands Air Force, but that changed after an open day at the Faculty of Aerospace Technology at TU Delft. She realized that building airplanes suited her better than flying in them.
As a bachelor student, she came across two women who inspired her during Aerospace Women’s Day. One worked for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the other came from industry, and Van Dam saw in them an example of what she would do in the future. One of the women was quite withdrawn, she remembers. “I was like, I was not one who had the highest word,” Van Dam says. “I realized that you can be like this and still be in your power if you are on the introverted side. I had never seen that before and it inspired me.”
Be the first
These examples stimulated Van Dam to take up new challenges. After being active for two years in committees of VSV ‘Leonardo da Vinci’, the study association under the Faculty of Aerospace Technology, she was asked to chair the academic year 2019-2020. “I thought it was a big challenge at first, but eventually I saw it more as an opportunity,” she says. As the first female president of VSV, she was in the spotlight. “In that year, I found out that as a woman in a field such as aviation, you are still in the spotlight. Maybe you should take advantage of it and show what you are worth. At least I did. “
Mentors are important
As part of the grant, Van Dam was also assigned a mentor, a former IAWA president. “I think it’s really good to have a mentor, especially if it’s a little older who has already made a career,” she says. “And it’s also useful for your contacts and your network.” In Van Dam’s case, this has led her to join the IAWA’s Finance Committee this year, where she can meet and learn from experienced professionals such as CFOs.
But she was also aware of the value of mentors before. During her year on VSV’s board, she became acquainted with a woman who advises the board and who has since become her professional mentor. Van Dam also called for a personal mentor as she went through a difficult time. “I have a hard time asking for help. I saw it as a sign of weakness, but I have become aware in recent years that it will be much easier if one can. And you may just be an example to others. ”
She says she has grown tremendously thanks to these mentors. “I now know better where my strengths and talents lie and I have gained more confidence,” she says. “I found that I did certain things because I was subconsciously trying to please others instead of myself. I have become more aware of that over the past year. I learned to choose the things I want to do. for the things I think are expected of me, and to say no more often to things I do not feel like. I choose more often myself. “
Studying and other things
Van Dam is now in the second year of his master’s degree in control and simulation and is writing his thesis on sustainable runway optimization in aviation. She is investigating the possibilities of reducing the environmental impact of flying by letting planes take different routes. For example, if an aircraft has a headwind on a flight path, it may be smarter to take a detour for the sake of the environmental impact, so that the flight may be longer, but there will be less headwind.
In addition to his studies, Van Dam took an internship with the Royal Netherlands Air Force. She designed a tactical control center for a simulation for six helicopters, each in a different simulator. In addition, she is the coordinator of the Start-up Voucher Program for the Aerospace Innovation Hub, which helps aviation students introduce new ideas through funding and coaching start-ups.
Her advice to other students is not to forget that there are things outside of science as well. “My time in Delft was determined by everything I did next to my studies, such as committee work and my membership of associations,” says Van Dam. “Of course I learned a lot from everything I did for my bachelor and master, but on a personal level I have learned so much from working with people in a different environment. I would advise everyone to look beyond your study and also do things outside ”.