dutch airforce

Visiting Jonathan at the Dutch Royal Airforce

One of the clients within the High Potential Program is the Royal Dutch Air Force (Koninklijke Luchtmacht). As a modern, high-tech branch of the armed forces, their work requires very precise and accurate intelligence in order for them to be able to keep the peace and security on the global scene.

In November 2018, one of our High Potentials joined their team as a Data Scientist and began his work on couple of projects. In this blog, we are sitting down with Jonathan van der Planken to learn a bit about his experience so far.


Hi Jonathan, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up where you are now?

Jonathan: Sure! I’m 26 years old, born and raised in the Netherlands. For my education, I studied in Delft. First, a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and later on a master’s in BioRobotics and Biomechanical Design. Even then I already knew my interests lay with Computer Vision & Robotics. Once I graduated I got a pretty good job at a large consultancy firm but even though they were top notch in their field I didn’t get to apply my skills with A.I. and Robotics the way I wanted to. So, I decided it’s time to look for something else.

I kept hearing about Anchormen being associated with a lot of high-tech projects in variety of fields and the High Potential Program seemed very appealing, so I decided to give it a try and see if they have what I was looking for.

The whole process went pretty smoothly. I first talked with Naiyara, which is one of the Recruiters within Anchormen. I explained to her what I’m looking for, and she helped me choose the best option based on my interests. One of my requirements was that I wanted to work on a Computer Vision project but something with more of a social impact. And as it turned out, she had the perfect place for me.

After that, I had a conversation with the manager of the innovation team at AirLab, the innovation lab of the Royal Airforce. The goal was to see if there is a fit with them as well. Then it was a couple of assignments to test my technical capabilities and a last round with Anchormen’s CTO, Jeroen Vlek. All in all, it took about 2-3 weeks and I was set to go.

From what I understood, your case was a bit special, compared to most of our High Potentials. Can you tell us something about that?

Jonathan: Ah yes. Well, it’s not that easy to start working at the Air Force. Because of the type of work the people there do, everyone needs to go through a security clearance check first. Without going into too much details, it involves a background search, public records, several forms, and some waiting time until the information has been processed.

In the meanwhile, I started working on an open source research projects for them, which did not require any security clearance. It was actually beneficial for me because I got to learn about the type of data they work with as well as gain some skills at Anchormen because I didn’t have much data science experience beforehand.

So, you’ve been working there for several months now. Can you tell us a bit about how your week looks like?

Jonathan: I’ll do my best. Currently, I’m working with a small team which consists of an operational data specialist, an IT specialist, myself as a data scientist, and some management that oversees the ongoing projects.

In general, my time is split between two main projects. The first one is monitoring the Dutch airspace and analyzing the data that comes from all the passing flying objects. I do that at the AOCS Nieuw Milligen, which is the Air Operations Control Station. I usually go there on Mondays.

Tuesdays I’m working either at the Anchormen office or at the location of one of the AirLab partners. The Innovation team is pretty flexible, so we are able to work on plenty of locations.

Wednesday and Thursday, I’m usually in Breda, where the Air Force has its headquarters. There I usually work on the second main project which is about Satellite Data Image analysis. I can’t really say much about it, other than it involves A.I. and Deep Learning techniques and it aims to improve a lot of processes and bring on positive impact. It’s quite ambitious and I’m looking forward to seeing the results there.

And on Fridays, I’m at the Anchormen office in Amsterdam for the High Potential training. It’s the coaching and lessons day, where I’m with the other trainees and we usually learn new things or find ways to improve our own work for the clients.

What are your thoughts about the program and the projects so far?

Jonathan: I’m really enjoying myself! I’ve been working as a Data Scientist for almost a year now and I think I’m finally getting used to the idea of referring to myself as one as well. I had a lot of theoretical knowledge when I first started the program, but not much practical skills and I really can’t believe the amazing progress I’ve made. I faced quite a few tasks which I felt were impossible to get over, but now that I look back on them, I feel confident in my abilities. Although I had a lot of guidance from both Anchormen and my team at the AirLab, I also had to learn a lot of things on my own. Which is really what being a Data Scientist is all about.

As for the Air Force. I’m really grateful I got the opportunity to join their team. The people there are amazing and the work they do really matters. I hope that I’m able to successfully finish the projects and deliver some good results and insight!

Thanks Jonathan for finding some time in your busy schedule to sit down with us and share your experience from the High Potential Program.
For everyone interested in learning more about the Anchormen traineeships and the Academy in general, you can check out more information here and here.