In the site hut with… Shirley van den Bos (28)

26 June 2018 00:00

‘I'll be fifteen minutes late. I'm still at town hall.’ Pleased to meet you: Shirley van den Bos, 28 years old, permits adviser on the Nieuwe Sluis Terneuzen lock project. It takes quite a commitment from her to take the roughly two-hour drive from Schiedam to Terneuzen every day. But she is committed. More than committed.

Quite a journey
Shirley's route takes her through some nice scenery. From urban Schiedam through the rural Hoeksche Waard region. And after this, she travels through the most westerly tip of the province of Noord-Brabant to arrive on Zuid-Beveland in the province of Zeeland. After seeing the light at the end of the Westerscheldetunnel, she has finally reached Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. There is Terneuzen, like a watchman guarding the gates to the harbour of Ghent. This harbour is the main reason why a large new lock is being built.

Indispensable link
Shirley: ‘I'm responsible for the permits on this project. This ranges from preparing the application to compliance with the regulations.’ Her track record on the Rotterdamsebaan project in this regard was excellent. Without Shirley there would be no permits and no lock. Although she does not see it like that herself. False modesty? Not if you realise that ‘there is actually no education for permit management’, and, as Shirley puts it, you sometimes ‘have to talk your head off’ in order to get the permit issuer to agree. And in these two statements, Shirley has pinpointed exactly where her strength lies.

The power to convince
Committed and passionate. She adds her own twist to her job. ‘And that's needed, because all rules can be interpreted in different ways. It's not always easy to get the permit issuer to agree with our interpretation.’ But you can safely leave this to Shirley. ‘The authorities have to be convinced that we will do things the right way,’ she continued enthusiastically. ‘We look for ways to enable the law to be interpreted less strictly, and we try to have them see things our way.’

And convince them she will! Shirley van den Bos, exemplary in ‘pro-active ownership’. One of BAM's key values. Imagine: you're only 28 years old. Wedged in between project pressure and the government. That is why she was fifteen minutes late. ‘I was at a town hall, in a meeting about the permit for a roundabout. I then have to bring the right people together to gather all the relevant information for the application.’ She thinks that her role does not stop at bringing the right people together: ‘I want to know what's going on. I think you should understand what's on people's minds. This requires me to be able to switch quickly whilst also monitoring the deadlines of the permit process.’ Saying that she goes all out to get the results she wants would be an understatement.

Pride
No matter what you think of the construction world. Shirley: ‘In construction, I mainly meet people who take pride in what they do’. And that's actually the impression she gives. That's what drives her to do more. More than ‘just her work’, as she modestly calls it. ‘Together with my colleagues in Omgevingsmanagement en Vergunningen (the Area Management and Permits Department), I want to profile our department both inside and outside BAM.’ Which is what? She is quite clear about that: ‘All the disciplines involved in a project must be convinced of how useful my profession is since clients are valuing this more and more and are basing their calls for tenders on this.’

No borders
But Shirley does not only cross borders within BAM Infra. ‘I was at BAM Nuttall (note by the editors: UK) in London to learn from their diversity policy, so that we, BAM Infra, can learn from this as well.’ And when the next Girlsday kicks off nationally at her old work location, the Rotterdamsebaan, on 12 April, Shirley will be there as well. ‘I really think that Girlsday is a very good initiative,’ she says without hesitating. ‘There's no way to guess the many things that come into play in ‘construction’. There's so much more to it than meets the eye. It's good to show this.’

So when you enter The Hague by the Rotterdamsebaan in 2020, or when driving or sailing near the new sea lock at Terneuzen in 2022, please remember that this would not have been possible without our passionate colleagues. Colleagues such as Shirley, and fortunately, many others like her. You can read more about this in the next ‘In the site hut with…’