Humans of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science

Andrea van der Kuip

For me, listening is much more than sitting back and hearing what is being said. It is an activity. While listening, I am always engaging with the context of what I am hearing. Take music, for example. Of course I occasionally stream a playlist on Tidal, often if I just want to have some music in the background. But if I really want to listen to music, I put on an old vinyl record. The magic starts with the sound of the needle dropping on the vinyl, bringing the music to life with a crackle. That reminds me of the long life of a record, with which it has gained its own character. I tend to dwell on those things, while of course also simply enjoying the music.

It is the same with my work: I always try to really listen, and understand the other person. That means that I take into account the situation they are in, or what their cultural background is. Those kinds of circumstances influence how we experience something but also how we express ourselves. As the university becomes more diverse, I hope that this attitude will become more normal.

Integrity requires good listening.

To me, integrity means that you act with respect for yourself and your environment. And you should be able to expect the same from others. But people's intentions are not always clear. That's why I prefer to look at the behaviour itself, and what effect it has. Take gossiping for example: I am sure that not all gossip is as ill-intentioned, or has the intention to hurt someone. Yet they can cause great pain, that is the limit right there. And however difficult it may be: it is something that can always be discussed.

Yet it is not always obvious - or easy - for someone to discuss undesirable behaviour. That may be because of a cultural difference, but sometimes you just need time to process an unpleasant experience. But it is never too late to address it. For help and a listening ear, you can of course turn to your manager, but also to HR or a confidential advisor.