Ton Deekens

Employee portrait

'I could write a book about it'

It is time for consultant Ton Deekens to hang up his boots. After 40 years at Witteveen+Bos, he has entered retirement. He travelled the world for his job, including to Curaçao, Jamaica and Sint Maarten.


‘In 1981, after completing my studies, I wound up by chance in Curaçao. Through a friend, I got a job there in road construction. When that work ended, I became involved in building a water treatment plant on the island. This was for a then subsidiary of Witteveen+Bos. As a down-to-earth person from Groningen, it made me realise the world had more to offer. In 40 years at Witteveen+Bos, I ended up seeing quite a lot of it. My wife and I spent four periods in the Caribbean: one each in Jamaica and Sint Maarten and two in Curaçao. A few times I was sought out by someone, but for most of my travels I determined my own direction.’

Tandem collaboration

‘As a long-serving, highly experienced employee, I hadn’t really kept up with recent developments in automation. So I made sure I always had someone around who was better with computers and software. I called it a tandem collaboration: at the start of a project, I was at the front – steering the tandem – and later in the project, I handed over control. I’ve always strived to transfer my knowledge. If I could give one piece of advice to young people at Witteveen+Bos, I’d say: build up your knowledge and move forward gradually. When you’re asked a question, you can try to find the answer as quickly as possible, but you can also first try to understand what the question is really about. Good solutions come from thorough knowledge.’

Political spectacle

‘A highlight of my 40 years at Witteveen+Bos was the construction of two wastewater treatment plants in Jamaica. It was a European Union project with a Spanish contractor and Witteveen+Bos in an advisory role. It was supposed to take two years but it took seven because the contractor made such a mess of it. I learned an incredible amount from that experience. Of the forty kilometres of new sewers that were laid, it turned out that ten kilometres were leaking. They had to be redone. We were in the newspaper every week and talk shows were discussing it a lot. All in all, it was a huge political spectacle with stakeholders from all over the world. I could write a book about it.’

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