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The expat top-10 aims the spotlight on the internationals that help Eindhoven progress. E52 sat down with each winning expat to talk about their experiences and perspective on the city they once came to, and never got away from. Today: Researcher Mark Johnson.


Mark Johnson
Age: 54
Profession: Researcher
Living in Eindhoven since: 1986

Mark Johnson studied in Cambridge before joining Philips Research in 1986, now being Vicepresident and Senior Research Fellow at Philips, the man from Newcastle, has been awarded several times for his work in technical research. During his career, Johnson focussed both on further developing existing technology as well as initiating and creating research for new ideas.

‘Philips was in need of 300 researchers over a course of three years’
“I became one of them. The company at the time was working on a new memory chip. In my time at Cambridge I was in quite an international group with members from Australia, Zwitserland and the US. They inspired me to start looking for my own international experience. One of the researchers I’d met in my education had been to the Netherlands, another one joined Shell. Both of them were full of praise about the country, after that I left.”

“I joined Philips, which had plenty job offers for people with my profile. In the beginning, it was hard to find expats outside of Philips, so most people I’d meet where in the company. Now that has changed.”

‘I didn’t think I’d stay here for this long’
“This is how I pictured it: I’d stay abroad for a few years and then return back home to England. Which was certainly possible, At multiple time I had a chance to return to England, joining research projects there. But I never did that. I was starting to get around much easier here, met new people and understood the language better. Which had offered a challenge at first.”

“Also, Philips always offered me a change to develop as a researcher. I would get new challenges constantly with projects that had an uncertain outcome. I loved that. It made me want to be as close to the center of Philips as I could. At the time, its head quarters were still  in Eindhoven, now it’s Amsterdam, but the majority of my work still happens here. There also was a possibillity for me to start working for Philips somewhere abroad, but I wanted to be where the decisions were made, and that’s Eindhoven.”

‘There’s a huge amount of expats in Eindhoven’
“When I came here, most of them were with Philips, now they have spread more I think. In the past ten years the main language on High Tech Campus has shifted from Dutch to English, there are people from India, Brits, Americans and so on.”

“I’ve never really felt the need to reach out to other expats. At first it was fine for me, because I didn’t speak Dutch yet. Now, I feel part of the city. I’ve lived here for so long, I don’t really identify as an expat anymore. I am an Eindhovenaar from Newcastle.”

‘The only thing the city lacks is a touch of history’
“This is to be seen in the architecture. It has a real industrial feel to it, cities like Den Bosch and Maastricht have more charm to me. It’s a small thing and there’s really nothing anyone can do about, I know that. The fact that this is the only remark on the city I can think of is an indication on how complete the city actually is.”

“There’s an airport nearby, there’s a good university and there are leading tech-companies and institutes. To me, anyone who wants to do anything in tech, should come here.”

‘The Dutch are very straight forward’
“Especially through the eyes of an Englisman. That directions the Dutch all have is something I had to get used to. They really present themselves in a straight forward fashion. At first I had a hard time to profile myself like that. I shook that off eventually. I think my study contributed to that. At Cambridge there’s quite a competitive environment, maybe this has something to do with me adjusting to the way the Dutch work. I know there’s a cliche in the Dutch being straight forward and direct. But it’s a cliché with a truth in it.”

Tomorrow E52 will feature an article with expat verschijnt een artikel met expat Lin Pender. Read all the articles in the series on Expats in Eindhoven here