15 November 2016


Science Servicedesk Coordinator Nikki Werkman: "I can't not do something!"

For several years, the Faculty of Science has had a Science Service Desk, where students and employees can come with their ICT problems. The desk is staffed by enthusiastic students, like Nikki Werkman, who has been the Science Service Desk coordinator since last September. In this interview, she will explain what her work entails.

Nikki is 22 years old, and a first-year Master’s student in Pharmaceutical Sciences. When we meet, she has just entered the study landscape in the David de Wied building. She will take over the afternoon shift for a service desk assistant who has called in sick, and she has already had a busy day. Her studies require at least 40 hours per week, and this job takes up another 12 hours, but Nikki remains upbeat: “I’m a hard worker. I can’t not do something!”

Difficult patients

Nikki worked at the service desk last school year as well. When the previous coordinator stopped, she was asked to apply for the position. In the beginning, she was a bit hesitant. “As coordinator, as a supervisor, you have to make sure people do their work. That can be difficult at times. I spend less time working at the service desk, and more time on personnel issues and logistics.”

Nikki leads a team of around 10 students who man the service desks. They all happen to be students of the Faculty of Science, but that isn’t a condition of the job. “You also don’t necessarily have to know a lot about ICT,” she says. “But you do have to have a customer-friendly attitude, and you have to be able to explain things. At home, I was always the one who helped my mother when she had problems with her computer. Not because I knew so much about it, but because I enjoy helping people.” She jokingly explains how her studies have helped her in the job: “At Pharmaceutical Sciences, you learn how to deal with - how can I put it - ‘difficult’ patients. That comes in handy sometimes.”

Lecturers take precedence

The Science Service Desk is not just for people with computer problems. Nikki points to a few thick binders. “This is the administration for issuing mobile telephones,” she says. “We also lend out items, like telephone chargers or power cables. We have binders and folders full of that sort of thing in the cabinet. People come here with all kinds of questions. We can help them with most of it, but sometimes we refer them to the porter or to a student desk. We can also refer questions to the ITS helpdesk. For example, we can’t solve problems with Solis-id, so we have to refer them on to other departments. But we can solve 94% of the problems that people bring to us ourselves.”

Lecturers who have problems with their equipment take precedence. Nikki: “Making sure that the lectures go smoothly is our priority. If we’re helping a student with a printer problem, and a lecturer comes to us because he or she can’t get a beamer working, then the student has to wait for a bit.”

Also for employees

ITS, Utrecht University’s central ICT organisation, is coming to the Faculty of Science as well. An ITS assistant has been added to the staff of the Service Desk at the Buys Ballot building. “I haven’t met him yet,” says Nikki. “We have a meeting next week.” The ITS staffer (at the moment there is only one) forms the Science/Geo Customer Team, which acts as the ‘face’ of ITS for its clients and as a liaison to the locations.

The desk in the Buys Ballot building has become a bit isolated, now that the study landscape there has been closed. “We’ve already received complaints about that,” says Nikki. The service desk staff in the BB building regularly walk through the computer rooms in the Koningsberger building.

Most of the service desk assistants are students. “Around two-thirds of them are students. There are more employees who visit the service desk in the David de Wied building than in the Buys Ballot building. That’s mainly to request telephones. I recently made a sign about how to borrow items, and it immediately drew more people to the service desk.”

Extra benefits

Nikki likes to take the initiative. As she explains: “One of my previous jobs was in the service industry at the Efteling. The work here at the service desk is more fun. I have a lot more independence, and the responsibility that comes with it. We’ve recently used a bit of room in our budget to have new shirts made for the service desk staff. You’ll probably be noticing us wearing them soon, because we’re planning on updating our ‘house style’. Several of us have also completed ERT training, so that we can help in the event of an emergency.”

There are also other benefits to working as a coordinator. Nikki has a contract with the Faculty of Science ICT department: “I have my own workplace in the office with Chun Lai, the Science ICT Demand Manager. I even have my own coffee card! The position gives me a better understanding of how the university works. Now I understand why it’s not so easy to do certain things. It’s really a very complex organisation.”

Nikki has other plans for the future. “I would like to have more contact with our clients. I have some plans for a Facebook page, but they still need some more work.”

For the moment, Nikki and her fellow service desk assistants still have plenty of work to do.


The service desks in the David de Wied and Buys Ballot buildings are open daily from 08:30 to 17:00.