Faces of Clingendael: Gijs van Loon
26 Mar 2024 - 12:04
Source: @Clingendael

Who are our hard-working researchers and trainers and what drives them? You might have seen them in the media, explaining geopolitical topics or putting them on the agenda. We offer you a peek behind the scenes in our series Faces of Clingendael. Today with Academy Programme Fellow Gijs van Loon

What is your role? 

I coordinate and organise various training programmes related to cyber security, - governance and - diplomacy, as well as broader programmes within international security. My main focus is on facilitating knowledge exchange, delivering training, and maintaining a network of external experts and policymakers.

The Clingendael Barometer revealed that a cyber-attack is considered the most significant threat by the Dutch population. Do you also notice this threat perception in your professional/personal life?

In my professional environment, this threat has been recognised for quite some time. But what’s striking is that I have noticed that this awareness is increasingly spreading among the broader population, also driven, unfortunately, by increased data fraud, phishing and new technologies such as deep fakes. I have noticed a growing trend of people in my surrounding raising concerns around cyber security, even in casual settings like family gatherings or chats with neighbours. That’s why I personally strongly recognise the results from the recent Barometer. 

What motivates you to do this job?

The current digital world brings many opportunities but also threats. The cyber domain plays an increasingly important role in international organisations, governments, businesses, and civil society. That’s why I am passionate about contributing to knowledge exchange. Whether it's formulating strategies or simulating cyber crisis scenarios, I'm driven by the ultimate goal of providing professionals with the necessary tools to create a safer cyber environment.

Do you have interests outside of work?

Sports have always been a big part of my life. I've been playing football since I was a kid, and during the summer, you'll find me out on Scheveningen beach enjoying a game of beach tennis. I love challenging myself to try new activities, which is why lately, I've recently taken up longboarding and surfing, albeit with some fear and trembling. 

What advice would you give to people aspiring to work in your field?

The advice I would like to give to those pursuing a career in this field is: do not be deterred by technical terms, zeros, and ones. The cyber domain actually also requires people who do not have a technical background, such as those with knowledge and experience in public administration and international relations, which also forms my background. An understanding of diplomatic processes and geopolitics remains crucial, even in a technical field such as cyber.

Moneera Yassien, our previous guest is this series, left this question for you: ‘’What is the part you enjoy the least (or not enjoy at all) about giving training on cyber diplomacy and international security?’’

That’s a very difficult question, because it’s asking me to think about what I enjoy least in the work activity that I enjoy most at Clingendael Academy. What I enjoy least… in the beginning working here I got scared being asked to deliver a training for three hours. What I enjoy least is that often I’m in need of more time – and I need to make difficult decisions in what I do and don’t cover during a session on cyber – there’s just so much to say.


Is the cyber training Gijs provides something for you? Check it out here.