EGI welcomes new colleagues

Iulia Popescu chats with Hilary Goodson and Björn Backeberg about their big move to Europe
IP: Hi Hilary, hi Björn! Welcome to Amsterdam and to the EGI team! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?

HG: Thanks Iulia. I’m Australian, from Sydney, and am a keen sailor. I also have a close interest on classical music and served for several years on the vanguard board for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
BB: Hi Iulia, thank you for the warm welcome! Where to start?! I was born in South Africa, have a German passport & a Swedish name… so you could say I have a bit of an identity crisis 😉
I’ve lived in South Africa most of my life, with a couple of overseas stints to Finland, the UK and Norway. I’m a surf, dog and food enthusiast, and in my spare time you will find me somewhere involving one or all of those things.

IP: Sounds fantastic! What did you do before working for EGI? What is your background?

HG: Before working at EGI, I was actually the head of strategic engagement at AARNet, Australia’s Academic & Research Network. There I was responsible for growing the membership beyond our shareholders – the Australian Universities, bringing on board other research institutes.
I also worked on building a new services portfolio beyond net-working into areas of compute and storage. Within this activity, my interest was working with research museums and archives. I focused on building an under-standing of research infrastructure with this community to drive policy and advocacy forward and take on big projects focusing on unlocking collections to continue to push discovery.
BB: Before joining EGI I was a Principal Researcher at the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and served as a co-director of the Nansen-Tutu Centre for Marine Environmental Research. The latter is a South African – Norwegian joint venture building capacity in marine research.
I’m an oceanographer by training and completed my PhD in numerical ocean modelling in 2010. Most of my work since then has revolved around developing operational oceanography in South Africa. This included developing ocean forecasting capabilities and decision support tools for marine end-users, so I spent a lot of time developing data analytics in high performance computing environments.

IP: Very interesting profiles! I’d like to ask why EGI? What do you find exciting about it?

HG: The breadth of communities EGI work with and underpin excite me, particularly the close work they do with the life sciences communities.
I also see great value on the aggregation role that EGI plays, in terms of the imprint it can have on science and research infrastructure policy, especially in this critical development period of the EOSC, and also in having the critical mass to support and develop new technologies that have the ability to be scaled out beyond individual user communities.
BB: I am most excited about learning about advanced and cloud computing technologies while supporting the research communities I have worked with so far. And I am impressed by the breadth of communities that EGI supports and I look forward to working with them.
I like that EGI is a dynamic and futuristic company at the forefront of advanced computing developments for science!

IP: And we are happy to have you both on board at EGI. Hilary, you come from Australia…and Björn, you come from South Africa. What made you consider moving all the way to Europe? That’s a big change!

HG: My work had been bringing me to Europe more and more often for collaborations, both with institutes & on the technical development level. I really appreciated the depth and the ambition which could be see throughout the research ecosystem, and resolved to be a part of it.
BB: We (my better half and I) have always wanted to spend more time in Europe, so being based in Amsterdam makes it that much easier to explore Europe and visit the friends and family we have here. We are also really looking forward to experiencing all the different cultures and their heritage!

IP: How do you find Amsterdam so far? We hope you’ll survive the weather…

HG: Grey. Quietly majestic. Friendlier than anticipated.
BB: I have really enjoyed Amsterdam so far! I love the architecture, the canals and the diversity of foods! Weather has been a lot colder than what I am used to, and the number of daylight hours at the moment are… a little on the low side.

IP: It will get better, I promise. The spring will bring us the rain… I mean the sun! Haha. What are some challenges that you see in your new job?

HG: Ask me in 6 months!
BB: The biggest challenge so far has been transitioning from the user and researcher perspective to the IT provisioning perspective, for me, quite a big career change. Trying to understand the technologies EGI provides while learning about the science and workflows of new scientific disciplines has been an interesting and challenging task!

IP: Hilary, tell me something everyone should know about Australia. And what do you love most about it?

HG: It’s always summer…

IP: Björn, what about South Africa?

BB: South Africa is a massively diverse country not only in its landscapes but also in its people and cultures, you can live there a lifetime and not experience everything the country has to offer. I have travelled a fair amount and I always love coming home! We also have great wine…

IP: Thank you very much and I hope you’ll enjoy your new life in the Netherlands and at EGI!

HG: Thanks a lot!
BB: Definitely, thank you!

View of Cape Town and Björn’s previous route to work…

More information:






Hilary Goodson is Senior Strategy and Policy Officer at the EGI Foundation.






Björn Backeberg is Senior User Community Support Officer at the EGI Foundation.

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