Tessie’s Lightyear mission

‘Children aren’t what give me more purpose in life. We already have that with Lightyear.’
I arrive at Lightyear early, and calmly wait for Tessie to arrive. What strikes me is the easy-going atmosphere. Young people with backpacks stroll into the large lobby. At the front, the latest Lightyear prototype is sitting in a wooden crate. Curious employees try to catch a glimpse of it through the slits in the crate.

Text Mariska Pinxt – Van Iersel 
Image Nathalie and Pascale Duin


I only know her from her LinkedIn profile and a bit of googling. She comes in with a backpack, a green turtleneck and black skinny jeans. And with a subtle, pregnant belly. A natural beauty I would call her. Beautiful eyes, freckles and, apart from a little mascara, no make-up. Exactly the image I had of a lady in the tech world. Beauty and brains.


She wants to have four children, but with the changing world around her and a boyfriend who is not so keen, that remains to be seen. Number two is on the way, by early December the family will welcome a bundle of joy. “Four children, I don’t really know if that fits in with our sustainable mission. After all, humans are the biggest polluters on the planet. On the other hand, if our children are like Lex (Tessie’s partner, Co-founder and CEO of Lightyear) and me, they will probably do their best to make the world a bit nicer. Looking at it that way, we will be leaving a positive footprint.”

Tessie is from Gelderland and one half of a set of twins. Together, they are the youngest of four children.

“I grew up in a rural area, Winterswijk, and we always played outside. My parents put a lot of trust in me, and with it the freedom to make mistakes. I’m the nerd of the family. Not the best student, but someone who saw the possibility of improving the world faster with technology. My father was in politics, in the PVDA labour party, and I learned that the strongest shoulders carry the heaviest burdens.

As a young child, I went to Ethiopia. I saw children begging there, babies dying. So much injustice. I felt the inequality and realised that we were privileged. According to my mother, I carried the burden of the world on my shoulders at an early age.”

‘Four children, I don’t really know if that fits in with our sustainable mission’

Lightyear’s mission

The global mission that Lightyear wants to communicate is making driving cars sustainable and affordable. “We all need to get into electric cars faster and make it truly sustainable. Fortunately, prosperity is rising, and people in Africa should soon be able to drive electric cars as well. This will also increase their chances on the labour market. For me, sustainability means everyone having a better life without harming our world. I think it’s about having social impact. Technology is just a means.”

“At Lightyear, we certainly don’t neglect the social impact side of things. We feel a sense of responsibility and are people-oriented. For example, we do our research to ensure there is no child labour in the mines.”

From my parents, I inherited the drive to give something back to the world. Giving something without expecting anything in return. I would feel terrible if at any time I could have done more than I actually did. At some point if I have nothing more to contribute to Lightyear, there is still so much to do on this earth. I want to get involved in making social innovation more scalable. People need to want to understand the behaviour of others better. It takes energy to be nuanced, but it is important. ”

‘I also sometimes wonder whether I’m bonding enough with my son when I’m away for another week for Lightyear’

Mom guilt

“I need to hear other people’s stories to make sense of my own life. Lex and I work full-time. You could say Lightyear was our first child. It doesn’t feel like work, it feels like our mission. Something we are dedicating our lives to.”

“Yet such a full working week sometimes triggers the mom guilt. I barely took any maternity leave. Lightyear is just so rewarding. I sometimes find myself apologising for my busy job when I don’t actually owe anyone an explanation. Why do I do that? I do have to ask myself that question. Sometimes it feels like I have to make the choice between being a good mother, or being an ambitious woman.”

“When I’m away for a week for Lightyear, the question pops up in my mind of whether I spend enough time bonding with my young son. Can I trust the bond we share? Or am I damaging something during that week? I have to go through that process for myself. And that’s why it is still so important to read other women’s stories. It’s how I manage my own fears and expectations, and make sure I don’t start drowning in my own bubble.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

“Children aren’t what give me more purpose in life. We already have that with Lightyear. We do things that give us energy. I want the same for our children. Beyond that, we also want to teach our children to be open to the opinions of others. To be open to other cultures and not just live in your own little world.

Give them your trust and the space to grow. We also give that space to the people at Lightyear. We are mission-driven, but some people also tinker around with their diesel cars at home. That’s perfectly fine, but we do ask them to drive electric during the week.

The culture of fit is important for us. Once the car is delivered, there is still so much that needs to be done. Our people then want to keep working because they are proud of the contributions they are making. In this work-driven culture, we also strive for people to take good care of themselves. For us as an employer, this can also be conflicting, because it’s a high-pressure environment. That’s why we coach ourselves from inside the company, offer fitness classes, mindfulness and a personal development budget. We encourage people to work independently, but also to set their own limits. For many people, working at Lightyear means a bit of self-development.”

‘With Lex, I get a lot of enjoyment out of philosophising together about what is happening in the world.’

‘We encourage people to work independently, but also to set their own limits.’

At home

“In the time we spend with our son, quality is more important than quantity. It isn’t good to want to prioritise my schedule over him. When I’m at home, I adjust to him. And with Lex, I get a lot of enjoyment out of philosophising together about what is happening in the world. We want to keep enriching our minds with knowledge. No romcoms for us – true stories are better. Although, during my leave, I did deliberately start watching a few meaningless programmes. Just to switch off.

When it comes to personal development, I look at the behaviours people exhibit and what I can change about these behaviours. Training ourselves to improve communication, including at the leadership level. I think that neuropsychology is incredibly interesting, training yourself by continuing to feed your brain with positive thoughts. Everyone has the same amount of time every week, but it’s about how well you manage your energy. That’s a workout for the brain.”

Unfinished Business
As we wrap up the conversation and pack up our things, Tessie quickly tells me that she never did get her master’s degree. She studied Technical Innovation Sciences at TU/E.

“The fact that I didn’t get my master’s was something my parents considered quite a shame. I mostly felt external pressure to get that piece of paper, but I knew what I wanted at Lightyear. That’s why I just let it go. Shortly after I left TU/E behind me, my father passed away. Not getting that piece of paper did gnaw at me at that time. I had wanted to make him proud.

Sometimes I still have dreams about it. Then I finally pass that exam and get my master’s. So it’s a bit of unfinished business.”

She decides
She decides that sustainability is about more than just energy. That technology is merely a means to improving the world faster. And that her purpose is in people. She is not going into politics, but instead wants to improve people’s living conditions while leaving the earth intact. And she is doing all that without a piece of paper, but with a positive footprint. The beauty and the brains


  • –  Eindhoven University of Technology
  • –  Operational Purchaser at Prodrive
  • –  Co-founder of Blue Jay
  • –  Sales investor relations at Lightyear
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