Who are the people behind Accenture? What drives Youri de Koster and inspires her on a daily basis? How has Savitri Groag's life, career, ambitions and dreams developed over the years? What difficult choices has Mashad Bani-Aman made in her life? Through a series of portraits, we answer these questions and introduce you to our people: those who make Accenture the thriving company that it is.
‘When I was 14 years old, I bought my first real computer; the Sony Hitbit, which was launched that year. Nowadays, you would probably only find them in a museum, but back then it brought me much joy. I used it to play games, entertain my friends and to do some programming. ‘My fascination with technology and everything it enables us to do has always been a constant factor in my life. After graduating high school, I went on to study Information Management, for which I moved from Tietjerksteradeel - yes, it really does exist – to Tilburg. My most favourite time spent is being with my children while they play sport – soccer, field hockey or horse riding, which complements my photography hobby fantastically.’
Inspired by the American Way of Living
‘I graduated in 1993 and decided to move for the second time; this time going overseas to study in Saint Louis. I obtained my Masters degree in Technology & Human Affairs at Washington University, one of the top 20 universities in the United States. More than anything, the experience was extremely meaningful in terms of personal development: the American lifestyle appealed to me greatly. I love the freedom it allows and the space it gives the individual.’
The Amazing Impact a Strong Team Can Have
‘If I were to name my true passions, they would be technology, (water) sports and my family. Growing up in Friesland, a lot of time was spent on the water – surfing or sailing. At a (much) later age I started playing rugby. Unfortunately, I sustained too many injuries over a short period of time, so I had to hang up my boots. Besides the actual sport, it’s the teamwork that I find absolutely amazing about rugby. Watching the All Blacks - New Zealand’s national squad - is so thrilling: what an amazing display of team effort - it’s almost religious. In many ways, we have the same dynamic at Accenture, which is one of the many reasons why I love working at the company. There are so many ambitious, young, high-energy people who thrive on teamwork. It’s through this intense, close way of collaborating, that we can truly make a difference.’
It’s cases like these that make me realize the enormous impact of teamwork, and I love being a part of that.
‘The impact good teamwork can have is enormous. For instance, we recently studied the influence of open banking for one of financial services clients and analyzed it in relation to the global industry. We translated all data into a detailed plan containing concrete advice on how the bank should take action on both the organizational and technical side of things. It’s cases like these that make me realize the enormous impact of teamwork, and I love being a part of that. Even if I did all the research on my own - and believe me, there is no way I would’ve been able to! - it wouldn’t have been as rewarding.’
My Most Inspiring Colleague
‘One of the most extraordinary team members I have the privilege of working with is Garmt van Soest. Aside from being a fantastic colleague, he is also someone who inspires me greatly as a human being. Garmt was part of my team three years ago, when he was diagnosed with ALS. It’s his incredible willpower that I am in awe of. This weekend, for instance, I sent an email to the entire strategy team asking for feedback; despite his limitations in his ability to type an answer – Garmt achieves this by using eye movement -Garmt is the first to reply - not a few lines, but a full A4 document.’
‘Garmt’s personality and drive ensured that - despite the personal tragedy he and his family are suffering - fantastic things are set in motion. Cases in point: the launch of a global ALS patient registry system; a collaboration with professors of the University of Utrecht and the launch of an investment fund to help finding the cure for ALS. To me, it also showed the power an organization can have - stretching beyond things that are achieved between Mondays and Fridays from 8am to 6pm. Garmt’s blogs can be read online - I highly recommend them to everyone.’
What is Inspiring Leadership?
‘Please don’t ask me how I, as a leader, inspire people; I have an aversion to the word “leadership”. Why? Because it is my firm belief that people don’t want to be managed. I am convinced we should rather create an environment where individuals are given the time and space they need to develop. If I were to have any role as a leader, that would be my ultimate goal: to make sure my team experiences as little obstacles as possible so that they can flourish as individuals.’
Live Life to the Full
‘That also characterizes my personality: live life to the full, try new things, fall flat on your face, be catapulted; find your personal comfort zone and see if you can push beyond it. It’s one of the reasons why I picked up kitesurfing recently. After this, I am curious to find out what my next challenge will be!’
Berend de Jong (1968)
Studied: MSc, Information Management, Tilburg University (1993), MSc Technology & Human Affairs, Washington University (1995)
Started working at Accenture: March 2013
Family situation: Happy father of three children
Loves: Spending time on the water. Photography. Spending much time with the children
Gets annoyed by: Opinionated people with limited capabilities to listen
Favorite food: In my former, non-vegan life I would go for a good meatball, but these days it will be a vegan burger with vegetables and potatoes
On my nightstand: The Trial, Kafka
Listens to: I don’t listen to music; I only listen to talk radio. Preferably BBC (but reception is very poor these days in Holland), otherwise BNR or Radio 1
Last purchase: New running shoes
Would like to sit next to in the plane: Definitely the Dalai Lama. The fact that one of my friends actually ended up sitting next to him on a plane makes me believe that I have a chance, too.
Life-changing event: My first ten meters on a kitesurfing board
The best lesson life has taught me: Ask for forgiveness, not permission
What I learned last week: ‘What you give is what you get!’ Last week I sent an email to the whole Accenture Strategy Team, asking everyone their thoughts on what we as a team and organization could do better, what we should improve. I was truly amazed by the fantastic, warm and valuable feedback I got.
Most beautiful place on earth: Anywhere on the water
Hobbies/passions: kitesurfing, technology, running
What nobody knows about me: This might be a bit embarrassing, but the fact that I only recently realized that I really, truly love working at Accenture.
Life motto: ‘Screw it, let’s do it’ – Richard Branson