‘If there is such a thing as a stereotypical “Rotterdammer” - it would be me’, says John Jaques, Country Manager at Avanade Netherlands. After joining Accenture’s affiliate company Avanade in March 2017, he became part of Accenture Netherlands’ Leadership Team (NLT).

Who are the people behind Accenture? What drives Yogesh Sokhal and inspires him on a daily basis? How has Stijn Schepers' life, career, ambitions and dreams developed over the years? What difficult choices has Babs van Ballegooie 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.

Introducing John Jaques, Country Manager at Avanade Netherlands.

‘As a true “Rotterdammer”, I don’t like beating around the bush. I’m more the let’s-all-roll-up-our-sleeves-and-get-it-done type of guy. You could say that I am rather tenacious: if an organization wants to ruffle some feathers then we’ll be peas in a pod. At Avanade, they were looking for a country manager who could capitalize on the opportunities the market was offering. My priority is to seize those opportunities. It is what I enjoy the most and do best. To me, few things are as rewarding as shaking things up a bit, building a fantastic team and creating successful projects together.’

When It’s Easy, I’m Out

‘It took me quite a few years to realize that’s my forte: finding something that’s complicated and challenging, and sinking my teeth into it. If something becomes too easy, I get bored and, thus, lazy. As long as I wake up every morning thinking ‘what can we solve or gain today?’ I am happy. Seeing that goal on the horizon and knowing we’re working towards it is what keeps me on my toes and makes me love my job as much as I do. I am driven by getting a high-performing team on board and, hopefully, infecting them with my brand of passion and enthusiasm.’

‘The power of Avanade as a business unit of Accenture lies in its specialist focus on Microsoft ecosystems. Combined with Accenture’s broader outlook on the market, it makes for a very successful collaboration. Being the Microsoft brand of Accenture is a role that fits us like a glove. In addition to differing in size and scale, there’s also a deviation in core focus: Accenture is your partner in strategic consultancy, while Avanade is still more of a sidekick in technology - even though Avanade is slowly but surely shifting more towards the business side, too.’  

Being Married to Me Must Be Really Exhausting

‘One can only have respect for my wife, Hanneke, who I have been with for over twenty years. Sitting still is one of the hardest things for me; I like to keep busy constantly. Being married to me must be really exhausting. Personally, I think I have ADHD, even though we didn’t know what that was when I was young. I often thought it was just a phase, but I am 56 now and I still am the hyperactive busy bee I was twenty years ago. Having two young children certainly helps; next to my daughter Mandy (28) and Michelle (24) from my first marriage, Hanneke and I have a 14-year-old daughter, Nina, and a 13-year-old son, Jesper. They surely keep me active, too.’             

‘I guess being restless is just a part of who I am’

‘I truly find it extremely difficult to relax. Perhaps it’s a secret fear of having nothing to do, I’m not sure. I guess being restless is just a part of who I am. On the flip side, I really love all things I do outside of work. Knowing that I can help other people, a club or community by simply devoting some time and effort is incredibly satisfying. Coaching and training my son’s football team is what I love doing the most. If I had more time, I would spend it on the football field.’

A Professional Career That Wasn’t Going to Happen

‘I gave up actively playing football two years ago, after nearly fifty years. Although I made it to one of Feyenoord’s top youth teams, I was never going to become a professional player - despite my father’s belief. I just wasn’t talented enough, and the fact that I liked going out, girls and, at a certain age, cigarettes, clearly didn’t help either. When I got injured at 19 years old, I left Feyenoord and continued playing at a different club.’

‘When I was approached years back about possibly becoming a football coach, I didn’t have to think twice. This was a football club in an underprivileged neighborhood in Rotterdam, where I got to train and coach 12-year-old boys, some of whom have had more encounters with the police than most of us would have in a lifetime. It wasn’t always easy, but realizing, at the end of a season, I had an impact on one or two of those boys made it all worthwhile. It was great to play a role in keeping them off the streets, disciplining them and being some kind of father figure.’  

While They Are Sleeping...

‘Weekends are for family, friends and fun. Obviously, when things get busy I sometimes do a bit of work here and there, but generally speaking, the days of working over the weekend are way behind me. Although, since I am an early riser, I can get some work in before the rest of the family wakes up and breakfast is served. I just hate having to work my way through hundreds of unanswered emails, especially after a holiday, so I’d rather keep up a bit. Saturdays are reserved for football: besides coaching Jesper’s team, I also attend the matches of our top team, for which I am the head of the technical committee.’

‘Sunday mornings are for our joint family passion: skiing. When I met Hanneke I had never skied before, but that didn’t stop me from going skiing with her and some friends. It turned out to be a total disaster. I figured I had two options: bail out and accept skiing wasn’t for me, or pull up my socks and do better. That’s how I ended up taking my first-ever skiing lesson at the age of 40. Nowadays, we go to the indoor ski center, where Nina and Jesper love to practice out in the snow. Hanneke and I will occasionally ski too, but we usually have a coffee and watch the children do their thing. They both started when they were very young and are very good!’  

Life Goals: Record My Own Album

‘If there’s one thing that helps me relax, it’s singing. I was “discovered” during a skiing trip, when my friend who happens to be a semi-professional performer, overheard me taking on some tunes in the shower. “That’s actually not too bad,” he said. As a present for my 50th birthday, he and Hanneke surprised me with a masterclass by a professional singing coach. From there on, things got slightly out of hand. Starting with singing an occasional song here and there, to my first small concert, to performing live in theatre with a 46-person orchestra - and it doesn’t end there.’

‘Next year I hope to record my own cd, singing my all-time favorite ballads. It will be a limited edition, only meant for friends and family, of course. I haven’t decided which songs to include just yet, but Sway by Michael Bublé and Witchcraft by Frank Sinatra are definitely on the list. As much as I love singing at home on my own, being able to entertain an audience is the best feeling there is.’

John Jaques (1961)

Studied: After high school, I wanted to study physical education, but didn’t get in. When I tried getting in at the police academy, I again was rejected for that year. In what was supposed to be a gap year, I accidentally got a job at an IT company and was trained to be a programmer. After that, going to university was just not on the cards anymore

Started working at Avanade: March 2017

Relationship status: Married to Hanneke, father of Mandy (28), Michelle (24), Nina (14) en Jesper (13)

Loves: Optimistic people. Those who see the glass half full as opposed to half empty

Gets annoyed by: Incessant whiners

Favorite food: Sushi

On my nightstand: My watch

Listens to: Very broad range of music and, depending on my mood, it can be Dutch sing-along songs (“meezingers”) or beautiful ballads - I can listen to pretty ballads any time

Last purchase: A custom-made suit

Would like to sit next to in the plane: Michael Bublé. I would ask him things about his music, how he prepares for a concert and why on earth it takes seven months to record a new album?  

Life-changing event: The birth of my children and the passing of loved ones. My dad passed away four years ago and even though it wasn’t unexpected, it still changed my life

The best lesson life has taught me: Always be yourself

What I learned last week: I realized, once again, that you should never just assume that everyone is on the same page. Communication and clarity are constantly necessary to ensure everybody is on the right track

Most beautiful place on earth: Rotterdam

Hobbies/passions: Being on the football field, singing and eating good food, which shows because I’ve gained ten kilos thanks to my epicurean indulgence

What nobody knows about me: That I once had lunch with Bill Clinton. While living in Denmark - when I was CEO of CapGemini Denmark - there was a big event on globalization that Bill Clinton attended. When it came to the seating arrangements for lunch, my friend, who organized the event, made sure that both he and I sat at the same table as Bill. It was definitely one of the most interesting lunches I have ever had  

Life motto: Never forget to count your blessings! Plus: focus on the opportunities rather than the obstacles