‘I had become a person I didn’t like so much, to put it mildly’

Two years ago, Michael Teichmann, Managing Director of Accenture Security, was a very different person. He wouldn’t have taken the time to read his colleagues’ stories, let alone be willing to tell his own. 'As I was very results oriented, I tended to overlook the human side of my work.'

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‘My parents are traditional working-class people. I was the first one in my family to go to university. This made me very driven and motivated to grab this opportunity with both hands and make sure I made a success of it. That said, in those days, I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise, so I must admit, my decision to study Information Science was a tad random. Aside from my boyish aspirations to become an astronaut, pilot or a firefighter, the only other area that really fascinated me was astronomy. But when I realized that only the lucky few prosper in this field – well done André Kuipers! – I turned to the other subject that I had always found interesting: technology. After finishing my Electrical Engineering bachelor’s degree in Rotterdam, I went on to do my Computer Science master’s in Delft.’

Black coffee is best - well, sort of

‘My parents’ families originate from the Netherlands, Indonesia, Spain, the Czech Republic and Poland, so a desire to experience different cultures is part of my DNA. When I was 24, I did a year-long internship in the United Kingdom. As I’d only ever lived at home before then, this trip was the first time I was really on my own. I studied in a town called Swindon in South West England, and although it definitely wasn’t as vibey as London or other big cities, I had the time of my life. Taking care of myself, making friends from all over the world, interacting with so many different cultures, dealing with setbacks on my own, even making my own coffee – all meaningful learning points. Although, I must say, I did start drinking my coffee black during this time – not because I liked it that way, but because so often I forgot to buy milk and sugar at the supermarket.’

A desire to experience different cultures is part of my DNA.

‘If it wasn’t for my then-girlfriend and now my wife, Angelique, I probably would have stayed in the United Kingdom to work there a little longer. But she gave me lots of reasons to come back, and so that’s what I did. A little while later, in late 1996, I was at a job fair when somebody from Andersen Consulting [Accenture’s former name] approached me. I had never even heard of Andersen Consulting, but still, we had a rather nice chat. A few weeks later I had a job interview and before I knew it there was a contract in front of me waiting to be signed.’

'One of the things that appealed to me most about the field of consultancy was the fact that it didn’t limit me to a narrow career path or force me to choose a specific line of work that would define me forever. As a consultant, you come across so many different industries and roles, so I figured this job would help me to find my niche one day. The fact that I am still at Accenture almost 22 years later is proof that I have come to realize that this is my niche – it is exactly what I want to do with my life. It also helped that from day one at the company I have worked on projects that have a technical component to them. In the first group I was placed in, there were numerous technically-oriented people. Together, we accomplished Accenture’s first-ever BPO deal. Those were just very exciting times, and in fact, over the past two decades, my work has never stopped being exciting.’

How I accidentally became a cybersecurity expert

‘The fact that my expertise lies in cybersecurity definitely adds to the excitement of the job. I never really made a conscious decision to specialize in this field – it was just something I “accidentally” rolled into. Then again, looking back I suppose you could say I have always been involved in cybersecurity issues – we just didn’t have a name for it yet back then. It wasn’t until the dot-com boom that the concept of cybersecurity started to make its way onto the agenda of big companies and governments. In the years that followed, I kept broadening my knowledge of the subject, and that’s how I became the cybersecurity expert I am today.’

One of the most challenging aspects of cybersecurity is the fact that there is no standardized solution to a problem.

'One of the most challenging aspects of cybersecurity is the fact that there is no standardized solution to a problem – if there ever will be a uniform solution. Emerging from a dark, hidden corner that we all tried not to think about, cybersecurity has become a top priority across the board. Most people have little idea – if any at all – of the potential impact of cybersecurity, or rather, the lack thereof. A consideration of cybersecurity should be integral to everything we do and all the decisions we make. On the one hand, we have a government that wants to guarantee our safety, but on the other hand, there are still so many people posting every detail of their lives on social media. I strive to help our clients and communities become more aware of the importance of cybersecurity. If our efforts help us to foil even just one cyberattack, and thus prevent a lot of damage, we can consider this a job well done.’

I wasn’t a jerk - but I certainly could be one

‘Speaking about a job well done, while I believe I was doing good work, I definitely approached my duties completely differently to the way I do now. I used to be extremely results oriented and I focused only on the content and outcome of the job, at the expense of the human side of my work. I used to think of people as resources – tools you would apply to a challenge in order to achieve a certain goal. If a particular person, or tool, didn’t do their job, it would be a case of “replace and move on”. I’ll admit that this somewhat inhuman approach made my work easy, but it also made it a lot less fulfilling. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I was a jerk or an unfriendly guy, but I know I could definitely act like one from time to time.'

‘Then, one Monday morning, I was driving to work and reflecting on the weekend that had just passed. “Why did I yell at my children this weekend. Was that really necessary? Did they deserve to have such a grumpy dad?” And even more importantly: “Am I being a good role model for them?” When I realized that the answer to all the questions I asked myself was “no”, I knew I had become a person I didn’t like so much, to put it mildly. Things needed to change.’

I knew I had become a person I didn’t like so much. Things needed to change.

‘I assumed my “stress” was work-related, so I reduced my workload and tried to lower my stress levels. But even when my calendar became more manageable, I still didn’t grow into the nicer person I hoped to be. I came to the conclusion that the problem didn’t lie with my job; it was rooted more deeply. I was always thinking about what had gone wrong in the past or what needed to change in the future, and in so doing I never took the time to just live in the now. “Do I enjoy what I’m doing now? Does it give me energy?” Never did I ask myself those kinds of questions; I was always too busy moving on to the next thing.’

‘Things started to change when, supported by a coach, I started to ask myself the kinds of questions I had always strategically avoided. The first step towards coaching was through some guidance from a very close friend who really put the wheel in motion and guided me towards finding a coach. Accenture has great coaches - something that is too much a hidden treasure and an "asset" that I could recommend to everyone. How can we be "Truly Human" if each and every one of us doesn’t act that way?  Today, I can honestly say I have found a solid, healthy balance in my life. Perhaps the most significant change is that these days there is very little difference between Michael-at-home and Michael-at-the-office. I have learned to open up to people and let my guard down. I rely more on feeling and intuition than on reasoning only. It turns out that deep down I am far more sensitive than I ever wanted to admit.’

Something about a journey and a destination

‘My “transformation” has had quite an impact on my personal life. On Monday mornings, I drive to work reflecting back on the fun, relaxed weekend I just had with my family and I feel truly content. When my 12-year-old daughter, Liv, recently told me that I’m a lot less grumpy and brusque than I used to be, it was a nice confirmation that I’m on the right path. At the same time, it was extremely confrontational, too. How could I ever lead by example and want her to grow up as a great person if she wasn’t quite happy with how I was behaving?’

When you motivate your team in the right way, [...] you’ll get there faster and see better results than you ever thought possible.

'My attitude change also shines through in my managerial style and approach to people. Now I realize that when you motivate your team in the right way, you’ll not only still achieve the desired outcome, but you’ll get there faster and see better results than you ever thought possible. The old Michael would essentially force his colleagues to do as he said because he would personally decide where we needed to go and how we would get there. But those days are gone. I’ve personally witnessed what happens when you let people use their creativity, so now, instead of defining the route to a particular result, I ask my co-workers what they think the plan of action should be. While I always thought that people who claimed “the journey is more important than the destination” were wrong, I now see that they are spot on. Being a coaching leader allows me to grow as a person. More than anything, my new perspective has made my life and my job much more interesting. It has taught me that caring for people, opening up to them and understanding their passion is much more fulfilling.’

Michael Teichmann (1971)

Studied: MSc Information Science, Delft University of Technology (1997)

Started working at Accenture: April 1st, 1997

Relationship status: Married to Angelique, father to Liv (12) and Sem (8)

Loves: The beach. Having grown up 200 meters from the Beach, I consider it my happy place. As I live in Oostvoorne these days, the beach is just a five-minute cycle away. When we go for dinner at one of the restaurants on the shoreline and just sit there for a few hours, it feels like we’re on holiday.

Gets annoyed by: People who don’t listen and bureaucracy

Favorite food: Pizza (Italian food in general)

On my nightstand: A few books (I always read several books at the same time) - currently The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson and Solve for Happy - Engineering your path to Joy by Mo Gawdat, and my Philips Wake-up Light (it actually works)

Listens to: Anything but reggae and experimental jazz

Last purchase: A new pair of jeans, in a smaller size (yay, the healthier lifestyle has paid off)

Would like to sit next to in the plane: Nelson Mandela

Life-changing event: The births of Liv and Sem

The best lesson life has taught me: Follow your heart

What I learned recently: Achievement comes down to people and how you motivate them

Most beautiful place on earth: Wherever my family is

Hobbies/passions: Being on, in or below water; astronomy (I can spend hours staring through my telescope) and good food and wine (hence the aforementioned recently adopted healthier lifestyle)

What nobody knows about me: That I was a lifeguard in my younger days - from the age of 10 until 20 I was part of the rescue brigade in Hellevoetsluis and did beach patrol between the age of 16-20

Life motto: Pura Vida! (Enjoy life) – after all, it’s always too short.

Who are the people behind Accenture? What drives Ilham El Khayari and inspires her on a daily basis? How has Gulyasemin Cakir 's life, career, ambitions and dreams developed over the years? What difficult choices did Lisette Draaisma have to make 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.

Author: Inge Abraham