Stefan Rouwen began working with SAP right after his Master's. Today, he is considered one of the leading Dutch experts on SAP Ariba - the "New SAP". Some days he reflects on his job and wonders why he continues to do it. Then he remembers that it allows him to grow, develop and feel reinvigorated.

 

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Right after his Master’s in Business Information Science, Stefan hit the ground running and started working with SAP. That’s how he became Technology Delivery SME Associate Director at Accenture the Netherlands and a leading Dutch expert on SAP Ariba. This year, he turns 50. ‘Of course, there are moments when I look in the mirror and ask myself: “What I am doing, and why I am still doing it?” However, at the end of the day, I realize my job still offers me the chance to grow, develop and feel reinvigorated.’

‘Even though it wasn’t a preconceived plan, I always had a keen interest in IT. I find e-procurement a very dynamic domain that continuously evolves and develops, regardless of the economic situation. The demand never stops: when an economy is under pressure, people always look for ways to reduce costs; when things are looking up, companies want to improve their procurement systems. The whole process of sourcing and e-procurement has evolved tremendously over the past years, decades even. I love the agility and increased speed of projects that came about. Not to mention, experiencing the shift in focus was also interesting: in the old days, software was customized to match clients’ computers; but today, organizations need to adjust to the software they are provided with.’

I believe every person finds the role that they are meant to

‘I believe every person finds the role that they are meant for. That’s how I ended up here, at least. During my study, I was always looking for the convergence point of technology and organizations. My interests aren’t limited to all things technology; I am also fascinated by its implementation in organizations. That’s why Accenture and I are a perfect match. It strikes the perfect balance of deep knowledge of technology - SAP, in my case - and looking at the best ways to implement it in large organizations. I like explaining to large companies how SAP Ariba works and, moreover, convincing them of how it can add value to the company’s systems. The fact that my role has evolved into a European one over the years contributes even more to the joy my work gives me.’

If I wanted to, I could work non-stop

‘I am very passionate and driven in my work; there are few things I love more than being involved in an exciting project. My role implies I have various projects running concurrently, while juggling a few proposals as well. That’s why working for Accenture is a double-edged sword: if I wanted to, I could work non-stop.’

‘I admit, I have often paid the price for working as hard I have sometimes. Finding and maintaining a healthy work/life balance hasn’t always been my strongest point, nor saying “no”. It’s true what they say: behind every successful man, there’s a strong woman. My wife, Debora, definitely played an important role in making sure all my ducks were in a row, so to speak. She decided to work part-time and run the family, while I was away traveling for work. Over the years, I have definitely improved my balancing act, though. For instance, I now work in Luxembourg three days a week, and work from home for the other two. Having the freedom to make these choices is very important, as is having an employer that allows and encourages it.‘

Meaningful learnings

‘One of the things I love about working at Accenture - and one of the reasons why I still work at the company after fourteen years - is the fact that I haven’t stopped learning new things. Not only do I acquire new technical skills, but I have also learned many life lessons along the way. Asking questions like “How can I influence clients’ behavior?” or “How can I help my client make the right decision?” are non-negotiables. For me, being much more of the analytical type, it’s those lessons that are very meaningful. Of course, there are moments or phases of having a tough time with projects, but at the end of the day, and considering all the factors, both good and bad, it all leads to more growth.’

Image: Stefan Rouwen in kitchen with son

‘As a manager, I want to be someone who is actively involved with the team and work closely with them to make the best decisions. While hierarchical structures are definitely not as rigid as they were years back, senior positions still hold some value in a big organization. To execute my role to the best of my ability, I rely on my knowledge and experience, not on any form of hierarchy or status. And this is certainly in line with today’s trend of a charismatic leader trumping the more traditional one.’

I rely on my knowledge and experience, not on any form of hierarchy or status

‘Moving out of my small hometown of Limburg when I was 18 to study - first a year in Eindhoven, before moving to Rotterdam - was a life-changing experience. Coming from a happy, somewhat protected upbringing, moving to the “far away, unknown Randstad” was a rather big step. I joined a student fraternity and got to experience student life; it was great. If anything, studying in Rotterdam broadened my horizon in several ways, and taught me to think bigger - in every sense of the word. After my study, I found a job at IBM in Uithoorn, which required a one-way commute of 1.5 hours every day. I didn’t see that as a negative; in fact, I enjoyed traveling back and forth. That’s probably where my belief that work means travel derives from.’

Reaching the half-century milestone

‘I turn 50 this year. While plans are definitely not set in stone yet, I would ideally like to spend my birthday somewhere far away with Debora and the kids. We can celebrate with friends and family in Holland another time. As long as Ralph and Faye - they’re 18 and 15 - still want and like to travel with us, we’ll take full advantage of it. Last year we went to New York, and San Francisco is on the agenda for May.’

‘If there’s one lesson I hope to teach my children, it’s to have an open mindset and embrace it. Obviously, children resemble their parents to some extent - it’s their DNA, after all - but they develop into their own personalities, too. Ralph seems to have inherited my work ethic and ambition. However, he clearly has something that I lack: an entrepreneurial spirit. He is always on the lookout for new business ventures. He is currently developing a program to buy and sell bitcoins. In my wildest dreams, he sets up his own company one day and hires me as a consultant.’

If there’s one lesson I hope to teach my children, it’s to have an open mindset and embrace it

‘Spending as much time away from home as I do, there are few places I would rather be during weekends and free time than at home. Being out and about isn’t too high on my to-do list; I like being in and around the house spending time with my family. Cooking is definitely a part of that: I consider myself quite a good pizza maker. I started experimenting with making pizzas when I realized it’s the kids’ favourite food and that it’s relatively very easy to make. Don’t expect any fancy combinations though; a simple margherita with salami is my signature creation. On sunny days, we like to take the boat out and be on the water for a bit. At the end of the day, I am game for anything that is relaxing and family-orientated.’

Image: Stefan Rouwen in kitchen

Stefan Rouwen (1968)

Studied: MSc Business Information Science, Erasmus University Rotterdam (1994)

Started working at Accenture: April 2004

Relationship status: Married to Debora, father to Ralph (18) and Faye (15)

Loves: Cooking (especially pizza) and proactive colleagues

Gets annoyed by: People not taking responsibility and showing zero initiative

Favorite food: Chinese or Italian

On my nightstand: Book of traveling to Scotland by camper - maybe one day…

Listens to: Coldplay, BLØF, Armin van Buuren

Last purchase: Second-hand Apple Watch to use for running

Would like to sit next to in the plane: Barack Obama

Life-changing event: Studying in Rotterdam

The best lesson life has taught me: Don’t see distance as an obstacle; embrace it and consider it as something that is taking you out of your comfort zone

What I learned last week: That you always need a plan. My new career counselor asked me what mine was and I had to concede that solid planning still isn’t my forte - I need to learn to work towards having a more solid, structured way of thinking and planning

Most beautiful place on earth: The Grand Canyon and the windmills on the Kinderdijk of course

Hobbies/passions: Cooking, jogging, surfing, sailing in our small boat. Also, I plan to take up kitesurfing one day

What nobody knows about me: I am addicted to Marktplaats - who isn’t? :)

Life motto: Every problem has a solution

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