Who are the people behind Accenture? What drives Youri de Koster and inspires him 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 his 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 Javier Leonor, a Senior Manager at Accenture Netherlands.
‘I love musicals; I used to watch every episode of Glee and, in the weekend, go out to gay bars in Amsterdam. On a Monday morning, when talking about the weekend with colleagues, I would be an open book. Being able to completely be myself and make jokes (some of which I am the target of!) – is something I am very grateful for. Moreover, I hope it has a positive impact on my team. If I tell them about my Glee addiction, they might open up about their fascination with Game of Thrones, for instance. I want my job to be a healthy balance of learning and having fun. Even if a project is a massive success, but if my team didn’t enjoy the journey, I consider it a personal failure.’
Personal approach probably sets me apart from other senior managers.
‘Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet. I like to think people enjoy working with me because of how open and approachable I am. I want to connect with people – and I think you can only achieve that by showing people who you really are and if it happens, become personal. Of course, I can be strict from time to time as well, but work should really be a fun environment, too. I believe that trust brings people together, and when there’s little distance between people, they can achieve greatness as a team. Undoubtedly, one of my team’s core strengths is that they are close-knit. This somewhat less business-like and more personal approach probably sets me apart from other senior managers.’
This Time I Will Get Fired
‘As confident as I may come across, I have my insecurities, too. When I started at Accenture in the Netherlands in 2007, I was quite unsure of myself and my capabilities. Every time I started a new project, the prospect of not being good enough and being fired haunted me. I admit, ten years down the line, I still feel that pressure prior to a new project, albeit less intense every time. Every fresh endeavor is more challenging and exciting than the one before, and involves a different client. It’s that combination that feeds my anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is a bad thing; on the contrary, I think it keeps you on your toes as a professional. Moreover, it is one of the key reasons why I like my work as much as I do: the ongoing challenge and new things that cross my path. In just a decade I have accomplished things that would usually take other professionals almost double that time.’
‘My work makes me happy. I love working with clients and doing all the side projects outside of work – it really fulfills me. The fact that I get to be a career counselor, organize great team-building events and be part in the Cloud recruitment process puts a smile on my face. I am also the lead of Accenture’s LGBT group, which is especially important to me. Overall, I love reaching out to all kinds of people, and especially guiding and supervising juniors in their careers. Being able to help them develop and find themselves is truly very rewarding. I get to do all these things that make me a better person and make me genuinely happy. How many people can say the same about their jobs?’
I Was Rejected Before I Was Even Interviewed
‘Life could’ve been very different for me. When I applied for a job as network consultant at Accenture, I wasn’t even invited for an interview. I was told my résumé indicated that I didn’t have enough network systems knowledge. I called the recruitment lady and told her “there was no way I had too little knowledge about network systems, I am the biggest geek they will ever meet!” She advised me to adjust my CV accordingly, which I did, and re-applied. Luckily, it did the trick and I started at Accenture on November 1st 2007.’
‘Before commencing at Accenture, I was already living in the Netherlands for a decade. I moved to this country in 1997 when I was offered a job at a computer company in Nijmegen. The first 17 years of my life were spent in Segovia, a small town close to Madrid, where I grew up. It wasn’t until my final year at college, after I did an exchange program with a German university, that I realized what it’s like to live on your own, and I mean that in a good way. After having always been close to and under the wings of my family for a large part of my life, I think I actually “matured” during that year in Germany. After that, I decided that I wanted to get some more overseas work experience. But, as fate would have it, after graduating and doing my military service, I was offered a job in Madrid – by Accenture – which I accepted. After a year, I realized it wasn’t for me, and I became more serious about finding that job abroad. When the opportunity in the Netherlands presented itself, it was a no-brainer.’
The Last Elfstedentocht
‘I remember arriving in this country in February 1997. It was when the last “Elfstedentocht” took place, which looked like a fairytale winter. I absolutely loved it. The company found me a house in a bungalow park and advised me to buy a bicycle to cycle to work every day. I stood there in the freezing cold – it was minus ten degrees – thinking: “I’m Spanish, there’s no way I’m going to cycle 30 minutes through the countryside every day in this cold”. It wasn’t long before I swapped the bungalow park villa for a comfy apartment in the center of Nijmegen, where I was very happy. As soon as the cold made way for the warmer days, I got back on the bicycle. Today, I have three bicycles that I couldn’t do without.’
‘Fast forward to today: I am living in my own house in what they call the ‘Eastern Islands’ of Amsterdam, happily married to my Dutch husband, Freek. I bought the apartment twelve years ago, it’s close to the so-called De Gooyer Molen – did you know it is the only windmill in the center of Amsterdam? When I bought the place, my friends thought I had gone mad. This part of the city was one of the most neglected areas of Amsterdam and was mainly associated with drugs and crime. I, on the other hand, was over the moon with my apartment. It’s incredible to see how this area has changed to a beautiful and vibrant neighborhood. I feel like I personally contributed to the transformation, but that might be taking a little too much credit! Freek laughs at me when I say we live in the center of the city. He’s a true “Amsterdammer” who grew up in the Jordaan, so for him, this eastern part resembles Lelystad, no matter what I say.’
Was He Joking, Drunk or Both?
‘I met Freek at a birthday party eight years ago. I was slightly “damaged” when I met him. Three months prior to that, my ex-boyfriend left me after 11 years together. I had seen Freek around town a few times, but never really got to talk to him. The night of the birthday party, we exchanged numbers and one thing led to another. I always wanted to get married; Freek didn’t. So when, during a weekend away in Stockholm, we walked to our hotel late after a night out, and he went down on his knee and proposed, I thought he was joking, drunk or both. We got married last year: first for a small crowd in the old Amsterdam town hall where Freek’s parents also got married, followed by a party for 150 people in my hometown in Spain. It was truly amazing.’
Yet another example of how I bonded with my Accenture colleagues
‘Of course, the past few years also came with its fair share of challenges. My father died in his sleep 1,5 years ago. He was perfectly healthy and fit – his death was very unexpected and really turned my world upside down. Shortly after that, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Luckily, she is doing fine now, but it certainly has been quite difficult from time to time. It’s yet another example of how I bonded with my Accenture colleagues: I didn’t expect the amazing support from them. After my dad’s death, I stayed in Spain for more than a month. My boss insisted I took all the time I needed to sort things out and be with my family. It was the same story when my mom fell ill soon after. My colleagues have been supporting me all the way and stepped in to ensure all projects kept running smoothly: the fact that people have your back is comforting and fantastic at the same time.’