At the Forefront of Innovation
Who are the people behind Accenture? What drives Hester Prins and inspires her on a daily basis? How has William de Waard's life, career, ambitions and dreams developed over the years? What difficult choices has Melissa Cheung 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 Rob Knigge, Managing Director in Products at Accenture.
When he was younger, he dreamt of becoming the new Robby Naish. Growing up in Zeeland, Rob Knigge spent a lot of his time outdoors and on the water. He moved to Amsterdam when he was 19 to study. ‘I always knew I wanted to live in Amsterdam - the city where it all happens.’
These days, the managing director for Accenture's Products group lives in IJburg with Martine and their two children. ‘It’s the best of two worlds: our garden borders water, so on a sunny day you can go for a swim and when it is cold enough for it to freeze over, you can actually skate on it. What’s more, Amsterdam’s city center is a mere 20-minute bicycle ride from IJburg, so it’s an ideal spot.’
‘As a student, I definitely saw my fair share of that city center. Growing up in Zeeland was fantastic - cycling in the middle of the street without the risk of being hit by a car, building treehouses, cycling to the beach with my surfboard on the back of my bike: it’s the ultimate sense of freedom. That said, I always knew that Amsterdam was the place to be. I was right: student life in Amsterdam was absolutely great. It took me six years to finish my master's degree - let’s say I experienced the “true student life”, comprising highs, lows and plenty of partying.’
A Peek behind the Scenes
‘I joined Accenture - then Andersen Consulting - in 2000, right after graduating, and it was my first real job. During my studies, I had completed internships at a bank and at a small consultancy firm. A friend of mine was working at Andersen and finding his feet quite nicely. So I thought it was a good idea to apply: I figured working as a consultant would be a smart way to have a peek behind the scenes before I would start at a “real” company. Like taking a “test drive” before the actual journey started.’
"Despite working for a large firm, you feel very entrepreneurial. You are given the freedom to make your own decisions."
‘Eighteen years later, that “test drive” is still my journey. One of the reasons why I have always loved, and still love working for Accenture is the people I work with: they’re all smart and extremely driven. We all work together for the benefit of our clients; everyone is 100 percent committed. Working in such an energetic environment is truly inspiring, especially considering some of your clients are the world’s largest organizations. Then there is the fact that despite working for a large firm, you feel very entrepreneurial. You are given the freedom to make your own decisions, and, when needed, you can consult the greater support system to back you up. If ever I need colleagues for advice or assistance, they’re always there to help. The greatest challenge for me is to ensure you always one-up the competition and, secondly, continuously create value for our clients. Or, to be more concise, to over-deliver our own promises.’
Being at the Forefront of Innovation
‘Lastly, it’s also the current buzz around innovation that I find fascinating and fantastic. For example, we are now the world’s largest digital marketing agency, and find ourselves at the forefront of innovation. The world around us is changing at such a rapid pace, and we try to keep up with everything around us - I love being part of the avant-garde. It’s a combination of all these elements that makes me still enjoy my job as much as I do to this day.
‘I like to think my pragmatic mindset makes me good at what I do; I’m the “keep-it-simple” kind of guy. There is no point in unnecessarily complicating something when the solution can actually be very simple and straightforward. When a client presents a problem, I try to break it down to its essence right away, and offer a simplified yet effective solution: “If we do A and B, followed by C, this will be the outcome.” This way it’s easy for everybody to understand what we’re talking about and, more importantly, where we’re heading. It makes it easier for people to be enthusiastic and march to the beat of the same drum.’
People Who Don’t Add Value
‘My ideal colleague is proactive, always ready to help, enthusiastic, energetic and, above all, wants to ensure we deliver the best possible service to our client. I have a strong aversion to people who are more focused on their personal position within the organization and ride on the coattails of other colleagues and take credit for the work. Not only does it make you untrustworthy, it also means you don’t add any value to the team or for the client.’
"[You] should never be afraid to ask questions, regardless of who you need answers from."
‘If a new employee approached me for advice, my response would be two-fold. Firstly, I would tell them that they should never be afraid to ask questions, regardless of who you need answers from, whether an analyst, senior manager or CEO. Secondly, I would urge them to ensure they are assigned a project as soon as possible. Don’t be too picky or selective when it comes to the type of project, whether it’s implementing SAP or a more strategic project, it’s the best way to get in the flow of things and be part of the company.’
‘Accenture is a great place to work. If I were Pierre Nanterme for a day, I would try to minimize the red tape of bureaucracy that’s slowly creeping into the organization. Sometimes I just feel that some processes have become too complex. Like I’ve mentioned before - I like simplifying things, if possible. Above all, being in Pierre’s shoes for a day would probably be one of the most inspiring experiences; for instance, all the meetings he has with CEOs of the world’s biggest companies.’
‘Highlights in my personal life are definitely the birth of my two children, Renske and Tijmen. The older they get, the more I enjoy the experience - even though with age it gets somewhat harder, too. When my sister and I moved out of my parents’ home, we made the promise to go skiing as a family once a year. We haven’t missed a year since: that week in Italy filled with skiing, coffee, good wine and great company is nothing short of amazing. Even while my dad is in his seventies now, he still joins and skis with us.’
"My mom’s death made me realize you need to spend as much time as possible with family and friends."
‘When my mother passed away very unexpectedly in 2012, it felt like my life was turned upside down. More than anything, my mom’s death made me realize you need to spend as much time as possible with family and friends, since life can come to an end very suddenly. I love spending time with my family - I’m very grateful to have Martine and our children, and the fact that we are all in good health. Last summer, we traveled to Sri Lanka, which was incredible. We rented a house on the beach where we just spent our time reading the newspaper, playing games and drinking a good glass of wine (the adults, of course) - those are the moments I am at my happiest.’
‘Next to quality time with family and friends, I also need my regular workout in order to maintain a balanced life. I run at least once a week - 10k through the park will do just fine to completely clear my head, or, if needed, give me the freedom to work through anything that might be on my mind. While running, solutions always present themselves. Like a few years ago when we had challenges with a project, I would always compose e-mails to the senior client stakeholders whilst running. That way, I knew exactly which words to use in the mail when I got home. Monday nights are reserved for tennis lessons with three of my friends, which is followed by an equally fun catch-up session. Lastly, an occasional dinner and good glass of wine with Martine also does the trick.’
Rob Knigge (1974)
Studied: Msc Business Economics, Free University, Amsterdam (1999)
Started working at Accenture: February 2000
Relationship status: Together with Martine, father to Renske (2006) and Tijmen (2008)
Loves: Going on holidays with the family
Gets annoyed by: People who don’t keep their promises
Favorite food: Sushi, French cuisine and a good steak
On my nightstand: A book: right now it’s Topman by Jens Lapidus
Listens to: Spotify - I’m a big fan of the “Koffiehuis” playlist
Last purchase: A bottle of wine for my sister and gear for our upcoming skiing holiday
Would like to sit next to on the plane: Barack Obama
Life-changing event: My mother’s passing in 2012
The best lesson life has taught me: Life can be short, so make the most of it while you can
What I learned last week: That some things are just too big and complex to solve on your own. When presented with a mammoth task, don’t waste time trying to get it done by yourself; it is always best to consult other people immediately.
Most beautiful place on earth: Sri Lanka and the Oman desert (so far)
Hobbies/passions: Skiing, jogging, good wine and barbecuing on my Big Green Egg
What nobody knows about me: That I used to play korfball when I was younger. What can I say - it’s the number one sport in Zeeland
Life motto: Just enjoy life!
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