Happy and nervous at the same time

Who are the people behind Accenture? What drives Marissa Jaggan and inspires her on a daily basis? How has Mark Ruiter's life, career, ambitions and dreams developed over the years? What difficult choices has Javier Leonor 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 Laurence van der Sande, Managing Director Applied Intelligence & Data Business Group NL

When everything’s steady, pressure-free and smooth sailing, Laurence van der Sande gets bored. Fortunately, after 14 years at Accenture, boredom still hasn’t entered the picture. She recently took on the position of Applied Intelligence NL Lead and is now steering the ship for 220 people. And as if that’s not enough, she’s also mother to 2-year-old Lidewij. It’s a good thing she likes crossword puzzles; figuring out how to balance it all can be quite the conundrum.

‘I’ve always been a very driven person. When I was younger I was a fanatic field hockey player. My identity is very much based on this need to push myself to the limit and see how much I can actually take. Am I ambitious? Absolutely. Could it be restlessness? Yes, I suppose that too. I’m definitely a very impatient person and I don’t like to just coast – I need to feel challenged and under pressure to excel. Before Lidewij was born, working nights was normal, but when you love what you do, working long hours is no sacrifice. Those days are over now, though. Even though my drive is still as alive as it was before, my daughter now comes first… always.’

Incredibly happy and unbelievably nervous at the same time

‘I had just started on the trajectory towards becoming Managing Director when I found out that I was pregnant. Obviously I was over the moon, but I also remember how incredibly nervous I was about telling my boss. I had just pitched for the position in Paris, and I could still be rejected. Stammering, I told my boss about my pregnancy. It turns out that my boss thought that I was approaching him to quit, so he was very relieved to find out that I was “just pregnant”. He assured me that my pregnancy wasn’t going to affect my chances of becoming MD. I felt extremely relieved and happy. When I was five months pregnant, I was promoted.’  

‘I guess many still hold the belief that having kids automatically rules out the option of enjoying a successful career at a big company. After all, there aren’t that many women in top positions in the corporate world. I personally never doubted that I could combine work and parenthood. I remember attending the Accenture Leadership Development Program and speaking to a foreign colleague who was trying to figure out how to time her future pregnancy. The truth is, I didn’t plan anything; I just took things as they came.’

“Can’t find a babysitter? Just bring her with you” 

‘When Lidewij was only six weeks old and I was still on maternity leave, our Country Managing Director at the time, hosted an event at her home. As much as I wanted to attend, I couldn’t find a babysitter for Lidewij. “Just bring her with you,” she said to me. And so I did just that. That gesture meant a lot to me, and also shows how important it is to Accenture to ensure that parenthood doesn’t hinder career growth in any way.’ 

‘What I love most about my job is the fact that I get to work with such a diverse assortment of people. It’s especially rewarding to work with young people – I’m simply amazed by how much they’re capable of. After every brainstorming session with them, I feel completely re-energized. I find it very fulfilling to be able to help people progress to the next level and move forward in their career.’ 

"My identity is very much based on this need to push myself to the limit and see how much I can actually take. Am I ambitious? Absolutely."

‘What makes me good at what I do? I think it’s a combination of my thoroughness and my ability to organize and structure work dynamics so that everyone thrives. I hope my team members find me easy to approach and see me as a friend, rather than as a boss or colleague – as someone that they can trust to help them pave a way forward in the right direction. The fact that I was appointed Lead of the Applied Intelligence in NL was a dream come true. Not only is this role one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced, but it also gives me the chance to contribute to progress in this rapidly changing world.’ 

The buzz and bravado of Amsterdam

‘I absolutely love Amsterdam. I moved here from Haarlem to study when I was 18 years old. Right at the start, I was fortunate enough to get to live in a beautiful house on the canal with five friends. It’s the typical Amsterdam buzz and bravado that attracts me. My partner, Sytze, who was born in Gouda, lived in Belgium for a large part of his life. Luckily, my love for Amsterdam proved to be contagious: he has also fallen in love with the city. We now live on the Keizersgracht and own a boat. Sometimes, when Lidewij and I are still asleep in the morning, he takes it out for a short ride all by himself.’

‘Sytze also works at Accenture in an MD position. We have to do quite a bit of logistical juggling to make it all work, especially during the week. Weekends, however, are for family time, and that’s non-negotiable. I love spending time together. I’d really like it if we could go away on trips more often, but annoyingly, something always seems to get in the way. I enjoy going for a coffee together, or even better, cycling through the Vondelpark with Lidewij in the front seat of my bicycle. That’s simply the best thing.’  

Laurence van der Sande 

Studied: MSc Business Economics, University of Amsterdam (2003) 

Started working at Accenture: April 2006

Relationship status: Living with Sytze, mother of Lidewij (2)

Loves: Quality time with friends and family

Gets annoyed by: Long-windedness and passivity 

Favorite food: Lasagna and dim sum

On my nightstand: We don’t have nightstands in our new house just yet

Listens to: Pink, Patrick Bruel, Dire Straits and upbeat music by artists like Armin van Buuren

Last purchase: Our new house

Would like to sit next to in the plane: My grandma who passed away two and a half years ago   

Life-changing event: Lidewij’s birth (March 2018)

The best lesson life has taught me: Always stay close to yourself

What I learned recently: Not to underestimate the impact that organizational change has on people, and how important it is to manage transformation appropriately

Most beautiful place on earth: Paris, followed closely by Amsterdam

Hobbies/passions: Running, crossword puzzles and spending time with Sytze and Lidewij

What nobody knows about me: That I have run all 11 of the Zuidas Runs and that when I was younger, I dreamed of becoming a VJ at TMF

Life motto: Don’t occupy all your time worrying about the little things that don’t matter. Stay focused on how beautiful life is and keep a positive outlook.

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