Looking Forward to Another Adventure

Who are the people behind Accenture? What drives Youri de Koster and inspires him 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 Alejandra Lugard, Manager Advanced Customer Strategy at Accenture Netherlands.

  • Woman sitting in her white living room

‘What I love about my job is that it makes me feel like there are unlimited opportunities: Accenture has an environment which encourages entrepreneurship and innovation – if you have a good idea, leadership will enable you – making you feel that everything is possible.’

‘This, in combination to end-to-end capabilities and the diversity of our people, make it a very inspirational environment to work in. At Accenture, I’ve come to fully appreciate the beauty and value of what a team of diverse people can achieve together. Instead of being surrounded by people who will most likely confirm your personal opinion, I have experienced that great things happen if you have a team of people from different backgrounds who bring alternative perspectives to the table.’

Appreciation for Differences

‘Appreciating differences is probably a result of my background. I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, to a Dutch mother and a Colombian father. After ten years in Colombia, I moved to Germany for another ten years before relocating to Bondi, Sydney for my university studies. After graduation in 2008, I decided to move back to Europe due to work and to be closer to my mother – who by then was enjoying her retirement from Diplomacy in the Netherlands.’

‘Since then, I have fallen in love with the Netherlands and particularly with Amsterdam, which might have to do with the fact that I met my husband Ismir here and was lucky enough to find incredibly loving friends in the city. Despite our love for Amsterdam, a next chapter is on the horizon: in January, my husband Ismir moved to Portland, U.S, and I followed him early February.’

‘Ismir and I made a deal that at some point, we’ll move back to the Netherlands but at the same time are realistic about things. I have learned that, when it comes to opportunities, you never know what can happen and in which country you may land.’

  • Woman sitting in desk with her laptop

A Brief Beek

‘Until now, I only had a brief peek into the United States during my MBA at Kellogg Business School (Northwestern University) near Chicago. I’m excited about spending more time in the US and getting to know the culture and customs.’

‘I am looking forward to another life adventure, this time in Portland – There are so many incredible companies in the U.S and I hope that working at Accenture Strategy & Consulting for U.S clients will provide me with a lot of inspiration and thought leadership that, at some point, I can bring back to the Netherlands.’

Passion for Healthcare

‘I am particularly excited about the healthcare / life science industry in the U.S – an industry I am very passionate about due to personal and business reasons.  From the personal side – seeing my mother battle with cancer and surviving it, probably planted the first seeds of interest in me. This first interest continued growing during my first consulting job at a healthcare consulting firm, Performation - formerly named TRAGPI. The company set out to help hospitals nationally and internationally in reducing costs, increasing productivity and quality via the creation and provision of quantitative ABC costing and benchmarking tools.’

‘Later, when I did my executive MBA, I became conscious about how passionate I really was about healthcare and also about top-line growth topics. I then made the decision to move to a firm focused on the ‘sunny side of consulting’ (revenues rather than costs), Simon-Kucher & Partners, where I was given the opportunity to start and grow the healthcare industry.’

‘During this time, I also started supporting the World Healthcare Forum (WHF)  on a pro-bono basis – something I since then continued doing in my free time.  Back then, the World Healthcare Forum was a rather small start-up with a not so small vision: bringing together stakeholders from different healthcare institutions in a global ecosystem to jointly deal with global healthcare challenges. In the years that have followed, the start-up has grown rapidly and strongly, something we are very proud of. As with many fast growing start-ups, there is still a lot to improve, but seeing that our vision is shared by many decision makers in healthcare, makes all the hard work in the evenings and weekends worthwhile.’

Accenture has a very big healthcare practice globally, and although the Dutch practice is still relatively small, it’s growing rapidly. In all fairness, I don’t think any other consulting company has as many capabilities to influence healthcare positively as much as Accenture does. This was actually one of the key reasons why I was so excited to join our company early last year.’

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Refugee Talent Hub: Finding a Solution for the Refugee Crisis

‘In addition to healthcare, I have always felt very passionate about contributing towards solving global challenges. Currently, we are facing one of the worst humanitarian crises since World War II: the refugee crisis. When I joined Accenture, the World Economic Forum had just taken place in Davos where several leaders of global corporations decided to work together on this topic. I was lucky enough to be placed in the Accenture team created to translate this commitment into a reality. Since then, the Refugee Talent Hub has been created – a not-for-profit foundation made of out of an ecosystem of more than 50 corporations. The Hub aims at facilitating and accelerating both formal and informal acceptance, integration, education and employment of refugees in the Netherlands.’

"It is because of this example that I really believe in the Hub’s vision."

‘Working on this project has made me very humble and allowed me to yet again realize how lucky many of us are. In addition - seeing our company and leadership taking the lead on this topic, has broaden the way I look at the responsibilities of businesses overall and makes me very proud to work for Accenture.’

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Real Life-Changing Moments

‘I know how important a single opportunity can be for changing the course of someone’s life. Ismir and his family fled Bosnia in 1995 when the country was at war. After living in Germany for a few years, they moved to the Netherlands. Thanks to a Dutch loving family in Groningen (a family which has remained in our lives and we see as part of our family), my husband was given the opportunity to study and – thus – succeed in life – which he did. It’s those crucial moments when you are offered help and options that can truly bring about change in one’s life. It is because of this example that I really believe in the Hub’s vision.’

‘Now that I moved to Portland, I might have to adjust my “Dutch directness” a bit. Since my first real job was in The Netherlands, I guess I have adopted the Dutch working culture. I absolutely love that about the Dutch; that they are so straightforward – however I might need to tone it down a bit in the States. In terms of communication, I get lost in translation sometimes: Spanish is my native tongue; Ismir and I speak English and German to each other, and at work I used to speak a mix of Dutch and English.’

Lost in Translation

While I am fine with Dutch  - typical Dutch sayings and jokes are often completely lost on me. I miss the nuances. Those that know me, know what I mean. At first, my strategy was to try and use sayings and laugh along a joke, but it was not as easy as I thought. I would use the sayings wrong, nervously laugh when I did not get the joke (revealing of course that I did not get it) or laugh when the joke was not over yet… embarrassing, as you can imagine. Since then, I adjusted my approach and now I just simply warn my team and clients upfront to avoid awkward situations: “If this is a joke, I’ll probably don’t get it”.’

Alejandra Lugard (1984)

Studied: Bachelor of International Studies (International business and Government & International relations), University of Sydney (2008); Executive MBA, High distinction, Kellogg Business School / Nyenrode University / Stellenbosch University (2011-2013)

Started working at Accenture: February 2016

Relationship status: Married to Ismir

Loves: Ismir

Favorite food: No favorites; I eat everything (except shellfish as became all of the sudden allergic)

On my nightstand: A picture of Ismir and myself

Listens to: Everything

Last purchase: A ‘VanMoof’ bicycle for Ismir

Would like to sit next to in the plane: Hm. Many but to choose one – Dr. Jim Yong Kim. I would ask him how he went from the World Bank’s biggest critic to becoming its president.

Life-changing event: Meeting Ismir and Ismir’s family

The best lesson life has taught me: ’That you can always get back up’

Most beautiful place on earth: That’s impossible for me to say – there are too many

Hobbies/passions: Being with my friends and family is what I truly enjoy most. Seeing as though my friends and family are spread out all over the globe, his naturally results in a passion for traveling. From a more work side: the possibility of having positive impact on relevant matters – I guess this is why I really love my job.

What nobody knows about me: That I never failed a test except my driver’s license test, which I failed twice ;)

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