Music meets technology

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 Marjolein van Zanten, Senior Consulting Analyst SAP at Accenture

In her younger years, Marjolein van Zanten dreamed of being part of the von Trapp family – of gathering around the piano with her parents and younger sister to make music together at Christmas dinners. Music always played an important role in her childhood – and is still a big part of her adult life. 

‘As a young girl, I would sit on my dad’s lap while he played the piano. I was fascinated by it – and by him, as he was my great role model. That’s why I insisted on taking piano lessons from the age of five, even though my parents thought it was a bit early. My sister, Florianne, started taking lessons when she was six years old. We would rehearse together, and we both loved it. I think it evolved from merely a hobby into a more serious pursuit when we were in high school. Over that time we decided we wanted to play an instrument that was more suited to orchestral ensembles than the piano. I picked the violin; Florianne chose the cello, and we both continued to play the piano alongside our new pastimes, too.’ 

‘From then on, we started pouring much more time into playing and rehearsing. There were days when I would come home from school to practice for hours on end. That said, there were also days when I didn’t feel like playing at all. When that happened, I didn’t force myself – if I wasn’t in the mood to play, I just didn’t. As a result, rehearsing kept its fun edge, and never became a chore.’

Talent, skills and self-belief

‘My parents have always been extremely supportive of anything Florianne and I do. Their belief in us definitely significantly boosted our self-confidence. I have never lacked confidence in any way. I remember auditioning for the school orchestra in my first year. Even though I’d only been playing the violin for a very short time at that point, I figured I might as well just go and see what happens. I obviously wasn’t good enough to get in – how could I be after only one month of lessons? – but that didn’t stop me from trying. Having that kind of courage is very important in the world of music – talent is key, as are the skills to play beautifully, but grit and bravery are vital, too.’ 

‘I will admit, as a teenager, I found it quite challenging to focus on schoolwork and maintain a social life while also playing two instruments and being part of several orchestras. At a certain point, I decided I wanted to take a step back and move from the pre-university level of secondary education down to higher general secondary education. Again, my parents supported me wholeheartedly, for which I am still very grateful. From then on, it became a little easier to juggle all those balls. There were times when I’d practice for as little as 10 hours a week, and then there were other periods when I’d spend every day studying for five hours straight. Sometimes the piano would get more of my attention, while at other times I focused more on the violin. Because I never put too much pressure on myself, I managed to maintain my love for music. And after finishing higher general secondary education, I even went on to graduate from the pre-university level.’ 

An extremely competitive field

‘Somewhere along the way, during my high school years, I realized that I wasn’t going to make a career out of music. It’s an extremely competitive field, and as a result, you always have to be at your best. One off-day or bad audition can be catastrophic. Constantly working under pressure doesn’t bring out the best in people, and certainly not in me. At the end of the day, I just didn’t see myself thriving or being happy in that kind of world. Also, if I’m honest with myself, I wasn’t good enough to perform on the most prominent stages. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to play on the Concertgebouw main stage in Amsterdam a few times, which, in my mind, is the most beautiful stage in the world. That was nothing short of magic.’

"Because I never put too much pressure on myself, I managed to maintain my love for music."

‘Some of my fondest memories are around rehearsing and performing with my sister. As we grew up in a detached house in rural Ede, we never had to worry about annoying our neighbors so we could happily play our instruments at any time of the day. And that’s what we did. On the ground level of our parents’ house, there is a big room with a piano in the center. I cherish all the times that Florianne and I, and sometimes even our dad, rehearsed there together. The only arguments we ever had happened in that room. But then again, there’s nowhere else we’ve laughed as much either. These days, Florianne lives in Leiden, while I’m based in Rotterdam, but we still often meet up at our parents’ house to make music together.’ 

“Composing” with technology

‘As I’ve always been interested in economics and business, I moved to Rotterdam to study Business Administration. It was during the last year of my master’s in strategic management in Tilburg that I discovered the technology side of the field. All of a sudden, everything just clicked into place. I love looking at businesses from a technological point of view – sitting down with a client to explore how we can help them improve a product, market it better, and identify what the company needs to take it to the next level. There’s the strategic and analytical part of being a technology consultant, but then I also enjoy being so hands-on.’ 

‘For me, it’s very important to have that connection with clients and give my all to try to add genuine value to them, their offering and their organization. In a way, being a consultant is very much like being a musician in an orchestra. I need to work closely with others and truly listen to them in order to collaboratively move in the right direction and fine-tune our output to achieve the best possible result, be it a symphony, composition, product or service.’ 

What I do

As a technology consultant, I am constantly looking for ways to improve organizations and their systems, while bearing in mind what would be most suitable and beneficial for their products or services, needs and processes. In this line of work, it’s extremely important to acknowledge that a system needs to match a business’s operational process, not the other way around. 

A day in my life

The best days are those when I get a lot of work done and we make some meaningful decisions as a team. Ideally, I get both solo time to do some configuring in the system and the chance to connect with clients and team members. 

Advice to fellow and future colleagues

This might sound cheesy, but keep in mind that we’re all just normal human beings. It’s natural to look up to and be impressed by certain co-workers, but it’s key to remember that everybody is just human at the end of the day. 

Marjolein van Zanten (1994)

Studied: MSc Strategic Management, Tilburg University (2018)

Started working at Accenture: December 2018

Relationship status: Living with Alexander

Loves: Good food – preferably enjoyed with friends and family 

Gets annoyed by: Mess and untidy people

Favorite food: Asian food, Thai in particular

On my nightstand: My glasses and a bed & body spray 

Listens to: Obviously a lot of classical music, but I also enjoy listening to radio stations like Q-Music, Radio 538 and Sky Radio

Last purchase: A laptop bag

Would like to sit next to in the plane: Emma Watson; she’s such a great role model

Life-changing event: Moving to the ‘big city’ of Rotterdam 

The best lesson life has taught me: Feeling inspired by other people is a good thing; trying to imitate them isn’t

What I learned recently: As I’m a very curious person, I’ve always wanted to know everything about every topic. Recently I realized that it’s fine to not know everything, because someone else will be an expert in that area. At work, for example, it’s okay that I’m not familiar with all the technicalities because I can just ask one of my skilled technical colleagues for help. 

Most beautiful place on earth: South Africa 

Hobbies/passions: Cooking and playing music 

What my colleagues don’t know about me: That when I was younger, I dreamed of working in Disney’s creative team. I am a huge Disney fan!

Life motto: Everyone is responsible for creating their own happiness

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