Opportunities are there to be taken
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 Youri de Koster 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 Nicole van Det, Managing Director Products at Accenture.
I studied Pharmacy, like my father and sister. I thought it would be a good subject to study because it touches on every scientific discipline. However, the closer I got to graduation, the more I realized that running a pharmacy wasn’t going to be my thing. I needed more excitement and challenge in my work. I managed to get an internship in Florida, in the field of immunology – in which I eventually got my Ph.D. After that, I went to work for Elsevier Science, where I became a publisher of cardiology journals and learned about digitalization. Then, through my MBA course, I ended up at Accenture, more or less by chance. Actually, my current work is not all that much different from what I’d originally planned. After all, consultancy is also about caring for the people in your team and putting together a prescription to make the client’s organization better.
Fair-Haired Girl With a Surinam Accent
My life and career have been strongly colored by my childhood. I lived in Surinam till I was seventeen. We’d moved there because the climate was better for my invalid mother. I had a great time there. But coming back to the Netherlands was a big culture shock! At school, I stuck out like a sore thumb: a fair-haired girl with a Surinam accent, whose Dutch was also scattered with peculiar dialect words. And I had to get used to Dutch habits, too. For example, I thought it very odd that you had to make an appointment before you could drop by to see friends or family. In Surinam, people always have the door wide open and you just pop in and out of each other’s houses. I still don’t like making appointments in my private life too far ahead. That’s why I love living in Amsterdam. Here I can drop in on someone on the spur of the moment, or go and get a quick bite to eat whenever I want.
My cultural baggage also plays a big part in my work. I started at Accenture in the Strategy & Communication practice. In 2006, I switched to Products. One of our biggest clients wanted to reorganize its global R&D function: it needed to be faster, more international and closer to local markets. During the pitch, it turned out that, with my scientific and international background, I was speaking the right language. The client’s R&D people saw me as one of their own, with the added benefit of having a background in business. We clicked straightaway, and I ended up leading Products within Accenture. As managing director, I set the bar high: some people even think I’m just a bit too ambitious. But I want to get the most out of anything I’m doing. Opportunities are there to be taken; happiness needs to be won.
A Prod Every Once in a While
You need to play to win. This is something I’ve really had to learn in my career. When the position of Client Account Lead for the same big client fell vacant, I initially didn’t want to apply. I thought: they’re not asking me to apply, so they probably don’t think I’m suitable. What’s more, I’m a real Libra: I only take a decision after a lot of careful thinking. On the very last evening before the closing date for applications, I had a phone call from Anja Montijn, who was at that time country managing director of Accenture Netherlands. “You’re going to send an e-mail now, saying that you’d like the job,” she said. It then turned out that they actually really wanted me for the job. I’ve needed a prod like this a couple of times in my career.
"I want to stimulate other women within Accenture. I want to show them that you need to seize your opportunities not only in business, but also when your own career chances are involved."
The Weekend Is for Isa
In turn, I try to give others that prod when I think they need it. I want to stimulate other women within Accenture. I want to show them that you need to seize your opportunities not only in business, but also when your own career chances are involved. You can combine a demanding job with a fulfilling home life – providing you’re prepared to make choices. You can’t have everything. In the old days, I used to see my friends every week. Now it’s only once a month. But I still have a good social life, with a warm circle of friends. It’s just that, with my present job, I can’t see them every weekend. Weekends are for my nine-year-old daughter Isa. She’s my No. 1. During the week she’s almost as busy as I am, what with school and hobbies, like hockey, ballet and drawing. But on Saturdays, I always take her to the hockey field myself. At the weekend, I can also follow my own passion. That’s the house I renovated myself, and which I’m now decorating largely in the modern English style of designer Kit Kemp: comfortable furniture, wonderful fabrics, and a subtle use of color – a style that’s eclectic and yet still forms a perfect unity.
Unforgettable Garden Party
Actually, that also applies somewhat to my own life. Last summer, I held a big garden party. Everyone was there: my relatives from Switzerland, my childhood Surinam friends, my college friends, parents of Isa’s friends, neighbors – a nice mixture of the people who’ve been important to me, from each phase of my life. That was also symbolized by the present I was given: a reproduction of a painting by Van Gogh, made up of several fragments, on which everyone had written a personal message for me: a nice reference to my hobby of painting, and a lovely memento of a wonderful day, when everything – and everyone – came together. All different, and yet all forming a whole. My whole world gathered together in my own garden.
Nicole van Det
Education: Pharmacy (M.Sc.), Medicine (Ph.D.) and MBA
With Accenture since: 1999
Home: Daughter Isa (9)
Loves: Interior decorating and painting
Pet peeve: Inefficiency
Favorite food: Surinam cuisine and Ottolenghi (when I want to be healthy)
Bedside table: Phone, flowers, lamp and very occasionally a book
Favorite music: Snoop Dogg
Latest purchase: A desk for my daughter
Would like to sit next to in plane: Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever
Life-changing event: The birth of Isa
Most beautiful place on earth: Africa
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