Preaching agile all the way

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 Gijs van Malsen, Enterprise IT Transformation Consultant at Accenture | SolutionsIQ

Science or technology: which one was it going to be? It took a while before Gijs van Malsen (30) knew the answer to that question. When he found himself navigating the APEX telescope at 5000 meters elevation in Chile’s Atacama desert, it all became clear to him. Today, he applies technology and the agile approach not only in his work as IT Transformation Consultant, but also in his personal life. 

‘When I was young, I was a typical nerd who liked games and maths and was fascinated by the universe. After high school I moved from the Achterhoek, where I grew up, to Eindhoven to study Computer Science, but I gave that up after a year and decided to pursue what I really like: astrophysics. Aside from finding it a fascinating field, I also figured the combination of physics, maths and programming covered in the program would open up many doors and guarantee me career success, too.’ 

‘In my last year of study, I went to Chile to complete a research internship at the local university. The nine months I spent there were amazing, for various reasons. I especially loved the two weeks I spent on top of a mountain in the Atacama desert – at 5000 meters above sea level – navigating a giant radio telescope. It was one of the highlights, and was also an important turning point: I realized there and then that while I was fascinated by the universe and astrophysics, I was just as intrigued by the technology behind it all.’ 

The transparency, freedom and rapid pace of agility

‘It was during my time at KPMG that I was first introduced to the agile way of working and got to work in a scrum team. What appealed to me most about this methodology is the inherent transparency, freedom and rapid pace it involves. I loved showing clients the agile way forward.‘

‘After three years at KPMG, I moved to Accenture in early 2018. I figured that due to the company’s strong affinity for agile, it would be a great fit for me – and I was right. The past two years have been great, and the future looks promising, too. Accenture recently acquired SolutionsIQ, an American company that has some of the world’s leading transformation consultants and agile coaches in its employ. They know everything there is to know about how to make organizations agile and, thus, future-proof.’

Preaching the gospel

‘Sometimes I feel like a priest preaching the gospel when I talk about agile. The fact that I was taught about scrum by one of the masters himself – Jeff Sutherland, a founding father of the methodology – has definitely impacted the way I think and talk about agile. Essentially, agility is, I believe, the only way that companies can do away with the bureaucracy and other nonsense that seems to be prevalent in almost all organizations. In a world that’s evolving incredibly rapidly, it’s only those organizations that know how to quickly adapt to change that will survive. It’s all about knowing how to deal with constant changes while simultaneously reacting efficiently and appropriately to clients’ wishes and demands. I love that my job lets me help organizations become future-proof by fundamentally changing the way they operate, and perhaps even more importantly, the way they think about work and perceive their business.’ 

Scrumming our way to our wedding day

‘Agility and its many benefits haven’t only come into play in my work life, though; the methodology has also positively impacted my personal life – or at least the way I run it. At the same time that I was taking the scrum course back in 2017, my then-fiancé, Merel, and I also happened to be planning our wedding. I came home from the course and said to Merel, “I know how to tackle our wedding planning; we’re going to scrum it!”. I found a large piece of brown paper and we spent the night sticking Post-it notes on it that outlined all the different things we needed to do in the lead-up to the big day, and prioritized them accordingly. While Merel was a little sceptical at first, soon she had wholeheartedly bought into the idea. Having everything so clearly laid out in front of you, knowing at a glance what still needs to be done and what’s already been achieved gives you a powerful sense of control. At the two-weeks-until-our-wedding-day mark, we had managed to tick off all the essential to-dos, leaving us plenty of time for some fun last-minute preparations.’  

‘Fortunately, an opportunity recently arose to bring out brown paper and Post-it notes again. Last month we bought an old house in Rijswijk that we are planning to completely renovate. The first thing we did was buy a 3D printer so that I could mock up a scale model of what the house will ultimately look like. Again, we’re taking an agile route and hopefully can make this a short-cycle construction, planning details at most two weeks in advance and then reappraising as we go along. Will it be challenging? Yes. Impossible? Definitely not. I must admit, though, that it takes quite a bit of logistical juggling to make it all work, especially because we also have our daughter, Roos, who just turned one.’ 

I love that my job lets me help organizations become future-proof by fundamentally changing the way they operate, and perhaps even more importantly, the way they think about work and perceive their business.’
Gijs, IT Transformation Consultant
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Progressive paternity leave

‘Merel works at the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Hague, so we both have challenging full-time jobs. Needless to say, we needed some time to adjust after Roos was born. I’m still so grateful for Accenture’s progressive stance on paternity leave – while other companies offer fathers two or three days of paternity leave, Accenture gave me a full two weeks. I topped that with another two weeks, which allowed me to be with Merel and Roos for a whole month. These days, I work 36-hour (4 x 9) weeks, which was easy to arrange with Accenture. I spend Mondays with Roos, and I absolutely love this arrangement.’

‘Another thing I absolutely love is being dungeon master in the game Dungeons & Dragons, which I play with my friends and Merel every month or so. These particular friends are ones I know from high school and they are nerds just like me. As a dungeon master, I craft dungeons, puzzles, monsters and challenges for other players to face and overcome. Every month we pick up the game where we last left it off – the game we’re currently playing has already been going for 1,5 years. I just love writing the script, guiding the setup and making sure all players are challenged and can grow in their characters. I even developed my own game, which I called Governor.  It’s a hybrid game of interplanetary diplomacy, negotiation and warfare, designed for between three and 27 players, and allegiances, dominance and even the game’s rules are constantly changing.’   

Gijs van Malsen (1989)

Studied: MSc Astrophysics, Radboud University Nijmegen (2015) 

Started working at Accenture: March 2018

Relationship status: Married to Merel, father of Roos (1)

Loves: Bad and good Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, my wife and daughter 

Gets annoyed by: Ziggo’s customer service

Favorite food: We became vegetarians two years ago. We love preparing dishes by Yotam Ottolenghi, especially from his cookbook Plenty

On my nightstand: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman 

Listens to: Classic rock like music by the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age, but recently I’ve also been listening to quite a lot of classical music

Last purchase: A 3D printer

Would like to sit next to in the plane: Rutger Bregman 

Life-changing event: Our wedding day and Roos’s birth

The best lesson life has taught me: To always keep things in perspective

What I learned recently: That we all live in separate realities. Nobody ever hears what you say exactly the same way you meant it. When I explain something that makes complete sense to me, the listener doesn’t often receive it precisely the way I said it

Most beautiful place on earth: The Alps

Hobbies/passions: Gaming and developing games, board games, snowboarding, science fiction, books, movies and good wine

What nobody knows about me: That I won five consecutive editions of the Dutch TV show That’s the Question 

Life motto: ‘You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets’ – Arnold Schwarzenegger

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