‘SUCCESS MEANS BRINGING SOMETHING TO A MEANINGFUL CONCLUSION’


Introducing Harald Timmer, Lead Financial Services and Client Account Lead at Accenture

Calling him a rebel might be pushing it, but Harald Timmer isn’t the sort who particularly enjoys being told what to do. He would much rather have his responsibilities and goals laid out for him, and then be given the freedom to find the best way to get to the end post. “I love that Accenture provides me with that freedom, within reason, of course. At this company virtually anything is possible, as long as you make it happen yourself.” 

“As an economics student, I was convinced that one day I would become the Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of a big company. In all honesty though, that wasn’t my dream when I was a young boy. Before I studied economics, I fantasized about becoming the captain of a big sea tug. Sailing across the ocean, delivering offshore platforms to some of the world’s most remote places – the mere thought of it was thrilling for me. As it turned out, life had other plans for me. After a great time in Groningen, I was offered a job in Amersfoort, and so my now-wife and I left the north to settle there.”

“How I would ultimately move into the CCO role I desired would play out over the next few years. I always knew I wasn’t a typical salesman. That said, I knew I was quite a strong communicator and that my social skills weren’t too bad either. Over the years, I came to realize that I thrive on observing people and situations, asking (the right) questions, and providing valuable insights based on my experience. That is what makes me good at my job, especially in my role as Client Account Lead: being able to ask the right questions, grasp the essence of something quickly and condense a story that took someone an hour to share into just a few minutes.”

Different is the new normal

“Although I feel right at home at the company today, when I first joined Accenture nearly 13 years ago, I was a little ‘different’ to most of my colleagues. My outspoken, personal and open style of communicating stood out against the norm somewhat. I remember someone saying, ‘You’re different, but please stay that way’. Of course I was going to stay that way – it’s just who I am. In recent years, I’ve seen many more ‘unconventional’ people join the company. It’s something I’m extremely pleased about. Diversity is about so much more than just gender. I ensure that every team I build brings together a variety of skills, behaviors and personalities. I am convinced that diverse teams are the best teams – full stop.” 

“Discovering your personal strengths and weaknesses is a process that can take years. Similarly, it takes time to learn how to set healthy work-life boundaries. In my early days, I wasn’t particularly good at saying ‘no’. In fact, I never turned anything down. That changed significantly when my children were born. Their arrival altered my priorities and my perspective on life. Plus, I just didn’t have nearly as much time anymore.”

A crash course in saying ‘no’

“Becoming a father was the perfect crash course in setting boundaries. At first I was worried that if I said ‘no’, the world would come to a standstill and people would think I was arrogant, or even worse, would no longer like me. After a while I realized that none of my concerns were valid: the world didn’t stop turning, people didn’t think I was arrogant and they still seemed to like me. That realization made me grow and mature like few other experiences ever had before. By setting boundaries and learning to say ‘no’ – no to working late nights, no to assignments you don’t really want to do – you develop as a person.” 

“The part of my job that I find most fulfilling is being presented with a complex dilemma and then solving it with a driven team. Often, the problem is not what it appears to be on the surface; the real issue can usually be found much deeper. The more complex the challenge is, the better. I love probing further so we can get to the bottom of the underlying problem. And then I really like the process of setting out a roadmap to the solution. That said, I wouldn’t enjoy my work half as much as I do if I wasn’t doing everything alongside my team. I find myself learning from other people every day. It definitely helps that I’m a very curious sort. I appreciate that my job allows me to meet lots of different inspiring people daily.” 

Success is about so much more than winning

“If you were to ask me what one of my favorite things is, I’d answer ‘success’. People sometimes frown when they hear that because they think it means I’m just focused on winning. But to me, being successful is quite different to winning. Success is effectively bringing something to completion, achieving a certain goal with an ambitious team or ensuring somebody I work with gets promoted – those types of things are all displays of success in my mind. I’m not the sort of person who is quickly or easily satisfied. On the contrary, shortly after I achieve success, I already find myself moving on to the next challenge or area that needs improvement.” 

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t competitive at all, though. When I play sports, I do find myself quite driven to win or beat the next person. I have been running marathons for the past 15 years, as well as swimming, cycling and doing the occasional half triathlon. So far, I have run two ultra-marathons (90 km) and 11 standard marathons. I run around three or four times a week, and sometimes add on a swimming session in open water. Like many avid runners, I find it quite addictive. I tend to get restless if I don’t run for a few days. I notice this at work, too: there’s just too much energy in me that’s not being released if I don’t run. When I’m running out in nature or swimming in a lake, I’m at my happiest.” 

What I do

I work in the roles of Lead Financial Services and Client Account Lead. 

A day in my life

...Starts with a workout, preferably a run. It then involves one or two client meetings and a lot of sessions with different teams focused on solving problems for multiple clients. I always try to keep internal meetings to a minimum.  

Advice to fellow and future colleagues

Stay curious. If you want something, just ask for it. You can ask anyone any question. And always remember that there’s more to life than work. 

Harald Timmer (1967)

Studied: MBA Economics, The University of Edinburgh (2003)

Started working at Accenture: May 2008

Relationship status: Married with two children

Loves: Teamwork 

Gets annoyed by: Whiny people and those who take the credit for others’ hard work

Favorite food: Strawberries 

On my nightstand: An edition of Runner’s World magazine, The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown and A Promised Land by Barack Obama   

Listens to: Dance music – Tiësto, mostly. When I listen to the radio, it’s either to SLAM! FM or BNR 

Last purchase: AirPods

Would like to sit next to in the plane: Wim Duisenberg

Life-changing event: Becoming a father 

The best lesson life has taught me: You need to do something over and over again in order to become great at it. Competence doesn’t come just like that – sometimes it requires putting the miles in, so to speak

What I learned recently: That everyone has his or her own unique story

Most beautiful place on earth: Schiermonnikoog

Hobbies/passions: Playing sports

What my colleagues don’t know about me: That I love Lay’s paprika potato chips 

Life motto: ‘Treat others as you would have them treat you’ 

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