The army taught me some of life's most valuable lessons

Who are the people behind Accenture? What drives Rinco Buist and inspires him on a daily basis? How has Marissa Jaggan'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 Danielle Elhayani, Junior Cloud & Infrastructure Consultant at Accenture

'My mother and father met one another in the Netherlands in the early 90s. She’s Dutch and he’s an Israeli with Moroccan roots who was traveling through Europe at the time. They fell in love. To get married, my mother had to convert to Judaism. Even though she converted, for her, Judaism has always been more about tradition than religion.'

'I feel exactly the same way. For me, being Jewish is about family, traditions, celebrating Jewish holidays together, and enjoying good food. The religious aspect isn’t a big part of it. When I’m not with my family, I don’t celebrate the Jewish holidays – they just lose meaning to me if I’m not surrounded by my loved ones.'

Broadening my horizons

'I was born and raised in Eilat, a small town in the southernmost tip of Israel. Living there means being surrounded solely by desert and sea – that’s all! The nearest big town is a three-hour drive away. When I was 18 and my time came to serve in the army (as is mandatory for all Israeli citizens), I was quite happy to broaden my horizons in both a psychological and a geographical sense. The normal life trajectory in Israel – the fact that women join the army after school for two years and men join for just under three – is quite foreign to Dutch people. But for us, it’s just as much part of our culture as it is a national duty. Your role in the army and how you spend those years matter.'

'A year in, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which meant I had to be on a rather strict diet. The army didn’t want to take responsibility for that, so I was "honorably discharged". I had mixed feelings about this: although I was sad about having to leave the army and the friends I had made, it also felt like I had received an opportunity to start my adult life sooner than expected.' 

What I learned from the army

'The army taught me very valuable lessons, mostly about myself. If anything, the experience made me even more independent than I already was. In my role as a squad leader, I was responsible for training and supervising groups of new soldiers. I was not just the instructor who kept them in line if they did something wrong; I was also their "mom" if they needed support or were going through a tough time. Performing all these roles in one definitely equipped me with important life skills.'

One way ticket to the Netherlands

'I had just begun contemplating my next steps in life when my uncle – my mom’s brother – called. He told me how he was moving into a bigger house and how if I ever wanted to live in the Netherlands, I was more than welcome to stay with him. The idea of studying in the Netherlands had already crossed my mind a few times, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity, plus the timing was great! I decided to enroll at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to follow a bachelor’s in Public Administration and Organization Science, and within two days, I had booked a one-way ticket.'

'That was almost six years ago. Now, I can confidently say I feel very at home here. It’s strange: while I was growing up in Israel, my friends often told me I wasn’t "entirely Israeli" – they joked that I had taken on some of that European politeness. Even though I always felt very Israeli, I must admit that when I arrived here, I realized that the Dutch style of communication does indeed suit me better than the straightforward Israeli approach. That said, I do miss the Israeli spontaneity and the fact that you don’t have to make an appointment to meet up with friends there. I normally go back to see my family and friends every four or five months, but unfortunately, due to COVID-19, it has been nearly a year since I last saw them.'

What next..?

'I started at Accenture exactly a year ago. I had just completed my master’s degree in Intercultural Communication at Utrecht University. Alongside the cross-cultural aspect of this field, I was also always interested in IT and consultancy. Plus, I really wanted to work for a big international company. All in all, Accenture seemed like a good fit. I applied to their Young Talent Tech program, which is specifically designed for women who aspire to establish a career in IT but lack the appropriate background. After a year at the company, I can’t say I know exactly how my career path will evolve but I can say I am happy to work for an organization that offers so many opportunities and lets staff try out so many different projects and disciplines.'

'Half a year ago, I became part of the company’s cross-cultural team. Every other week, I teach Dutch to employees from different backgrounds who want to learn the language. We also make presentations and host events aimed at increasing the visibility of all the different cultures of Accenture's workforce. In my opinion, it is extremely evident that an organization needs to remain aware of all the different backgrounds and cultures of its employees.'

An abundance of greenery

“I met my boyfriend, Stefan, during my first weeks in the Netherlands. I moved in with him shortly after that. Today, we live in a house in Hilversum, which I love – not only because it’s where my mother grew up, but even more so, because of its proximity to nature. Having grown up in the desert, I had never seen so much green before moving here. I love that we can drive to a forest or the heath in just 10 minutes. Kasteel Groeneveld in Baarn is one of my favorite places to go for a walk. Few things make me happier than strolling in the forest around there, listening to a podcast, and just enjoying nature.”

"In my opinion, it is extremely evident that an organization needs to remain aware of all the different backgrounds and cultures of its employees."

What I do

I am the Project Management Officer (PMO) for an ERP implementation of SAP at a global manufacturer of heating and cooling appliances. Although my title is ‘Junior Cloud and Infrastructure Consultant’, my current day-to-day work has nothing to do with cloud solutions.

A day in my life

A day at work is filled with either back-to-back online meetings or various ad hoc project management tasks. Regardless, I am always on top of whatever the project managers are dealing with.

Advice to fellow and future colleagues

It’s fine to not know exactly where you’re going in the future, and it’s normal to feel insecure if you lack certificates or client experience, especially if you’re just starting at the company. 

Danielle Elhayani (1994)

Studied: MA Intercultural Communication, Utrecht University (2019)

Started working at Accenture: October 2019

Relationship status: Living with boyfriend, Stefan

Loves: Switching off my phone and going for walks in nature with Stefan, while enjoying good weather or a beautiful sunset 

Gets annoyed by: Instances when people struggle to understand what I’m trying to explain as quickly as I’d like them to

Favorite food: Any Asian dishes

On my nightstand: I don’t have a nightstand 

Listens to: Podcasts such as NRC Vandaag and De Jortcast

Last purchase: New shoes 

Would like to sit next to in the plane: Morgan Freeman – aside from thinking he’s an amazing actor, I also believe he is a very interesting character 

Life-changing event: Moving to the Netherlands in 2014

The best lesson life has taught me: That if you want something done, it’s best to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself rather than wait for somebody else to do it for you

What I learned recently: That I am ready for a new challenge within the organization

Most beautiful place on earth: The Red Sea, Israel 

Hobbies/passions: Pilates and tending my own vegetable garden on our balcony 

What nobody knows about me: When I speak to new people, I don’t often bring up the fact that I served in the army. So I suppose not many people know that about me

Life motto: “You can’t finish what you don’t start, and you should never start what you’re not committed to finish.” — Gary Ryan Blair’

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