Imke van der Linden started over four years ago as Strategic Consultant at The Next Organization. In the past period, she has advanced to Junior Associate Consultant. In this interview, she tells us what it's like to work at The Next Organization.
How did you end up at TNXTO?
When I graduated in 2015, I knew I wanted to get started soon. I looked at all kinds of organisations and jobs except for consultancy, because that didn't attract me at all at the time. I started pretty quickly at Zinzi as Junior Marketing Manager. At one point I noticed that I was missing a strategic challenge, which made me look further. I realised that if there is one place where you do get strategically challenged, it's as a consultant. Through a Qompas newsletter, I saw the in-house day at The Next Organization and I signed up for it. During that day, I played the Marketing & Sales Game and got to know the colleagues. I immediately became enthusiastic; one of the positive things that stayed with me was that I noticed that all colleagues really made an effort to get to know the participants. Of course, my team won the game and after going through the application procedure, I could start working!
You have been working at The Next Organization for over four years now. In the beginning, of course, from the office in Bussum, but in the past year this has changed because of COVID-19. How do you like working digitally and what changes has it brought?
As crazy as it sounds, you get used to working remotely. On the first day of the lockdown, I went to the office to quickly get my trackpad, keyboard and important notes, so that I at least had everything I might need in the coming period. The first few weeks working at home felt a little strange, but in the meantime I have found my rhythm. At the office, we have an 'open door culture', which means that we can always come to each other with questions. I am increasingly noticing that this culture is being translated digitally into a situation in which we also give each other a quick call via Teams if we run into a problem.
In addition, we are lucky to have an office with separate rooms. Normally, we have two flexi-desks per room, but now one room offers enough space to work on your own at a distance from the others. I regularly alternate between working at home and at the office.
Despite the fact that there is now more physical distance between colleagues, we are still involved with each other. Our fortnightly progress meetings are now done via Teams and the same goes for the drinks. We soon introduced our digital standing-room-only drinks, which simply means that we have several calls at once that you can easily switch between. If you've finished talking in one call, you dial in to another call - just as you would physically walk to another standing table!
What kind of projects are you involved in?
During my studies, I specialised in retail, but when I started working as a consultant, I deliberately chose to work for an industry-wide organisation. I found retail a very interesting sector, but at the same time I also believed that there was a lot to learn and discover in other sectors. In recent years, I have done projects in various sectors and this has only confirmed that what you see happening in one sector you can take back to another sector.
In the beginning, I was involved in a wide range of projects, from strategy to implementation, with many different clients, including Jaguar Land Rover, Centraal Beheer Achmea, This is Holland, ING and Solarfields to Alzheimer Nederland. In recent years, I have increasingly focused on strategy development and innovation. The projects I am currently involved in a lot concern proposition development and the translation into Customer Journey's - all based on market events on the one hand and customer needs on the other.
We have seen that you have recently been promoted, what does that mean and what is different in your work now?
That's right! At the beginning of this year, I made the step from Consultant to Junior Associate Consultant. To make that step, you develop towards an independent consultant with a growing responsibility in developing an independent consultancy practice. As a Junior Associate Consultant, you will be given more and more responsibility and you will be more and more involved in the (further) development of client(s).
Within our organisation, that also means dealing with the management of our organisation. Since the beginning of last year, I have a role in our office management; for example, I am responsible for external communication and I am very involved in how we shape knowledge development - for example, in the form of knowledge days. I also coach a number of our colleagues.
When you look to the future, what is your ambition?
At the time, I consciously chose a smaller organisation because I feel that you get freedom and responsibility more quickly there. And that has been confirmed in recent years. This has ensured that I have been able to develop myself quickly from a starter to a sub-project leader, project leader and now programme manager.
After Junior Associate Consultant, the next step within our organisation is Associate Consultant. In this role, you function one step more independently and you 'run' your own consultancy practice within The Next Organization.
Finally, what tip would you give someone who also wants to become a consultant?
Go for it! I would like to suggest that you think carefully about what kind of consultant you want to be. Consultant sounds specific but is at the same time still very broad. You can focus purely on strategy or implementation, or a combination of both. There are agencies that specialise in certain sectors and others that work across the whole sector. At one consultancy firm, you will usually work at the client's premises; at another firm, you will work in your own office. And there are big differences between a small and a large agency. Once you have a clear idea of what you want, all you need to do is find the right agency!
Do you want to know more about working as a consultant at The Next Organization? Then take a look at our vacancies Or contact us and plan a (digital) cup of coffee with Imke.