How did your exit from consulting go down?
"I caught the consulting bug through an internship at OC&C during my studies, but I knew for me it wouldn’t be for life. After five years I was a Project Manager, having a great time, but I did want to develop into line management. I had a lot of experience with Private Equity (PE) and retail and I looked into both options. The main reason for me not to take up PE is that the distance from their portfolio companies is a large one. I became fully focused on e-commerce and was able to start as Corporate Developer at bol.com."
But Corporate Developer isn't a line position.
"Correct, but it is difficult to switch from consulting to a heavier line position. At bol.com it became clear immediately that this was a transitional phase. It was the perfect position for me from which to get to know the company and to show them what I was capable of. I shared an office with Daniel Ropers (CEO at bol.com and former employee at McKinsey), my manager. It shows how close the ties are between the board and management. My experience at OC&C was a huge asset during the takeover by Ahold. That was a great period. After the takeover process ended I uttered the wish to make a transition. It is a risk that one remains an internal consultant. I wanted to manage a team and carry P&L responsibility."
How did you manage to switch to a line position?
"By making myself useful in my Corporate Development role within ongoing projects such as our sales platform Plaza. Also-or especially- when these are less strategic in their essence. That is how you show you are also of use on an operational level. After finishing the Plaza business plan I became involved in operational projects, 30% of my time. Together with the business manager I worked on structuring processes and responsibilities. Eventually I became Lead Operations (LO) Plaza and I set up a team of six FTE in order to enhance cooperation with external sales clients. You learn to manage different kinds of teams and carry KPI-responsibility."
A year on you were Category Manager.
"I had talked to them before, but whether or not there is a perfect fit depends on the available positions at the time. Sometimes you need to be patient. The good thing about bol.com is that you get to be valuable in nearly every position, so the LO Position certainly was useful. Thanks to that I showed readiness for hard-core commerce. For people in retail it takes some getting used to that a consultant can have a commercial talent, but I use my analytical skills on a daily basis, to analyze the market and its suppliers, assess the risks and opportunities involved and to work out how to position bol.com as a strategic partner."
What's it like working in e-commerce?
"Both challenging and inspiring. The entire sector is changing quickly, which means there is a lot of freedom in terms of initiative and cross-functional cooperation. If you have a sharp analytical eye, you will quickly see what the opportunities are in order to add value to a company, regardless of the job you have. But in order to truly solve problems you need to show initiative and have an urge to make things happen, as well as work with the right team. Take for instance the amount of returns which need to be reduced. We mapped out the parts of the chains that enable you to prevent them from happening and worked out solutions with several teams."
What differences apply?
"You only create success in e-commerce by being multi-disciplinarian, and that sometimes requires a lot of technique or specialism. Just like in consulting you need to be eager to learn, to be analytical and have both a helicopter view and be goal oriented. The biggest difference is that I work more independently and carry responsibility. You switch from dispensing advice to making decisions. I get a lot of energy from making plans and getting actual results. Moreover, you are working at personal development on a broader scale and hierarchic progress is less important. The impact and development are not just dependent on your position, but also on your own power of initiative and drive on the level you are at."
2015 – present
Director Retail Servies, bol.com
2014 – 2015
Business Development, bol.com
2013 – 2014
Category Manager Consumer Electronics, bol.com
2012 – 2013
Lead Operations bol.com Plaza, bol.com
2011 – 2012
Corporate Developer, bol.com
2007 – 2011
Consultant, OC&C Strategy Consultants