"After my time at McKinsey I wanted to work for a Dutch multinational, in automotive technology, near Amsterdam. There was really just one option and that was TomTom, a dynamic company that provided a large strategic challenge. Here I encountered the perfect mix of strategy and technology."
What is it you do as Director of Business Development?
"I build new business, meaning I am constantly on the lookout for new opportunities on the market. I deal with market analyses, I scan e-mails which we receive on a daily basis from inventors that contain the most wonderful ideas and I keep track of what is happening at conferences and on blogs in the technology field, which seem of interest to us. From the large chunk of data and ideas I select the viable concepts. One of those is TomTomTaxi, a service for cab drivers through which they can receive requests from customers looking for a ride."
You started your career at TNO. What did you do there?
"At TNO I mainly carried out research assignments for the automotive industry, for all large car producers and their suppliers. These assignments were mainly centered around the development of new technology, such as intelligent navigational support. I made steps in my career, was a project manager in no time, but at the same time I did a PHD at the TU Delft. There was very little time left for progressing towards a line management career at TNO. It could have been the next step, but after seven years at TNO it seemed the right decision to further my career somewhere else."
You went to McKinsey, why?
"I was eager to learn how you get from research to actual development of new technology and I wanted to understand how to market it as well. I wondered where I would be able to learn those things and I ended up at strategy consulting. McKinsey seemed to be a good place for me to learn. I started out as an associate and wanted to continue working in technology, but I soon discovered consulting in the Netherlands is very much geared at the financial sector. The first two years I spent working at banks and insurance companies, which I found less interesting than I had hoped. I was told at feedback sessions sometimes “Olaf, this is really not your cup of tea”. After two years, or actually after one I was done. I learned a great deal and McKinsey is a wonderful organization to work for and on paper I was getting good assignments, but the reality hadn’t lived up to my expectations. I stayed at McKinsey for one more year carrying out automotive projects in Germany and I did like it a lot more, I was able to be of use there, but nevertheless I decided to explore opportunities elsewhere, outside McKinsey."
Would you have ended up at TomTom without McKinsey?
"No, because coming from a purely technical background it is difficult to end up working in a business development or strategy position, such as this one. The leap is too big. I had a technological background focused on the automotive field and navigation, as well as experience in strategy consulting and that combination was exceptional enough to be able to land this job. Yes, McKinsey did open up opportunities in my career."
What is your advice to young people considering an exit?
"Choose the job you really like, at whichever point in your career. Don’t try to picture exactly where you will be in five years’ time. Your plans hardly ever work out."
2017 – present
Vice President Product Marketing, TomTom Automotive
2013 – 2017
Director Strategic Initiatives, TomTom Telematics
2011 – 2013
Director Business Development, TomTom
2008 – 2011
Associate, McKinsey & Company
2007 – 2008
Consultant Integrated Safety Systems, TNO Science & Industry