Marjet Andriesse of Red Hat
In the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, Marjet Andriesse ran Randstad in Eastern Europe.
Most companies have had to restructure their operations to survive and Randstad was no different.
“However, as most optimists say, ‘never waste a good crisis’ and so, with that in mind, I have proactively reached out to our clients to discuss how we can help them deal with this crisis,” she said.
She also reached out to employees and shared the company’s business situation and new growth strategy plans to fight the crisis and invited them to take part in the transformation journey.
“Employees appreciated this openness and this showcase of trust. Although the road to recovery has been long, after a year of hard work and great teamwork, we have bounced back to become a stronger company backed by happy customers and employees.” she.
Marjet believes that great opportunities hide in a crisis. And that has been the driving force of his career that spans 25 years.
Hailing from the land of cheese, wooden shoes and windmills, the Netherlands, Marjet has worked in various parts of Europe and Asia. She is currently based in Singapore, having moved in 2016 to lead Telstra’s corporate business for Asia after living and working in Japan for a few years.
Currently, she serves as Senior Vice President and General Manager of Red Hat, leading the company’s growth in Asia Pacific.
In an interview with His historyshe tells us about her 25-year career, as a mentor to other women, and explains why diversity is the engine of innovation.
HerStory (HS): What drew you to STEM and technology?
Marjet Andriesse (MA): I’m not an engineer but an economics graduate so my career path has been quite different compared to other tech leaders. I strongly believe that you don’t have to be in STEM to be successful, as STEM careers may not be for everyone. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from taking advantage of other academic opportunities or courses.
Personally, I always try to push the limits and reinvent myself. I believe in the three Cs: curiosity, complexity and cohesion. Driven by these three Cs, I have worked on three continents and in four sectors.
As I learned about open source, its potential to drive innovation and transformation amazed me. I was also intrigued by the role Red Hat played in advancing it and thought it would be a rewarding journey if I could help unlock its potential in Asia. So here I am with my diverse industry background, passionate about customer focus and working with the best technicians in the industry at Red Hat.
HS: Please tell us about your career. How have the last 25 years been?
MY : I’ve had my fair share of job changes, new role inductions, and all the anxiety and intimidation of joining a new team, new office, and new environment. I started my career as a product manager in the early 90s in the logistics sector at TNT in the Netherlands.
After a stint of six years, I joined KPN, a Dutch telecommunications company, as a sales manager, where I found my obsession with customer orientation, then moved to Randstad where I worked for a decade as the company’s general manager, leading the business in various parts of Europe and Asia.
During my time at Randstad, the largest HR services company in the world, I lived in the Netherlands, Prague and Tokyo. I joined Telstra in 2016 and worked for nearly five years as Managing Director for Asia-Pacific.
I joined Red Hat in the midst of the pandemic at an interesting time when the whole world was moving towards a hybrid workplace. In my current role, I’m driving Red Hat’s next phase of growth in this region and leading initiatives to drive customer success through open hybrid cloud technology.
HS: Tell us about teamwork…
MY : When I joined Red Hat, we made sure to connect more often with our customers, partners, and associates. It’s important to listen and understand how our teams work together in all markets and manage work and home.
We are seeing strong demand for tech talent across many industries. It’s crucial for companies to invest in talent development early, bolster ranks with junior recruits, and offer development programs to help them advance in their careers. They should also seek to strengthen their workforce through the retraining of mid-career workers through retraining programs.
HS: How did you deal with the challenges of working in a pandemic?
MY : During the COVID-19 crisis, we went from a distributed, user-friendly business to a fully remote business and this was new territory for us. Our first order of business was to enable as many of our teams as possible to work from home. As we embraced new ways of working, we turned to the open source way of doing business, where the best ideas can come from anywhere, and where transparency and collaboration are vital.
We also introduced our unique “recharge day” where every quarter, for one day, the entire Red Hat team globally stops all work. This means reducing all calls, emails and all forms of business communication. We dedicate the day to the well-being of our associates.
Red Hat executives have also stepped up efforts to create virtual office hours and additional (but remote) contact times with their teams, not only to convey the latest information and updates on plans, but to verify with their teams and listen to their concerns or simply keep our ties strong.
HS: What more can be done to support female tech talent?
MY : I strongly believe that building a bank of highly visible and active female role models can have a strong positive influence on the society in which we live. The starting point for researching these influencers can be anywhere, be it home, academia, sports, work, and any location.
Even small daily interactions with one of these role models can have an outsized influence on the young person. For example, one study showed that female students are more likely to choose a STEM major when assigned to a female professor rather than a male professor.
Diversity and inclusiveness are very important when it comes to fostering female talent. For example, in my case, I think having female role models early on would have given a different dimension to how I see my career path, although I’m glad I learned a lot from watching my parents.
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a community to nurture talent. Role models embrace a community mindset and lead their employees and youth groups in an open and inclusive manner. This creates a virtuous circle that allows the community to cultivate talent and encourage greater participation in the workforce.
HS: Do you mentor women in tech? Why is networking essential for women in tech?
MY : I do mentorship, but it’s not just for women or the tech sector. Leadership skills are transferable to any field, and the steps to achieving growth remain the same.
It is very important to know what is happening outside your comfort zone. And so, connecting with team members or people outside of your job is very important. When I meet people, I think you have to “listen” more to contribute better. You should never shy away from taking the opportunity to talk to others. I’m a good listener and it helps me observe and learn more from every interaction, whether it’s with a Red Hat associate or customer or observing other industry leaders.
And often these observations helped me to be a good thinker and to construct a point of view.
There is one more thing I would like to clarify: networking does not only mean attending social gatherings, but it also means attending conferences, lectures, webinars and any other event where you can meet diverse and inspiring people. .
HS: Why do you think there are very few women in leadership positions in technology?
MY : I believe that diversity drives innovation and therefore it is crucial to include people with diverse opinions, age ranges and backgrounds in the workforce. Every minority has a bias and women are categorized in that space and it’s difficult. But the situation is improving now. We see a lot of women joining the tech workforce.
As leaders, we carry a great responsibility and although sometimes some of us may be modestly reluctant to be in the “spotlight”, I think it is important to be seen for the “right” reasons. For professional women who aspire to be someone, it really helps to see other senior women around them in that role.
I am proud to share that in the APAC sales team, we have more women leading the sales function at the national level. And in my management team, the head of finance and human resources for APAC is also a woman.
HS: Who/What were your biggest inspirations?
MY : When I think from a value perspective, it was my dad who always inspired me to be a better person and taught me to take care of people first.
My grandmother was also one of my biggest inspirations. She had a very difficult life, World War II was a difficult time, but she never gave up. She applied herself despite the challenges and that inspires me every day.