Backbone is the corporate magazine of Erasmus School of Economics Published three times a year, once in print and twice online, the magazine highlights successful and interesting alumni, covers the latest economics trends and faculty research, and reports on school news, events, and student, faculty, and alumni accomplishments.
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Publication Erasmus School of Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam Editors Ronald de Groot, Babette den Daas, Lotte van de Laak, Yasmine van der Straten, Yrla van de Ven, Annemarieke Dumay-Roest, Madeleine Kemna Concept, design and realization Kris Kras context, content and design Print De Bondt grafimedia communicatie BV Illustrations Carolyn Ridsdale Photography & Video Kees Stuip, Gerhard Nel, Chris Gorzeman, Sanne Donders, Iris van den Broek, Sophie van den Hoek, Fabian Calis, Sjoerd van der Hucht, Rosa Quist, Jan de Groen, Ka-Chun Lo, Heritage Foundation EUR, Rotterdam Topsport, Rotterdam Imagebank, Koala Koncepts
Meet our Alumni
CFO Van Oord
Alumna Jolanda Poots-Bijl (1969) started work in her mother's pub and is now CFO and board member of Van Oord, a Dutch family-owned company with 150 years of experience as an international marine contractor. Van Oord is responsible for projects in wind energy, dredging and oil & gas on a global scale. As a supervisory board member she is involved in energy and retail at Gasunie and Blokker. She shares with us her tips for a successful career in the world of business.
Jolanda worked in many different geographical areas and sectors, in a wide range of jobs. Was it all work and no play? 'Luckily it's both. I have a somewhat extended working day - but life has really been exciting thus far. I won't say I enjoyed every second of it, but definitely a great deal!
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, I worked a lot in my mum's pub as a youngster. I did all sorts of jobs: from cleaning and bookkeeping, to the more important things such as tapping a beer professionally. After I obtained my Bachelor degree in Rotterdam, I joined a smaller, family-owned company that produced gift-wrapping.
Jolanda Poots-Bijl (1969)
is the CFO of the maritime company Van Oord. She studied Economics at Erasmus School of Economics. Currently, in addition to her work for Van Oord, she is also a member of the Supervisory Board of Gasunie and Blokker and she is board member of ING Trust.
What is the advangtage of working in a smaller company? 'It really allows you to experience the full breadth of managing. In my case this ranged from really small stuff to redesigning the growth strategy. It surely meant finding ways to sell more of our gift-wrap e.g. by increasing production batches per design and thereby lowering prices, which allowed us to increase our market share. The company doubled its turnover and in the end I grew into the position of managing the company. It was all very entrepreneurial. The most important thing I learned is that you have to take ownership. If you are responsible, don't look at others, use your influence to make sure that in the end you add to the success of the company.'
Spend some time in a consultancy firm
Accenture, a large consultancy firm, gave Jolanda the opportunity to plunge into the deep. 'After six years at the gift-wrap company, I was ready to see something of the world, work for larger corporates, meet peers and be challenged.'
Jolanda is interested in leadership and management issues. 'The more I worked with board members - supported them in strategic matters - the more fascinated I became by questions such as "How do you actually manage a company and find the dot on the horion to make it succesful?" and more important "How do you effectively reach out to your people in such a way that they want to join forces and are inspired to take that extra mile with you"?'
Be open to good advice, but follow your heart
How did she make the move from gift-wrapping and consultancy to transport, technology and construction? 'One of my clients at the time was the Dutch state-owned rail infrastructure provider (ProRail). I was asked to help them become more efficient and effective. My motto became: public service delivered business wise.
A few months before I turned 34, the CEO of ProRail asked me to become their CFO. It was an unexpected request. Think of it: I drove a rather fast BMW, was not necessarily a fan of public transport and worked for an American business company. I was happy in my job and earned a salary that was higher than a state-owned company was allowed to pay.
My first thought was: "No way!" (in line with the advice given to me). However, after some thinking about what really makes me tick, I came back to the challenges of leadership, managing a company in the right direction with a good team and improving things; to make a difference.
I saw the challenges the company was facing. It received bad press, while performance in a lot of areas was actually above European averages. So ... I got intrigued. The fact that ProRail dared to ask a young woman to take on the responsibility played a role too. My advice to young people would be: "Listen carefully to the wise people around you but in the end follow your heart. It is your life and there is no such thing as a recipe for success.'
Develop agility instead of targets
What about her current job? 'For almost two years now, I have been CFO of Van Oord, a Rotterdam-based company. Van Oord is a renowned family-owned company with 150 years of history. It is also project based.
Also at Van Oord we are elaborating our strategy. It gets more and more difficult to find the unique dot on the horizon to be successful in our complex and fast changing world. Therefore, agility as a theme is increasingly more important than settng fixed targets. Changes are of all times, but the pace of change is radically increasing. That is something new to deal with. The organisations that are able to adapt at the right pace will be the successful ones. So again....it all boils down to the right people.
You can only be successful if you have the right people and the digital structures to support and grasp the new opportunities that arise. We have chosen these two strategic themes - next to sustainability - to build the fundamentals for another 150 years of Dutch successful entrepreneurship. I feel lucky to be a part of it'.