Welcome back to the Devil Wears Technology. For this blog edition, I was delighted to interview a fantastic engineer, Annelies Diepering – Bohlken of ABN AMRO.
Annelies was born and raised in the Netherlands, but also visited her mother’s homeland of Scotland often while growing up. Though quite new to the banking sector, she has been involved in engineering and technology since university. Radboud University, where she studied, had a very broad curriculum, which made it possible for her to develop and study organizational change and business information, setting her up for her first job within an energy company. That is where she learned how much she loved analyzing how to automate processes.
This is what stood out the most for me: Annelies’ ability to transition from working as an engineer at an energy company to working at a well-known and prominent bank, ABN AMRO.
I also really enjoyed hearing about her dreams for the workplace of the future. I think you will find her insights interesting as well.
Enjoy, Embrace, Empower.
I don’t get to interview too many engineers, so I’d love to hear about your journey in becoming an engineer.
In everything I do, and I really mean EVERYTHING….I always look at doing things ‘smart’ so it takes as little time as necessary and enables you to free up time to do other things. I can get really enthusiastic about figuring out something to save us all a lot of time. This attitude drew me to automation. Because that is what you can do with automation – work smarter and free up your time to do other things.
What challenges have you faced in progressing your career, and how have you overcome them?
A couple of times I got stuck. Or at least that is what it felt like. I was not going anywhere, I got frustrated and was not getting the energy I craved for. For me that was always a moment to stop and take stock. What was my behavior, what was I triggering within others (how was I irritating others 😊), and what did I want to achieve. Finding someone to help me answer these questions always really helped. Usually that led to me seeing what I needed to do to change the situation or my perception of the situation.
Technology and banking have historically been male-dominated, do you think that is changing?
I think things are changing but it is going slowly. When I look at my two daughters (6 and 8) I try to get them interested in simple programming with a play robot. I am hoping that it will help them to not only use technology but also develop it. They need some support to get interested in technology but I hope they take to it. I am also hoping this lockdown will help get more women involved in technology. We are currently in an extended lockdown and I have accepted the fact that people not only know I am a mother but also can SEE I am one; because there is a kid in the background on camera. With that being said, I think that we are a stronger and a real role model for our own children because they see their mother is working but also colleagues see it is possible too. I believe role models are always very important for creating equality and really seeing it – walking the talk (especially during a lockdown) – makes it even more powerful.
Who was a role model for you as your career progressed?
Kathy Sierra, famous American author, programming instructor and game developer – for inspiring me to make sure to go for passionate end users of the end products I help to deploy and release, Michelle Obama for showing that you can achieve so much without compromising on any of the roles you have in life by focusing on what you are doing at that moment in your life.
I believe role models are always very important for creating equality and really seeing it – “walking the talk” (especially during a lockdown) – makes it even more powerful.
Tell us about your day to day.
The biggest part of my working day is for one on one talks with people. I work with agile teams and do not want to ‘frustrate’ their process as a team. That is why I am often absent at team events and leave the coaching of the teams to the scrum masters. I am involved in one on one conversations to discuss with individuals what they are doing and checking where they want help and then providing that help.
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
Seeing people grow and getting acquainted with their own talents. Helping them to discover how to utilize those talents in the best way. Starting with a wild plan and just doing it! Think up something great (or if it turns out later not to be so great…) to do and not go and get all sorts of approvals but just doing it. In the banking industry this is not always a common way to do things but I love doing it – and I get full support for it within ABN AMRO.
Starting with a wild plan and just doing it!
What is your vision for a technology workplace in the future?
I have a dream for the workplace of the future… I hope that working from home will help to make the change where we work with extreme distributed teams. I understand the benefits of sitting all together in one place but you are then conditioned in who is in your team because it needs to be someone that is located where your work location is, or where you are able to locate to. I hope that with extreme distributed teams we are also able to create more equal opportunities for people and parents do not have to leave their children to pursue their career. People do not have to relocate for a job and can combine their different roles in life in a more balanced manner. I also see an opportunity for people using the time they usually use for traveling to participate in local networks to give back to your community, but also to be inspired by others and a different environment. That will lead to a ‘freshness’ in the workplace because people see more than only their own work environment.
During this pandemic have you started any new hobbies or activities since we can’t really move around too much?
I started walking every day during my lunch break. It has really helped me with keeping my focus on the many online meetings during the day. I also now know the other people in my neighborhood because they all do the same!
What’s a fact about you that people wouldn’t expect?
I am very enthusiastic when it comes to traveling with our camper. I can talk for hours on really smart things you can do to kit out a camper so you can really easy prepare a trip and pack your camper and make the most of the limited space you have a available.
Name something or somewhere unique about/in the Netherlands.
We love riding our bicycle everywhere and do everything by bike. A lot of us also have different bikes, one for sports and one for shopping and getting around town. We also park our bikes everywhere where it is convenient even if it is blocking the pavement for others 😉