From books and babies to change manager at Avanade
- Posted on March 26, 2018
- Estimated reading time 6 minutes
Getting my degree in change management while taking care of two toddlers is what I’m most proud of
For almost a year now, Gwen has been juggling a career as a change manager at Avanade with being a single mum. Even though balancing a busy work life with the demands of two teenagers is challenging at times, meeting new people and getting them to collaborate successfully, is what keeps her going. In addition, hitting the waves during an occasional surf session helps as well. Gwen: ‘Working with different people propels me forward. That’s what makes this job work for me.’
I have been employed by different companies ever since 1998, mainly in the fields of banking and insurance. After finishing my studies, I started my career at a bank. That’s where I was first introduced to change management. This immediately spoke to me, and I started considering it as a possible career path
By that time, I already had two young children. I became convinced that change management is where my future was, and I decided to go back to university and get my Master’s degree in Change Management. During my Bachelor years I was able to study from home, while continuing my job at the bank and taking care of two toddlers. My Master years consisted of a lot of classroom time, as well as internships in Antwerp and the Netherlands. It took an enormous amount of dedication, but in 2008, I finally got my Master’s degree. It’s one of the achievements of which I’m most proud.
Being a change manager means I guide people through the changes our IT-implementations bring with them. I achieve this by talking to everyone involved, and by organizing workshops with both management and end-users. Afterwards, I’m able to design a made-to-measure communication and training plan that will help our clients adopt to the changes that lie ahead. I also coach people at a more senior level in managing the changes in their organizations.
I have been a change manager for ten years now. I started working at Avanade just under a year ago, in March 2017. What attracted me initially, was the company’s international reach. When I came in for my interview everyone I talked to seemed very open. It quickly became clear to me that this would be an open, people-focused environment to work in.
Working in change management at Avanade means we’re not isolated in Belgium. In fact, we operate on a global scale. We exchange information on our methodology and the future of change management with colleagues all over the world, from France to Australia. The fact that I love to travel and experience new cultures is helpful during international projects.
I’m a very people-oriented person, which is important in my position. I love people: getting to know who you are communicating with, who your stakeholders are, and getting people from different backgrounds to work together is what drives me every single day. At the same time, it’s the most difficult aspect of my job. That’s where the real challenge lies.
Apart from my main focus, change management, I’m involved in an initiative that aims to make Avanade a more attractive employer to young women. Traditionally, IT has been very male-oriented, but we are working hard to change that. Our goal is to encourage girls, who are increasingly choosing to study IT at university, to pursue a career in the IT-business. We are planning to reach girls who are in technical programs at university through social media and Instagram. Using videos, we aim to visualize how women can function, and shine, in these technical positions. As part of this initiative, I will become a kind of ‘marraine’, or ‘godmother’, to these young female tech graduates, a role I’m very excited about.
In addition to that, I adore how Avanade truly encourages and promotes entrepreneurship. Employees are constantly stimulated to bring their own ideas to the table. You can feel the spirit of entrepreneurship throughout the entire company.
Coffee, kids and waves
Achieving a healthy work-life balance is extremely important. To me that means being able to work as well as spend sufficient time with my children. My kids stay with me every fortnight, and my job at Avanade allows me to schedule my work duties in a way that I can be there for my kids when they need me.
Working from home, outside of office hours, is fine, if it’s your choice. As long as I don’t feel pressured to sacrifice family time, I’m happy. You need that time at home in order to perform to the best of your abilities at work. After all, apart from a nice hot cup of coffee and some Studio Brussels on the radio, it’s my children that keep me motivated.
Apart from them, I do have a few other passions outside of work. If I want to escape the daily grind, I love practicing yoga. In summer, I love going to music festivals such as Werchter and Pukkelpop. In winter, you can often find me in the gym or away on a trip to somewhere nice and warm. Three years ago, I learned how to surf in South Africa. Although I’m not an expert by any means, I really enjoy the sea, the waves, the physical effort and the sense of freedom it brings with it. I try to get at least one surf session in whenever I’m near the sea.
You shouldn’t underestimate how difficult it is to break down complex information into understandable chunks. ‘Keep it simple’ is my motto throughout the working day
Looking back, I must admit I’m incredibly grateful that I got this opportunity. I’m so proud of getting my Master’s while combining a family and a job. Because of that, I became the first change manager at Avanade Belgium, and am able to build a team here. I just really like what I do. What has really helped me to get where I am today are the people I worked for in the past. My managers, my coaches... They believed in me and challenged me to be the best I could be. If I could go back and give my younger self a piece of advice, I would tell me not to put as much pressure on myself: you simply cannot be the perfect mum, have the perfect career, the perfect hobbies et cetera. You shouldn’t try to be perfect, but instead focus on doing all of those things well.
Don’t try to be perfect, but focus on doing things well
Name: Gwen Deschacht
Studies: Master of Science in Strategy and Organization (Open University)
Started working at Avanade: March 2017
Children: Two teenagers, a son (18) and a daughter (16)
Loves: Travelling with my kids to discover the world
Hates: Negative people. When I come across them, I try to be as positive as I can
Favourite food: Sushi
Expert in (at work): Change management
Expert in (outside of work): Organizing get-togethers with my friends
On my nightstand: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
On my iPod: Rock music; my all-time favourite band is Pearl Jam
Song that gets me going in the morning: ‘Best Friend’ by Sofi Tukker
Would like to sit next to on a plane: Eddie Vedder
Life-changing event(s): I got divorced two years ago. Balancing being a single mum with a career is quite a challenge
Best lesson life has taught me so far: You have to let things go
Most beautiful place on earth: Definitely somewhere by the sea
My best personality trait: I’m a good listener, people tend to talk to me quite easily
My worst personality trait: Probably my drive; if things don’t move along quickly enough, I get frustrated
Hobbies/passions: I play the guitar, I surf, and I practice yoga
What nobody knows about me: I love surfing
Life motto: Keep it simple