En garde! ERP consultant Martijn Vermaelen lives for a challenge
- Posted on April 11, 2018
- Estimated reading time 7 minutes
Even as a student Martijn Vermaelen was never one to rest on his laurels: after getting three (!) diplomas, this driven youngster felt ready to step into the Avanade arena, where he’s been working as an ERP consultant since 2013. Five years on, one of the goals Martijn has set for himself is to help junior colleagues find their feet during the early stages of their career. Martijn: ‘I would definitely describe myself as an ambitious person.’
'Stepping outside of my comfort zone is what keeps me going'
My initial plan was to become a clinical psychologist, and that’s why I chose to study Applied Psychology at Lessius, in Antwerp. When I was introduced to work and organisational psychology, I realised that that is where my interests were. I then moved on to studying Business Management. My experiences with HR during internships at recruitment agencies and an in-depth employee satisfaction study for a local government triggered me to use my background in psychology, which proved hugely beneficial. The last experience in particular inspired me to then study Economics in Antwerp.
At that time, I was combining work and my studies: I worked part-time in executive search recruiting at Accenture, where I focused on profiles in IT. Having one foot in the corporate world, I was allowed to immediately apply what I’d been taught at school in an actual business context. At Accenture, I first discovered ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and I was decided to pursue ERP consultancy as a career.
‘Having one foot in the corporate world as a student allowed me to immediately apply what I’d been taught in a business context’
As Avanade is a subsidiary of Accenture, I got to know the company quite quickly. A number of things about Avanade soon made it clear that this was the company for me. There is, for example, the fact that they are one of the few international ERP implementers in Belgium, offering a global network and knowledge that crosses borders. The international environment that goes along with that is tremendously appealing to me. I like to travel and try to go on at least three trips a year, as I’m passionate about discovering new places, local food and cultures. Now, my job at Avanade allows me to travel across the world. I also like the focus on Microsoft products. Then there are the many (project) opportunities, guaranteeing a varied set of tasks for an Avanade employee. And on top of this, Avanade boasts a very accessible corporate culture, and a very pleasing work-life balance.
As an ERP consultant, you might expect me to sit behind a computer all day. That’s not the case at all! There are technical and business profiles in my line of work, and my job is on the business side. In a nutshell, it’s my responsibility to get together with the customer, to learn and analyse their business processes, to translate those into certain requirements, and to then translate those in an ERP software application. You could say that I’m the bridge between the customer and the application.
Avanade is a very dynamic company with a lot of young talent. We organize many activities, both at work and outside of work. This is crucial to my colleagues and me, as we are not working in a traditional nine-to-five job. To make sure everyone performs to the best of their abilities, and can step up to help someone out if needed, a good atmosphere at work is required. Apart from the usual yearly New Year’s celebration and us going for a beer after work on Fridays, we have an Xbox One at the office, where we can de-stress. We also organise a kick-off weekend and a yearly football tournament, people work out together, etc. A lot of colleagues are taking ownership of those events, whether it’s organising a LAN party, or planning a summer barbecue. I for one am responsible for our annual skiing trip to Austria. At Avanade, we aim to create an atmosphere where we can become more than colleagues, and I believe we’re successful in doing so.
‘At Avanade we aim to create an atmosphere where we can become more than colleagues’
Since joining Avanade 5 years ago, I have definitely noticed some changes in myself. Working as a consultant in close contact with customers and team members teaches you a lot about interacting with people. I’m a much better communicator and a stronger team player than I was before I joined Avanade. Take, for example, the workshops I’m giving. They used to require an enormous amount of preparation, whereas now I’m much more confident. I’m convinced I know my stuff, and more importantly: I know I speak the same language as the customers do.
Avanade itself is growing every year in size and revenue, so each year we try to take on more and larger projects. Avanade focuses on innovation, so we are providing new services like RPA (Robotic Process Automation), change enablement, cloud services and a wider more integrated ERP solution. This pushes everyone at Avanade to take on bigger challenges and we see a lot of new talent joining our team.
One of my tasks for this coming year will be to coach young team members joining us. At Avanade we have a buddy-program that helps new joiners out during their first weeks. I help them find their way around the big organization and help them get acquainted with the entire Avanade Belgium team. Hopefully I can teach juniors something about my journey here. What has helped me the most in my career so far is a positive attitude and taking on a lot of work. I’m quite proud of the fact that I combined working and studying, but at the time I just wanted to go forward. I would then see where I would land. That’s why my advice to young colleagues would be: ‘The more you work, the more you learn’. And don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, because that’s an opportunity to go beyond your own expectations. That’s what keeps me going.
‘My advice to junior colleagues: “The more you work, the more you learn"
Opportunity to be myself
Looking forward, I would definitely describe myself as an ambitious person. Workwise I’d like to stay in the same domain, but would want to focus a bit more on the business side of things. I would like to go deeper into supply chain management, and really be in a position where I can shape the directions we go as a company.
A little further down the line I see myself working for Avanade abroad. I really enjoy being in nature. My number one location to move to would be Vancouver in Canada; not only are the natural surroundings absolutely stunning over there, they also offer plenty of opportunity to go hiking, backpacking, mountain biking etc. And in addition, Vancouver is very conveniently situated: it would be easy for me to explore the US from there.
In sum, Avanade has given me the opportunity to be myself, which I’m thankful for. Continuing to grow and evolve is what will keep me going.
‘Avanade gives people the opportunity to be themselves’
Name: Martijn Vermaelen
Studies: Bachelor degree in Psychology, (Lessius) Master degrees in Business Management and Economics (UA)
Started working at Avanade: 2013
Relationship: I live with my girlfriend
Loves: Brown rum, watching Netflix with my girlfriend
Hates: Lack of change, not learning anything new
Favourite food: Thai cuisine
Expert in (at work): ERP consultancy, organizing after-work events with colleagues
Expert in (outside of work): Finding special places to explore on day trips
Expert in (at university): My successful study method and networking
On my nightstand: My alarm clock
On my iPod: The greater house genre
Would like to sit next to on a plane: My girlfriend, preferably on our way to a faraway destination
Best lesson life has taught me so far: Keep on learning and never stop pushing yourself
Most beautiful place on earth: The Florida Keys
Hobbies/passions: Stock trading, fencing
Gets me up and running in the morning: First, I need a fresh cup of tea to get me going. Second, I’m always looking forward meeting my colleagues, we always work as a team.
What nobody knows about me: My colleagues know most everything about me; I’m an open book. Then again… they might be surprised by the fact that I’m the proud owner of a panda onesie.