Lea is a real frontrunner when it comes to being a Digital Innovator. This year marks her 3rd year as part of the TTI team. After dozens of projects for multiple clients in different sectors, it’s time to look back on her 3 years as a Digital Innovator!
Lea, how did you first get in touch with TTI?
I think I was one of the few that started directly after graduating from university. I worked for an advertising agency briefly and found out that often things are created based on thin air, not on what the client wants. I missed the analytical aspect and decided to do another masters in Entrepreneurship & Innovation Management. I think that’s where my love for innovation started, but there weren’t that many roles in innovation back then-and it’s still quite niche. I wrote my thesis about agile working and interviewed some people at TTI, and that’s how I got in touch with a recruiter.
Coincidentally one of my friends, Julia Jansen Schoonhoven, applied for the program as well, without me knowing. So eventually we worked together for 2,5 years — which was really fun!
How do you look back on your time at TTI?
Overall my time at TTI has been a great journey. My biggest take-away is that if you have the right digital skills and mindset, you can create real impact. No matter how old you are or how much experience you have. It was also really nice to have a team of experienced Digital Innovators behind you who can help you with anything. I think that’s the power of the DI program, being able to learn from others who have specialized in different aspects of innovation. Besides this, I received a lot of professional and personal coaching — which really helped me to grow as a person.
What kind of projects have you done?
I started off at VIVAT where I did a project for 9 months. I’ve also worked at KRO briefly, and then I went to Bucharest, Romania for ING Bank. I also worked for VVAA, an insurance company in health care. Then I worked for Philips for 10 months and now I’m working on my final project at Nestle Purina. Because I’m leaving in January!
What are you most proud of, when you look back at the past 3 years?
I still remember that ING project really well. I was ill that week, but then Jasper (Head of the Digital Innovators) called me and asked if I wanted to have a chat with ING. Even though I was ill I went to the interview, and Friday I got the call that we could do the project. I flew to Romania that same Sunday. On Monday I stepped into a whole different world, with a different culture and I had no idea how I was going to deal with the project, as everything was new for me. That we nailed it in the end and got good feedback from the client, definitely made it a proud moment.
I think that’s the bottom line for all the projects: just throwing yourself in the deep end, but still nailing it. I think that you really learn to trust yourself during this program.
When I was working for VVAA, there were a couple of things that slowed us down. During the pandemic we had a couple of months we could do little or nothing, and in those quiet times you start doubting yourself. We tried a lot of different things that didn’t work and we felt a little stuck. Luckily it all worked out, just with a few months delay.
And another thing in corporate innovation that I disliked: there’s a lot of stakeholders and factors you need to keep into account. Things can go really, really slow and I learnt that that’s something I really dislike.
How were your roles as a DI’er useful for a future career?
You can learn a lot in a short amount of time, and you learn so much from your mistakes. Because you do short, different projects at different companies, you can also start anew and you won’t have to make the same mistakes again. This makes your learning curve a very steep one.
As a Digital Innovator, I’ve gained experience in every aspect of the innovation cycle. From exploration to validation to the building phase: I’ve had a project focussing on each of these. I’ve also gained experience in so many different industries, from banking to consumer goods to services. I can now work in all these industries, they’re not new to me anymore. I think that for someone with only 3 years of professional experience, I got to experience many different roles. You won’t see that anywhere else.
Did your mindset change over these past 3 years?
Definitely. During the program you can expect a lot of coaching on a personal level. I’ve learned to embrace uncertainty, which is something that I’m going to do next year too.
I got the chance to work for a lot of different companies. I now know how it is to work in different industries and I think this will influence my future career choices.
What do you think of the TTI Culture?
Company Culture is something TTI really stands for. If you want to go for a huge salary and a company car, you shouldn’t work for TTI. You should join for: freedom and chances to implement your own initiatives and make real impact. Besides, my colleagues have become my friends.
Last year a couple of colleagues and I took a plane and worked a week in Portugal. We also go on winter sports together and we have a cultural event every month.
The TTI Community is also a very valuable network, professionally. But I think most important for me is that work doesn’t really feel like work. I always look forward to going to the office to see my colleagues. 3 years ago I had never expected to think about work like that. I really had an awesome time.
What was the highlight?
In your third year at The Talent Institute you get the opportunity to go on one month of paid leave. They encourage you to take this month off to take a step back to reflect or to learn something new. I used this month to go to Costa Rica, where I followed a Yoga Teacher program.
I’m very glad TTI gave me the chance to follow this program. TTI is very fond of personal development, and they’ll give you the time and space you need.
I’ll head to Mexico in February! I have to leave my room and I’ve been working at TTI for 3 years now, so I thought this was a good time for a new adventure. I’ll go to Mexico for a holiday with a friend first, and then she’ll leave me there. I’m going to learn more about yoga while I’m there, through teaching and self-study. I’ll do that for 2 months, and then I’ll see what I’ll do. I’ll bring my laptop and see if I can do some freelance work there, too. I bought a one way ticket, I have no commitments any more. And I’m looking forward to it!
Anything you’d like to say to a future DI’er?
It’s really an awesome way to accelerate your career, even if you have 1 – 3 years of experience already. You touch base on all the phases of innovation and get to experiment during different projects. You’ll be able to work for some big corporates, so it’s really valuable for your network too.
And if you’re not sure whether you want to work for a start-up or a corporate, this is a good bet too. TTI in itself has more of a start-up/scale-up mentality, and during the projects you can work for corporates which is very refreshing. So it’s the best of both worlds!
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