- Over 15 years’ professional experience
- Consulting background with Arthur D. Little
- Industry experience in aeronautical engineering operations
- Expertise across strategy, operations and organisation
- Recently worked with Eden McCallum clients in consumer goods, research & innovation, and technology
With a career that spans line roles, startups and consulting, Willem is not one for standing still.
His first roles were in aviation, building on his mechanical engineering degree and two additional Masters, in industrial management and in safety and environmental technologies. After six years in industry, ultimately as a plant manager driving operations, quality and safety, Willem wanted more pace and more breadth. He joined Arthur D. Little, which stood out among the strategy firms for its focus on innovation and technology.
Later, having been promoted to Principal, he was leading international teams and large programmes for multinational clients when he reached a fork in the road: go for partner, or make a change.
“My third daughter was born when I was working abroad a lot, and that made me think maybe I needed to do less international work, spend more time with my children, try something different…And once I took that decision I got such a feeling of relief – I’m in control here, I’m going to take control of my life, of my career.”
Still resolving what to do next, Willem took a couple of months out to learn AI, pursuing a continued fascination with emerging technologies. Through his network he was brought into an AI scaleup as an independent, to build out their strategy department. He went on to launch a pair of startups with ex-consulting colleagues, and eventually found his way back to consulting.
“I liked the consulting work, but didn’t want to be on anyone’s payroll. So I was really happy to speak to people doing freelance consulting – because they told me you can do the work but have another kind of life. That’s also how I got to learn about Eden McCallum.”
From his first project, Willem enjoyed a very different way of working as a consultant.
“The work was equally interesting, but I could do it a bit more on my terms… Now I work the same amount, but I am able to plan it in blocks.”
“As a marathon runner I train a lot, also during the week, and that’s much more difficult if you work for a fixed firm where you have to commute and have to be in office most of the time… with Eden McCallum I am in control – if the client is happy, if the results are there, nobody will tell me when to work or how long I should work. It’s a big advantage.”
The ability to choose projects is another important benefit, though Willem points out that consultants are as much chosen as choosing.
“The people who are selected to do a project are much more on point in an Eden McCallum team. When there is an opportunity for a project, the Eden McCallum partner will discuss with me: would this interest you, and also are you the right person… With traditional firms you have to be billable. Here, they really make the best choice in the interest of the client.
We had people from all the big firms in our team, and the thinking was so rich. It’s not just being smart, it’s also having different backgrounds, different frameworks from the company you worked with before – if you put all of that together, it makes a super strong team.
This is really a strength, because you have expertise from both industry and consulting, and the consulting part is really from all the good consulting firms combined.”
Most fulfilling for Willem is a different sort of relationship with his clients than he experienced in traditional consulting.
“It’s much more human and more genuine. Before I had the feeling that I was more like part of a machine that needed to deliver, whereas now with EM I feel much more like I am part of the client.”
And for clients, that collaboration brings what Willem calls a ‘first time right’ approach:
“It’s working shoulder to shoulder with the client: you do it with them, not just for them, and that means you avoid mistakes that could have worked in theory but not with this specific client. So they really implement what we do. And that’s a good feeling, because it really has impact.”
Willem has now led a series of different assignments with Eden McCallum across sectors, finding the independence he wanted in coming back to consulting – and also the stability.
“In my case I have the feeling that I am independent but at the same time I have the same work inflow, the same luxury of projects coming to me as before. I am an entrepreneur, but without the feeling that something bad could happen.”
“My marketing is very easy: if I do a good project for Eden McCallum they will give me another one when this one ends. Doing good work, that’s the selling.”