Typical 24: Dennis Van der Veeke, SDL

IDG Connect is looking to speak to IT, business and marketing professionals across the spectrum to discover more about their very different, typical working days...

IDG Connect is looking to speak to IT, business and marketing professionals across the spectrum to discover more about their very different, typical working days...



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Dennis Van der Veeke

  Job title: CTO

  Company: SDL

  Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

  Years’ experience: 24



1.                  What time do you reach the office each day?

Monday, Tuesday and Thursday I am in the Amsterdam office. On Wednesday and Friday it is Zwijndrecht, which is home. On the Amsterdam days I do the school run with my two boys and so I arrive in the office at 10am, but I take a 90 minute train and that enables me to start work as I travel.


2.                  Is your job varied?

Yes. It is very varied because of the different disciplines within the DevOps organization and the Customer Experience industry in which SDL operates as a business.

As you might expect, there is a lot of structure in development as we execute product roadmaps but also there is some flex in defining the strategy going forward, and having the right tactics in place around innovation and other aspects. Certainly with our move into the Cloud in recent years that has meant the need to adapt which has created variety in itself.

I also connect with a lot of customers making sure they understand our viewpoint, managing expectations and learning about their needs for delivering an exceptional customer experience for their clients too.


3.                  Is your job creative?  

Because of the fact that we are in a marketing space, we're bringing marketing software to the market. We're marketing to fast-moving people. They are very quickly bored by some things and never want to stand still. I have to be creative because we are at a stage where technology is really fast. Not only technology, from the variety of devices, but also all the other technology around it. This means that you need to figure out; “Can I use services that are available?”; “Can I use a partnership or do we need to build them ourselves?”

Complexity is not appreciated or tolerated nowadays and that means you have to be creative to get to a solution. Everything needs to be simple and easy to consume. Therefore, we have a lot of creative people, like the user experience group that I get to work with in a creative capacity to solve problems.


4.                  What do you spend the majority of your time doing?

The majority of time...I think making sure that everybody remains aligned and that we set the right priorities, because there are so many things to do. Of course, maintaining focus is done by talking to the people regularly. I align and sync with all my leaders every week. Only for half an hour, by the way, because I don’t like long meetings. I don’t even like half an hour. If we can't do it in half an hour then it is probably not important.


5.                  Do you personalise your desk?

At home, yes. At the office, I never had a real office until recently. I just had a desk. But now there is a mouse pad which has a picture of my boys giving me the thumbs up and some hearts on there. I got that for Father's Day, they made that at school. I have another picture of the boys and I have some presents from customers that were happy with us. Currently it is minimal because I only decided to enter an office in recent weeks. For the past 7 years I was not keen on having an office because offices make it harder to get to me. I would sit with colleagues ‘on the floor’ but with more meetings and calls I have now moved into an office.


6.                  Would you describe yourself as creative?

I have a reputation for the fashions I wear, be that suits or socks. I think that demonstrates my creative side.


7.                  Do you have any quirky daily rituals?

The quirky thing is that I like to travel by train because the Americas or the US is moving ahead when I sleep. The moment I wake up I just eat and then drive to the train station. Then I do the America emails on the train and so everybody can trust that I will respond within 24 hours. Is that a quirky thing? The train may be the quirky thing. Here, in Amsterdam, a lot of people have a company car. I am perhaps an exception to this practice and still take the train. I travel second class and it gives me time to deal with emails and get set for a good day of work the moment I arrive in the office after a 90 minute commute.


8.                  Do you tend to work on your own or with colleagues?

My role is very much collaborative and I like to make myself open to collaboration. As I said about my office habits, I used to sit with colleagues so I could be a part of the conversations that were taking place about the business so as to get a better understanding.


9.                  How many hours on average do you work a day?

I think between 12 and 16. As a global company there are time-zones to accommodate.


10.             Roughly how much time do you spend each day on email? Taking calls? In meetings?

I have a good system of email filtering and assigning urgency or action status to email in my inbox – thanks to my PA, Linda. That helps me to cut down on email time and as I say, I get a lot of the email work done on the train. Meetings can be frequent, and internal or external client sessions will fill my day. I feel I should do more face-to-face meetings as customer engagements.


11.             Do you use social media much for work?

I do. I am @CTOSDL on Twitter and that helps me stay connected with people and share my writing from the SDL blog. I share things of interest on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep things interesting. You might just find some pictures of my socks alongside updates about customer experience management.


12.             What do you enjoy most about your work?

Working with the crew. I get my energy from people. As long as they are helping me or the company to move forward I can sustain very high energy and creativity.

Of course the key is getting energy out of success. That drives my enjoyment of work. I'm a guy who only wants to focus on the positive. Negativity is a distraction.


13.             What type of music (if any) do you listen to at work?

I'm not a music guy. I don’t listen to the music in the office at all. When I listen in the car then it is just the regular Top 40 radio.


14.             What do you do for lunch?

The latest couple of weeks I've been into salad because I want to get rid of my ‘love-handles’. When I started at the company I was 70 kilos. I am pretty fit but with all the travel I went back to 78 and I want to go back to 72. I've started running. I've started cycling and I started eating salads again.


15.             Do you socialise with work colleagues?

Yes, when I walk out of the office for lunch I catch up with others and we don’t really talk about work. Also, there are social events where we can let our hair down and have some fun over a beer.


16.             Are there any tasks (through your career) you’ve been especially glad to get rid of?

I don’t think so. I can't recall any tasks that were not adding a certain value of experience to my career.


17.             What is your last task of your day?

Probably tie up any final few emails but then to also review the agenda for the day ahead to start thinking, planning and anticipating what tomorrow will bring.


18.             How do you like to relax after work?

My life is predominantly work so when I have free time, doing stuff with the kids. Watching their football training or hockey training - Saturdays are filled with sport for them. On Sunday it is more about just relaxing. The family plays the Xbox in the morning or we do something else. Or we go on holiday or go away for the weekend.


19.             Do you keep checking email through the evening?

Yes, if it is urgent but otherwise my email system sets aside time in the morning. The evenings and weekends can be a time to catch up on the less urgent email.


20.             Do you take work projects home with you?

I often take calls at home because I work with many global locations and colleagues but it is good to switch off and save it for the office on the whole.


21.             What would you say to your 20-year old self?

Make the right choices, work hard and focus.


22.             If you could try out any job for a day, what would you choose?

I think I would be a skiing instructor.


23.             What device did you use to answer these questions?

My work laptop.


24.             Do you use your own personal device for work?

I have an iPhone 5 and I use a Dell laptop with an additional battery pack to assist with getting work done on long-haul flights.