Simone van Neerven – Impact Talks Episode 1 Transcript



Welcome to the to the podcast. So these podcasts go quite yeah, pretty flexible. So not really a topic, but obviously I am super interested in what you do. So thereby here. So first obviously introduction about yourself. Please let me know what you do. And also because I read a lot on your background, except Chanel, except KLM.  I saw obviously Vueling. How would I pronounce Vueling? With a B or with a V?


That’s the one million dollar question, I think.I think when they founded Vueling, I think they, it is a Spanish company, but they wanted to have like a tourism between English and Spanish.They never thought about becoming maybe so big or so international. And now all the foreigners are starting with the name. So since I’m also not a Spanish native, it’s also difficult for me to pronounce. But I pronounce it like ‘Bueling’, sort of like a B, ‘Bueling’. But it’s it’s a combination of vuelo and flying. So that’s why it’s ‘Bueling’… ‘Bueling’. Yeah.


Yeah. Yeah. So currently working their but… But you ask me about who I am. I own my background, but it’s a long story. And that started at the time. Yeah. So currently working in Barcelona.


But I. In a different kind of construction than I think most people. So I founded my own company and now I, I am hired for my company. And then people tell me, oh so you’re a consultant. But I actually don’t like the word consultant and I’m more like a freelancer or other interim or that kind of.


And so what do you do in Vueling right now. Innovation manager, right?


Yeah. So I’m head of innovation there. So I lead the innovation team that I also built.


What do you mean you built it?


I there was no team before. No there were… There was a little team and it consisted of Spanish guys with an I.T. background. So when I arrived, my mission was or is to level up innovation and to come up with new business models using new tech, but also drive a culture of innovation within the company. So with the small team I had, I knew I had to also grow the team with different kind of backgrounds, gender, perspective, age nationality.


Did you have like a job description when you entered or was it just like figure it out?


Yeah, it was sort of like figure it out. Yeah. So it was it was funny because I said I am Dutch. So I’m sort of kind of used to structure and then entering a as not having a permanent contract anymore my from my own company because I quit my job after a long corporate career. So the big first big change was I had my own company now. Then the second one is as a dutchie going to Spain. The third big change was I was used to legacy companies or a legacy airline, which is me, which means KLM was around for 100 years. So it is is a this is an airline that at that time was 13 years old.


And then it’s also a low cost carrier, which is different, different kind of business model than KLM.


So quite, quite a lot of changes. So was there a structure? No, because it’s sort of like a startup. It’s sort of a scale up. And then in a Spanish way. So for me, that was and that is still sometimes difficult. But the past two years, one of the things that I really learned was to become resilient.


What do you mean? What would happen?


Not so… becoming more relaxed. Things will work out and the system in Spain is just a little bit different.


And what is funny is my friends here in Holland, they all like Spanish. Now, manana, manana. You just have to understand that there is the the way they work is different. So you’re in Holland.


Everything is really planned. And that means that in the end there’s less flexibility. In Spain, there is less plan. But at the end, the last minutes, everything can be done. So then everybody is like, okay. It needs to be. It needs to be done. It needs to get fixed.


So let’s let’s, uh. Let’s get it. Let’s get it on.


It’s like chill, chill, chill. But then last minute it’s. Yeah.


And then you get everything done. But sometimes you get even done much more than in Holland where things are more plans. And then the end maybe the result is less so. But you just have to understand that things work a little bit like that. So I’m being resilient. Learn learning is OK. Don’t get stressed when sort of the deadline arrives and then. Yeah. Just take it easy and then push for it at the end.


Isn’t that hard? Yeah, because obviously how. What was the moment and when you really realized. Okay. Like now I get it. And now I’m more chill because whenever I reflect back on some of our additions of Startup Funding Event, we’ve had like a lot of stress at some of the big ones. And then I remember we had one in June, like one of the biggest that we organized. And then a lot of stress. January, February, March, I was starting to switch.


But then in April, like a click came it suddenly it was like calm. Yeah. Did you have something similar?


So I’m with my team. Uh, I push my team along to show ourselves to the outside world. So I tried to go to events and then I tried to manage that. That we actual space to present our work. So I do that both externally, but also internally. Um, and that means that we need to get organized to get ready to show something cool. And in the beginning, there were so reluctant to do that, even if it was a pop up demo in the canteen.


So sometimes we had a canteen at Vueling just to for two hours and to show a word. But then we need to bring staff and everything. And I in the beginning, I was trying to prepare days in advance and I and my team was like, yeah. And then the day arrived and they just managed. So for me it was also OK, let go and they can handle. I also hired really, really good people. So that is also why I can let go, because I trust that they will do a job.


So that helps a lot. And also, it’s I think it was interesting when you are leading innovation, innovation is all about learning, making mistakes. Don’t blame people when when they fuck up. So I’m also very relaxed when things don’t go as they should go or as planned and then I make a joke about it. Yeah. This is how we how we learn this, how we work. And so it’s a maybe a funny story.


The first time I, uh, I did a talk, a public talk, I was in Barcelona and I was invited by one of the business schools over there. Yeah. And I said, do we have a yearly event? Do you wanna come over and talk and give a talk? And I said, Yeah, yeah, sure. Somehow I always say yes. And and afterwards I think, like, why the fuck did I say yes?


So that was the first time an audience was like five hundred people.


So it was not even a small event.


And I was also the first there were like four speakers. I was the first. So I was on stage. I was there also obviously nervous. And after one minutes, the whole might you have to know what my talks. I always use a lot of pictures and because that makes my story, funny pictures and everything. So after the first minute, uh, you see the videos, they all have proved down. Yeah. So I was in technical difficulty.




And it was like, oh, shit, what am I doing now? So I made a big joke about it. Hey guys, I run an innovation lab and this is what happens all the time. So now let’s impro… improvise. And so the whole audience laughed. Laughs And then somehow, uh, the tech problems were over. And the video we started… the screens were alive again. And then that was for me also like, oh, yeah, just make a joke.


This is it.


Those are like the moments realizing that the team and go onstage realizing sometimes things don’t go your way. Yeah. That’s what it build your resilience then. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s okay to make mistakes. Right. Because that is part of innovation. And I mean sometimes if you make mistakes the whole thing can go down. Yeah. Well how would you guess how how would you say. I guess because for me, like that’s maybe an important question I have just out of


interest. When you’re like in a startup for a scale or any business, sometimes you can you have to take risks. Yeah. But sometimes if they become big mistakes, that can make ruin everything. Yeah.


So I think two things about that. The first one is always you learn from mistakes. So if you make a mistake or failure or always learn from it. The second one, you’re absolutely right that you shouldn’t make really big mistakes. This is also why I try with my team to, uh, date. Sometimes have the tendency to make things really big and say, no, let’s make it small and then do it step by step, because if you make things smaller and then you feel and the feeling was also small.


And especially when I work in airlines and airlines are by definition risk averse because we don’t want planes to go down. Yeah. So, you see, the whole industry is pretty risk averse. So it’s already difficult to experiment, laws and to make failures. And we also have to have to take this safety into account. It’s not that I have a lot of innovations in the aircraft or in the way we fly or operate. But it’s it’s something we we need to realize within.


So what do you do? Imagine I’m an entrepreneur. I want to start and innovate something in airlines. The first thing that pops up in my mind, electric flying or something like that. Yeah. Like how realistic is it to introduce something in such a risk averse industry?


easyJet is really into a electric plane. So they’re investing heavily in that. But if I look at electrical played over like to play there. For me, that’s real horizon three kind of innovation. What is horizon three? Yeah, maybe it’s one of the things I introduced in the way we work in my team as we work in three horizones at the same time. So Horizon one is, is what happens today from today until two years. So it’s it’s more like the incremental kind of things.


Um. This is where we keep our feet on the ground. And then you have horizon two, which is what happens in five years from now. So in my team we work on, we envision how the future airport experience will be. When you go to an airport in five years, how will that look like?


But you’re Vueling. So how can you change the airport?


Well, the airports and the airline have like similar customers, right? So we have the same customers. And I’m… I’m a strong believer in that, that innovation is all about collaboration. Oh, did you guys collaborate with airports? We want to collaborate a lot. Yes. Glad… we try. But what you see here in Holland, for instance, you have Schiphol Airport and  Schiphol and KLM work are working much closer together. In Spain, it’s more difficult, uh, because you have Aena and Aena is the airport authorities and they have like 40 airports in Spain and they are more hierarchical.


They’re more like a this is their this is what we do and we don’t care so much. So that means extra work to make bureaucracy. But but then horizon one and two and then you also have horizon three, which is like the crazy stuff. So what happens in 10 years or or further in the future? And that is where I think electrical planes are, but also by a few. And I think for especially for an airline, like Vueling, the biggest competition will be transportation by land like Hyperloop or something, Hyperloop, train, maybe even electrical cars.


If I go from Barcelona to Madrid, it’s today it’s like three hours by train and maybe it’s even convenient to take a car at that time.


And with a car, you just sit there, do nothing and do nothing or work or maybe there come up in the future that it’s like a bar or a cinema. Who knows? Right. I have seen concepts already competed with that. Well, I’m not sure if that is a good question.


And that this is also a question that I asked the board, is I’m not sure if we need to compete or we need to collaborate. Why? Why are we not funding? All right. Why don’t we collaborate with startups in this field and why are we not going to make it a next business? This is for me, a new business model.


So like Vueling autonomous cars or… who knows that you say, hey, we’re going to offer we are not offering transport by air from airports A to airport B. But we are are your I would say that we’d be door to door solution like the public transport here NS in the Netherland has… for instance, they do by car taxi, for instance.


I already work with a startup in Barcelona who integrates all kinds of ways of transport in the city. So if you if you come to Barcelona and you see steps which you don’t see in Holland yet, but a lot of rental steps, then you have scooters, then you have the bus, you have the metro. You have cars. You have bikes. And they have. But if you want to use that, they all have their own separate app.


So if that means that you have to have 16, 17 or 18 apps to work around, but this startup integrates everything. So that is pretty cool, actually. And my vision is that we that we make sure that you take whatever transport you have from the city and to the airport and then you fly away. But the  further to to further future is that maybe you don’t go to the airport but in another way. You get to your destination.


How how is your position then as innovation manager? Are you like reporting directly to the CEO? Are there steps in between, like how realistic? Yes. Can your plans go into. So I report to the CFO. Ok so you go straight to the CFO. Yeah. But which is which is interesting because I don’t see many companies innovation and finance going well together. But this CFO always kind the kind of visionary about technology and innovation. So then it becomes uh then it becomes handy because if I need money.


I you need to give um but I do have discussions about, hey, I don’t know what’s going to, uh, what the added value will be. Sometimes you just have to test these big topic. We’re just discussing. It’s very difficult to get feet on the runs at board level because it’s way too daunting. Yeah. So but I still think that I am the one, the crazy one in the company who needs to say these kind of things because no one else is.


Is that where you got the position? I don’t know. So what happened is I find that my company here, which is called Cabala. Yeah. And so it has rebel in it. So I know that people need to be a little bit aware of what they hire. So I am rebellious. But actually, this construction is quite interesting, is not being well short. Sort is still being an outsider. Um, I don’t, uh, I am not around to make friends and I don’t want to make friends because of my next career step.


I don’t care because this is my first and my last step in this company. So I can also push and if you don’t make friends, that is that’s part of it. But if and if that is hurting my career, that is not a problem to have. Has it ever hurt your career? You think? In my experience when you push usually nothing bad happens just in your mind. You think something bad might happen?


I don’t know. The more hierarchical a company gets, the more difficult it is. When you when you push, uh. Well, I think at KLM I was like this and some people really struggle with this. I said, do you want to know. Work for innovator of KLM. Yeah. What was that then. And it was funnier. Um, that was, uh, because I like the concept that KLM that they have a yearly innovation celebration.


And they they have awards and different kind of categories. And what I like about the concept is that every So colleagues can, uh. How do you say can recommend it or.


I can recommend. Hey, this project is is it was really cool the other part of the past year. So then there is a timeframe when people can recommend projects and people and then it closes and then there’s a voting time where employees also vote for what they like the best. So that means high employee involvement. And that also means that it’s not like secretive decided by by managers or whatever, but it’s what was most inspiring for people. So I think and I won 2 awards the first one was for a project.


I did. And, um, what happens within KLM? I managed to to build my own or to create my own job four times or something like that, which is interesting because in a hierarchical world is pretty difficult. But I always got get I’ve got a normal job and then I got a little bit bored and then I started to do things on the side. So in one of my jobs, I was building a laundry at Schiphol because I was responsible for the whole laundry of blankets.


Uniforms, that kind of stuff, like laundry for the workers, or. No, no, no, no. Laundry for the blankets on the on the planes. So when you fly, you have blankets and pillow. Well, that kind of stuff. It’s like high volume. It’s like millions and millions of per year. So high volume. And I saw that the logistic chain was crappy. There was so much waste in there. So I started to work on making that much more efficient.


And one of the things was to build a laundry at Schiphol. Schiphol. The northern part of it. So while I was doing that, uh, we the the the V.P. of the division changed. So we got a new guy and he wanted to meet just to get an interaction. And then I took him to this to this building place. And I explained what I was doing. And I if I can be quite passionate. So I think he was.


He really liked the story. I told it. And then two weeks after he called me and he said, well, when I accepted his new position, a, uh, a, uh, also said yes to an assignment. And I have no clue how to do it. But maybe you can help me. And that was the turnaround of an aircraft. And which means that when an aircraft arrives, it has to be prepared for takeoff again.


And that is called a turnaround. So the turnaround of the smallest fleet of KLM was 50 minutes, five zero. And it needed to be shortened. And this was on the table of the board of directors for two or three years. Shorten it with ten minutes.


But then on that on the memo, it said. But it’s the investment will take millions. So and that’s why the board of directors said we don’t have the money for these investment, but we need to do it. And that was sort of like a deadlock situation.


So this guy said, hey, this is going on and maybe you can help us. Oh, yeah, I can do it. But on my way. And he had no clue. And he said, yeah, for sure. And so what I said, I want to have a team of people who work in this process. No managers allowed, but a pilot, a cabin attendant, uh, the catering, the guy who changed the catering the cleaner, everyone.


So I had a team of 20. And those 20 people, I said I need them for a whole week. And we put them in in a room. And for a whole week we worked on. How can you be sure to disturb the time? And is it possible? It’s a it’s a very long story. So I’d make it I tell it very briefly. But a lot of things happened during that process and also on leadership. And but what happened in the end?


Uh, this team was confident enough to say we can bring it back to thirty five minutes. So 50 minutes off without no investment. And we can implement it in like four months, which was like. What is what is the fastest turnaround in all the airlines.




If you look at Ryanair for instance, they do it in 25 minutes.


For go from 50 to 35. That’s closer to Ryanair. Yeah. And so what happened is so this team was convinced we I invited for the report of the CEO of KLM and this guy didn’t know me, but he heard from me. And he said, yeah, at school. So I want to be there. So when he arrived, I didn’t tell the team and that he would come because they normally work at the ramp and now they had to present to these these kind of guys.


And because the CEO came, a lot of auto managers were like, yeah, I want to be there, too. So it was actually quite busy.


Uh, quite a lot of… how many people? I think 40 or 50 managers. Oh. And then my my team there and I in the morning I told oh by the way, you are going to do the presentation, not me. And then like oh so they were quite scared but they were, we built a really good team so. So they were really confident that we we made a rehearsal and that went really good. So well. So.


So this CEO came and I took them apart before he entered the room and I said, I don’t know what you’re going to do and whatever. You can ask questions, but please be constructive. Because these guys are a little bit scared that you are here. And so he looked at me like, who are you? And that and I said, I manage a little bit here. And so so we started. And then they presented this results, which meant in the end also.


Free of a whole plane. It’s a plane of 30 million. So we freed that up, which was a major breakthrough and they CEO. Oh, guy, what do you mean with free up a plane so we could sell it because we didn’t need anymore. So why not? Because if you fly if you are in the air shorter. We had I think back then 40 of these planes. Oh.


Because you saved so much time. Yeah. I make the schedule. That could be much more efficient. Yeah. So it was a huge, huge impact.


So that in the end we didn’t sell this plane, but we started to fly to more destinations, more flights, so more income and more revenue.


So you presented and the CEO says, OK, let’s do it. And four months later, you just have an extra plane or.


Well, actually, at CEO, it was he showed real good leadership there because all the managers and all the layers in, uh, from from the CEO until four layers down they were there. So they started to become really scared, like, oh, shit, we need it. We need to do this. And this CEO took the word idea. And he said, so everybody in this room heard, but this team has set and present it. And so we’re going to do it exactly as they do, as they told us.


Hey, team, if you need my help for any roadblocks, you can always call me and I will help you. So that meant that all the layers in between were like, OK. Now there’s no way out. So why were they like that? To me, it seems like weird. Obviously, I don’t have thousands of people working for me, but it seems weird like these people are there to improve the company. Why are they in the first place?


Have you ever worked in a corporate.


Well, I have, but it’s partly why I became an entrepreneur is because it frustrated me, because I don’t understand why the inefficiency is even allowed.


I am. I am with you. But I also know that it’s not how it would work in many places. And it’s I think a lot of people are risk averse or loss averse.


But if all the work is done and laid out and everything’s clearly your team did, why?


Well, so because there are still a lot of stuff needed to be done. Right. I had one pilot, but there not one pilot. So the other pilots also needed to be explained why we’re doing it. And so although it really helps to have one pilot there, because pilots, when a pilot tells, hey, I was there and this is a this is a very good plan. It’s not like a manager tells. We think we can do it.


But still, it was not like, hey, uh, we can switch tomorrow. Quite a work.


Can we maybe talk, like about what happened during the weeks that we maybe have more context, like. Yeah. So.


So you get these people. Twenty people. Right. Yeah. About 20 people. Yeah. Like you go on a retreat to Mallorca or something. No, no, no.


It wasn’t not a retreat. And a lot of things happened before that. Because you also touched and leadership. Yeah. So I’m not gonna start on the day that we started. I’m going to start a little bit before because I said, uh, I’m going to do it. And then I was like, oh, why did I say what did I say now? Like, oh my God, how am I going to do it? So I called one of my old buddies working at KLM as well.


We had worked together some time ago and we have a real good connection. So I said, Hey, man. I said, yes, it is. I have no clue. But are you in? And he said, Yeah, I’m in. So that was OK. So now we were the two of us. And and then we started to prepare. So I had two VPs who needed to support me. The guy who asked me to do this, he was responsible at that time for the whole ground operations of Schiphol


So he had part of all the processes that were part of this. And then we had another leader who was leading KLM City Ortberg, which is like it’s it’s like a separate entity within KLM. We have. So and he was responsible for the pilots. And again, it was kind of. So I had these two guys who. Well, he need they. They needed to sort of support me, whatever I did. So I had a conversation with them about.


About how about the context. So I said to them, uh, they said to me, Simone needs to go for 50 to 40 minutes. And I said, if you give me a call like that, I’m not gonna do it. So they were like, what? Yeah, you have to let go. So because two things can happen. One is it goes for it. We make it better or if we don’t make the 40 minutes, we have an extremely good story.


Why we’re not able to do it to make it. So they were like, okay. It was hard for them because it’s not how to how things normally go. So. So. And then I said, I need to know what my what the context is that I can act in. So I always called it my guard and what our defenses. And they said, no, no, no, no fences because that kills creativity. And I said, no, no, no.


Because then we are have very creative ideas. And in the end you’re going to say, no, we’re not going to do that. So I said, OUTFRONT, I want to know where my boundaries are. So we said, Kevin, can we invest money? No, no investment. OK, perfect. So safety needs to be a safe or safer. Customer. Customer. Uh, specs. Can I change them? And so what’s what’s the customers specs.


Yeah. An example is KLM. Back at the time. Because I know they changed a little bit.


But back back at the time, passengers can only board a deboard via the front of the plane, not at the back, but you have a stair at the back. If you board and deboard  at the front end, the end there was only with KLM.


No, it is. No, no, no. It’s it’s worse. Was one of the specifications of KLM has. OK. So for instance why is Ryanair so fast? Because they board and deboard it from both sides. Yeah. But KLM didn’t want that at that time. They didn’t want that. I asked too. Why not. No, it was not possible. OK. It’s not possible. Okay. But this is exactly why I wanted to know upfront, because this is a quite obvious solution to  win time.


But if we would have come up with it and they didn’t tell us, then they would have said, no, we’re not going to implement these solutions. So I created the context upfront. And then I said, it’s okay. You two did the deal. Those two VPs, I need you guys on Monday morning because you are going to kick it off and you’re going to inspire this group and you’re going to explain these boundaries. You’re not going to tell what a specific goal is that we need to tweak.


And then at the end of the week, and it was actually four days at the end of Thursday evening, you come and then you will listen to what whatever this team says and use it will say yes to everything they say.


But I said no worries because we have our boundaries. So trust me that I will facilitate that. We are not going outside, debark the boundaries. And by the way, you’re going to explain the boundaries on Monday morning so they know. So they also know when they come up with a solution that’s outside these boundaries. They might get to know at the end. So it’s it’s all about sort of transparency managing expectations.


So we prepared. So it was not a retreat somewhere in Ibiza, but it was at Schiphol Rijk, which is like where the all the fuel is. So, yeah, it’s. So it was far away. We managed to find a place with them.


I don’t know how you say that in English. It’s wooden floors. Yeah. So it, it, it looked nice but there was nothing in the room. So we need to bring the screens and everything ourselves. But it was, you know, it was sort of like a startup feeling. And also a little bit away from everything. So this team was like, okay, let’s let’s do it.


So we were about to start. And the Friday before actually later on, I noticed that it was Friday the 13th. I got a call. Uh, I think around one o’clock. And it was the secretary of one of those two guys. And she said, well, I have some bad news. This guy cannot come on for a report out of Thursday evening. But no worries. He will send his card how do you say that  his, uh, representative.


Yeah. And that was, uh, a person reporting to him. And then I said, well, actually, I don’t work like that. So it’s fine to bring in a representative, but only if it’s a level up. So send his boss or otherwise. Let’s just postpone this session. And the secretary was like, what? Because this is not normal KLM behavior. And she said, okay, let’s let’s talk to him. And I will call you back.


And I said, okay, well, do it in time, because otherwise I need to tell all the people that they don’t have to come on Monday. Okay, so we I hung up and I was like, oh, what did I do now? So I. Called thother VP. And I said, this is this is what’s happening. And I mean it. And he said, no, no worries. I will support you.


By the way, I will call you back in a couple of minutes. OK. So he called me back after a couple of minutes and he said, I talked to my boss the COO. Which was also the boss of the other guy. And he actually likes this. So he frees up his agenda. He will be there on Thursday or so. That’s how you got to CFO. That’s how I got the CEO there. And.


And then the other guy who canceled heard that his boss was coming. So he was there in the end. He was there too. Yeah. Because that’s how things work. Right. And corporate. So very. If something doesn’t work, you go one level above and then it works.


No, but I know not not necessarily. But I know for sure when you when you do a lot level down, it’s not going to work.


So if you’re like a company, you want to work with a corporate. You’re better off aiming for the COO or the CEO and then working your way down instead of the other way.


It depends. Or you need to find crazy people like me who will help you push forward, because normally. It depends really on the personality as well.


Um, that’s like.


So it’s it helps a lot when you have a CEO or COO pushing with you. Yeah. But not everybody is really open minded or open or understands the world of startups. Yeah. (inaudible) continues. Yeah.


So back to that.


So, uh, so we started on Monday morning and, uh, this team came together and they were like, okay, what are we going to do? And so the first day we spend a lot on inspiration. So we asked two inspirational speakers in the morning and they talked about completely different things. And, uh, and everybody’s like, what are we doing here for the turnaround? So why are we talking about social media or whatever? We’re like, relax, relax.


It will work out. So but we wanted them to become a little bit more open minded. Let go of your normal worries. And then in the afternoon, what we also did is we let people explain their jobs to each other. And then it’s like, well, what are you actually doing all day? Because although they work together, they don’t know what they do because a guy who brings the luggage and brings in the luggage and then you leave.


He has no clue what the fuel operator does or what the captain needs to do in the cockpit. So that was the first four days later at the second day. It was the toughest day of the whole week. So what we did was every process we did dived into very, very detail. So and there were there were like 13 processes to do the turnaround. Three zero thirty. No one three thirteen. but every process in very detail.


And every minute. So 50 minutes. Okay. What do you do and where is that a problem. Can you give an example of the process? Yeah. So when, uh, playing arrives, there is a team who needs to welcome the plane. So when welcoming the plane means, uh, when the plane is at the stand. Someone needs to plug in electricity and then they have to put in the, uh, the put the pilots before the wingtips.


And so and then when they are ready, then, uh, they give a signal so the rest can start.


So you cannot put the bridge, uh, to the aircraft if those guys are not ready. So it’s a whole big puzzle to do this kind of thing. And it’s (inaudible). So that’s why there was so much slack in it with the 50 minutes, because everybody wanted to have a little bit of margin. And then so and that is what we took out. You took out the margin, you know, took out a lot of slack. And we started to work in parallel so that some processes start to work in parallel instead of, sequential, small


Why didn’t anybody before that group figured those things out?


You know, a lot of people did that, but they never put those people together. That’s one. And bringing it together gave the context because within 400 years.


Never 400 years. How long is… How old is KLM not 400 years… Okay. Yeah. KLM ghundred years. Yeah, 100 years. But now, of course, they, they have the shortend (inaudible) times. But mostly it was five minutes and it was always a negotiation between operators and commercial and. Always fights. And then sometimes five, five minutes were added again because a lot of political discussion started discussion as well. It was like the first time were really.


It was like a real integral approac. Is integral a good English word or not?


And I know that you studied math, and I’m not sue.


It’s more like a holistic approach, more like transversal. Transparent approach. Yeah.


But what happened is some of the people said but I’ve been saying this idea for a long time and I said, well, thank you.


Because now we have the landing spot that we created. Also the context to let   all those ideas land. So that is what happens. And this is and the reason why it was also successful is because those people who had some ideas already for a long time finally could make it happen. So they were about started to become ambassadors and they told their colleagues. Well, this is really good. So they normally what you see is that management things comes up when the new solution and they push forward and then all the employees are like, oh, my God, who has figured this out?


And now at work, the employees themselves have started to push me. So, yeah. So on day that was day two. On day three.


It was funny because every we had everything planned and I always bike. So I buy it home from Schiphol to my house in Amsterdam.


And then in the morning I called Menno on the bike. I said, oh yeah, we had a schedule like this, we’re going to do it completely different. And then he was like, oh, my God. Yeah, for sure. Let’s go for it.


And then we did completely different. So on the third day, what happened is in the morning we had the whole current state (inaudle) across the 50 minutes, all the process. We knew where the biggest problems were. And everybody knew of each process. So they were also like, hey, maybe we can start help each other. So on the third day we needed to have to get them out of the problem, thinking to a ideation thinking.


So we started with the question, what will what is needed to turn this thing around in 20 minutes and forget about all the limitations you got in the beginning?


Openminded and everybody was no no 20 minutes not possible.


Yeah. And anything goes, just write it down. So people started to write like, oh, no wheelchair passengers, no suitcases.


That kind of crazy stuff. But also just like very good ideas, very applicable. So we had a whole bunch of ideas and then we started to cluster and we started to come up with, I think, 14 areas to improve. On the fourth day, we made concrete action plans from that started to say, how are we going to do this? And by the end, we presented.


How long was a day?  Like eight hours. Nine to five.


Yes. But on the second day, I think we pushed it to 6.30 at night. And I remember six 6.30 evening or AM? No no evening.


No, these people normally work on the rampin a very active job. And then they had to be in a sort of like well. Office environment. Yeah. So it was already for that night. I get that know. And the second day everybody was dead at the end. So I was like, oh, maybe we pushed too far. Okay. And then the day, the day after everybody was I think already. And at eight. Yeah.


Go for it. They’re really, really going for it.


And it was so nice to see how you can build a team over time in just a short time. But it was so intense. Yeah. And then we had we had this report of where I asked the CEO guy who came with the two VPs. I said, come over and ask. Please ask constructive questions. And I think never. Nobody ever said something like that to him. So that was you. Who the fuck are you? And I made my rule really small.


So he was like, oh, okay. And then during the whole session, you started to realize that what my rule had been. He had also a meeting afterwards. And I knew. So I halfway I said to him, do I need to speed up? He said, no, this is this is perfect. Let’s let’s let it go. I will just be late at my next appointment. I don’t care. I want to see this.


I want to hear this he was really enthusiastic. So at the end he took the word and he said, you open the  supportive to this, which I think was brilliant. And then the morning after Friday morning, I said, who’s this? I sent him this e-mail when I resigned. He sent me an e-mail. That’s before 7:00 a.m. in the morning. This was so great. This is the way we need to work at KLM


I am so impressed. So I was also like. And then what happened is whenever there was a difficult situation, again, he called me that case. Can you help me again? But this project was one of the projects why I got the Reward Innovation Award. This is with this project. We won.


Can you imagine? Yeah. But what we did.


What we did was really funny. We you had the award. And within five minutes we took the car. We brought it to the guys on the ramp who were doing the the hard work and they were loading the suitcases. They had a crucial part in this whole whole project. So we brought it to them. And and we have pictures that they were so proud like. So so we really also made sure that the team got all the credits for this, because it was not me, was the team who did this.


Yeah. So that was one of the awards. Yeah. Yeah.


Cool okay. We went very far but we were actually still at the question of what do you do. What’s your background.


Yeah. Yeah. So but it’s uh. So no I, I uh. I am in the field of innovation, um fully because head of innovation and Vueling. I support Chanelin Paris with their innovation strategy. How did I end up here. I have no clue actually because in my career in KLM.


Because you studied math. Yeah. Exactly how. Yeah.


How do you end up… I know it’s funny because I was really in whether to start to study Dutch language, psychology, or mathematics. And I chose mathematics. I’m super happy with that choice. But I also do have some kind of passion for people, which comes in extremely handy. And it’s also if I look at my career. This is also did this also there are two red threats. My career is…  the people side and the tech or the hard side.


Um, and I’m a strong believer that’s the combination is it’s very strong. So you see that also how I approach innovation right now is where I combine tech and human. But so I studied mathematics. It’s because my mother was extremely good in mathematics. And, uh, yeah, she, uh, she gave me dad’s gift. And when my first job, official job, I was I finished in a time where it was pretty cool to work in a corporate I think I was just born 20 years too early because I’m very entrepreneurial that back then it was not cool to build your own start over.


So it was the plan for people who couldn’t graduate or. Exactly. Yeah. And then hard. Yeah. But it’s it’s it’s interesting. So, uh, my first I did my internship at (inaudible) in it ain’t over. What do they do. They build trucks. They’re big trucks. Um and then I, I, my first real corporate job was at the Royal Dutch mail. Uh very…I was there… Oh… POST NL. Yeah. Okay.


Yeah. And it wasn’t, but it was a really cool team because it was a team of uh mathematicians and it kind of econometricians and we got like simple questions from the business. But we solved, uh, we were solving them with, uh, hard core mathematical models. For instance is one of one of the questions I worked on was back in those days, they were sorting, uh, all the mail that was sent abroad by hand, everything.


So they said, is that efficient or should we do it with machines? Easy question. But it’s not easy to get the answers. So I build a mathematical model to figure out that the most optimal solution back then was to, uh, do the four destinations, uh, with the highest volume by machine and do it by hand. But it was finding the optimum.


And it was funny because what I do what I like to do is I worked, uh, with the people who did the actual work. So you do theoretical framework and then  you would have somebody plug that into a computer. Yeah, I know. So what I first always did is research. So then I went through the place where it actually happened and talk to people who are doing the sorting. So and that happens at nights. And that was still in Amsterdam at Central Station.


So I went back at it at night, Central Station, and then I started to help and I talked to people because I  hear a lot and already that gives you information. And then back to the office. Build your models, start to play around with all the data you have and then come up with some scenarios. And then this scenario was the best. I didn’t help to implement it, like to, but then we gave it to the business.


So back then, you were very much on the theoretical part. And now like later in your career, did you start implementing to actually implementpart or?


Yeah, because at Post was not combined, that was not, uh, that you also started to really implement. No, but I did I. This is what I like the most. So I was advising people because when you implement you well you iterate sometimes. So I was still a little bit involved. Yeah. Was less hands on then right now. And then from this job I had exactly the same job, but then at KLM. And that’s where I, my KLM uh career started.


And within KLM, I had many different jobs. So I also was responsible for like a group of  250 mechanics. Well, guys, that was a very tough job. It was, I think, my first leadership role, managerial.


How old were you when you started becoming a leader? I think that I had this job. Late 20s, early 30s. OK. So how was that switch? Because from my experience, early leaders make a ton of mistakes and people suffer.


It was like drinking from a fire hose. It felt like that, but also because it was extremely tough environment. So I had a my manager over there and he was an alcoholic. And he was also a little bit crazy. So crazy good or crazy bad. No. Crazy bad. Okay. Yeah. And, uh. So when I worked at engineering and maintenance, which means that, um, and we we were repairing components, aircraft components.


People who work on repairing this component, they have to stamp it. And it’s a stand with their personal name. When an aircraft comes down and, uh, it’s because this part was not it was it was fading. Then you are a personal liable. Really? Yeah. So those people make sure that they do the work well. And yeah. So it’s it’s like a safety measure.


Like a Boeing max though was crashing down. All those parts are still like, uh. Yeah.


But the Boeing max is a whole different story. I think when you talk about companies and toxic corporate cultures, well, maybe Boeing is one. I don’t know.


But but but what happened? This is so my manager sometimes when there was stress about not enough components. Now, because pit planes need to fly. And then you put people under pressure to to stamp. Well, they might not be completely okay with it. And I found that’s so, so wrong. Couldn’t you report him? Yeah, I did several times. But, um, I, I, I’m not sure there was like a official thing to report, like, uh.


But I report it to the managers up there, uh, that like, hey, this is going on. And because he was also not a capable manager, I, I saw how we let people and that was just not healthy. So how do you manage a non capable manager? Can you manage one thing to make them quit?


I know what I happened is that what I did was I, uh, I we I gave signals and everybody said, yeah, we know, but nothing happened. And then I said one day I was so fed up that I said, I’m gonna stop. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but it’s over here. So everybody’s like, what? She’s really she really doing that? Yeah. It’s over. So then, uh, I think that was a real hit in the face for some people.


And they said, well, but she’s really good. And we don’t think it would be wrong if we just let her down. So somehow a guy, uh, the boss of my manager said, hey, come here and work for me for some time and we’ll figure it out. And then three weeks lead later, he asked me, he said, can you can you come over to my office? And he said, do you want to go back?


And I said, No way. And I said, But what if this guy is taken out of his position? And we we we’re going to bring in someone else who was a close friend of mine. And I said, well, okay, okay, then I will come back. So the ends I went back. But it was a tough one. It’s tough to say, hey, guys, this is it. And I didn’t know, uh.


But I also somehow because you ask about where you lead first time, somehow I have a quite a strong inner moral code. Yeah. And also not afraid to do. To say or to to take action upon what you say.


So what is your leadership philosophy in life. How do you eat. I’ll maybe I’ll give you an example to give you context. So one of our sayings is we serve those who serve others, which is why we put, impact startups on our stage cause then through their actions  we serve more people because we serve those who serve others. Yeah. So as a leader. That means to me that I read this book once by Donovan Campbell called Leader’s Code. I don’t know if you know it


You know, it’s a very good book. He was a Navy SEAL, all that stuff. And. But what I liked about the book was that it was very much about what Simon Sinek now made Pogemiller. This book was before that even leaders eat last. Yeah, if you have employees, that means you serve them, not the other way around. We actually have more work when you have employees. Yeah. So that’s kind of how we work he.


And that is that aligns with how I try to lead. Uh, I know strong believer in growth mindset. You know, Carol Dweck, which. Yeah. It’s very interesting to see. It’s called growth mindset. So she talks about fixed mindset and growth mindset. And she says, I believe that that during your life you can learn a lot. So you were not born with the baggage. And that’s it. But you can continue to grow as long as you are open minded.


So I. For instance these past two years, I really pushed my team to learn this process. And I also did a workshop in it. And I really, uh, try to help that. That the team is adapt is it’s able to adapt to any kind of change. I, uh, I also say that, um, corporates are, uh. I run the wrong way because I also say I’m there for the team and the team is not there for me, but I’m there for the team.


And in the beginning, my team was in Barcelona, was really, really there were like, this is strange, isn’t this is now this has never happened to me before, but I really tried to help them. And, uh, you said I hope people in condition. So not only, uh, my team, so I don’t expect anything back. Uh, it’s it’s small. If you can do small things for someone and I do that for a lot of people in my environment.


If I can connect them or if I can get them something and know why shouldn’t I do it? So that is how I. But it’s something also, I think by all the experience I had, because in that time I was also threatened by an employee, uh, in the time that I was leaving those 250 guys. I learned a lot about how far do I how how far do I want to go, what are my values, my drivers, and when do I get fed up with that?


And do I dare? Where are you leaving or did you have a mentors from.


No, I was alone and looking back, I had some people who were who I could fall back to work, but not like a someone really mentoring me. And if I look back at actually I think I should have asked for it or they should have provided them. Yeah. Because it’s not normal to have a first. Leadership role and then immediately lead 250 people. But you see me, I’m pretty small. I look young. So, um.


And then those 250 guys, they were like, what? She’s going to lead here? No way. So I had… that was too tough. They told me afterwards when I left. They said we didn’t like it. A woman here leading this. But now we wouldn’t want it  different. We wouldn’t want it otherwise, why did they even say that in the first place?


I thought. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think they thought I was just not capable. But I think this is something that is very deep in society that there and it’s still here in 2020. It’s still here that people have thoughts or about others. Do you still feel it? Oh, yeah. Do you have the other recent example? Is fairly stupid example. I fly a lot. Right. So last year I flew over one hundred thirty times.


So I have Privium as Schiphol because I just hate those cues.


So I think it was Monday morning and then I don’t fly a lot on Monday morning. So it was pretty crowded. It was even quite a queue at Privium and there were all guys in, in suits. And, uh, I always wear sneakers and I’m always chill. I don’t care where with whom. My meeting I. I was meeting to see the president of Chanel Europe last week. And I was on my sneakers and I was in the queue.


And then this woman came up to me and she said to me, hey, do you know that this is Privium, really?


And I looked at her and I said out loud, hey, I know I don’t look like all those guys over here. So all those guys were like, oh, felt also a little bit embarrassed. I said, but I fly over 100 time a year. So what? And she was Oh shit. Yeah.


But small things. The atittude. Yeah. Seriously she walked up to. Yes. But I have, I have this and sometimes I’m not even aware of it. And also because I am quite strong. So when sometimes when I say, hey, I think I am capable of doing this or I’m good at that. Yeah. And people are like you cannot say that. So. So I think they’re not used to that. A woman says, hey, I’m just good at that and I can do it.


Anyway, so back to that. So then you obviously convince them. What did you do? I mean, 250 guys who have preconceived notions that women can’t lead. Yes. And how long did you lead them?


Uh, two years.


And then there was what happened in those two years to make them be convinced?


I think, uh, very simple things. I was, uh, um, I read sometimes you work with them to learn what the hell are you actually doing? They really appreciated that. I had small talk with them. Hey, how are you? And then they told me, hey, my wife is ill, whatever.


And you knew all 250, not by name, but by face. But sometimes when they told me a personal story and then I came back to that a month later, like, hey, I was your wife and small things. Also, I had a guy in my team who had been who had not been at the office for quite a long time because he reported himself ill or. But all my predecessors, predecessors. They, um, they never took action.


So this guy was already like sort of like ten years at home. Wait, so he’s getting paid for. He’s getting paid. And sometimes then he needed to go, but then he gave a big mouth and then he got away with that. I know. So and then I was like, hey, who is this guy? Okay, well, let’s bring into to the office.


Let’s have a chat. I am your new new boss. So I just want to get to know you. So in the beginning, he was sort of like, oh, I get I get the attention. But then he started to become aware that I said, well, you cannot do the job you are hired for. You’re gonna find something else. But you come bac. And then he didn’t you really didn’t like that. So he started to threaten me.


And, uh, and I didn’t get support from security KLM/. so they didn’t want to. Yeah. Why?


They said, well, yeah him sending you text and that kind. So it’s not, uh, enough evidence from that. Okay. I said just get this guy out. Even if you pay him, it is still so toxic. Exactly. So I had a lot of conversations with this guy. Always with my H.R. manager in between because he also had a black belt in karate or, Judo, one of the two, like a strong guy.


You need to be there. Because if this guy gets nuts then and worked and worked and work, made a file, got him out. So the rest of the rest of  those 250 guys, like finally someone is taking action because everybody  sees this, because they’re so toxic that somebody is just taking advantage of the system


But it’s also unfair. Yeah. Because it’s unfair. And everybody sees even the things that don’t happen.


And that’s so coming back. So as a leader, I am a very I think I’m a very cool leader. But if you fuck with me, I’m not. And so I also think that is you have to be you have to be straight and clear. And you. And you have to be. You have to have guts So to take these kind of actions. In Spain, I had one guy who had such a fixed mindsets and he was so holding the orders down that I and he pulled a trick and I had to fire him.


It was the first time I ever I fired someone like in. How do you say? Very short notice. I said, okay, you have a talk there is your back OK? No, that’s good. And then the day after I saw that I was relieved and the rest of the team. So it’s also very good warning sign for people who are like also playing a little bit. Let go. Mm hmm. Better watch out. You know what I think?


So these kind of things, that is what I did. And I was open and transparent. I introduced simple thing. I introduced a weekly, uh, communication e-mail. So every week or Friday, I communicated like, hey, guys, this is what happened last week. This is what’s going to happen next week. And my manager said, you can I’ll do that. And I was like, Yeah. Oh, I know. I don’t know.


But I just started to do it and I still did it. I did it. That’s the rebellious. So you you  you asked me, how do you deal with a leader like that? Well, I don’t know. I just I. But I know what it’s good to do. It is. Right. Yeah. Even if that might harm my own career or whatever. As long as it helps the team. Yeah. Team.


But also as long as I can look in the mirror, you know, think like this is how I also want to be lead. Yeah. Okay. So then after that KLM, you went to your own company. Yeah. So. So I think I had something and grab some water and take a drin as well.


You know, so I think yeah.


For me after the uh after that projects, the turnaround. So the CEO started to get to know me. Uh. He was then appointed as the CEO of KLM. He’s still currently the CEO. I’d say I love KLM’s culture because we had the CEO of Transavia. Okay. Yeah. At our (inaudible) event in June.


And I met him through the director of innovation at KLM (inaudible). Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I told him we had such a good click. He’s such a cool guy. I said blike I honestly don’t care who would speak from KLM. If you have such a culture, I can imagine others as well. So my impression of KLM was a really cool culture although I hear also other stuff apparently not. No


I think, uh, KLM, uh. So what I really appreciate is that somehow I have gotten the opportunity to create my own job several times. That’s that’s almost unheard of in a corporate. Yeah. It happens sometimes, but yeah. No, no, it happens when you do cool stuff. Right. And then they say, oh, let’s make it a job out of that.


Of the fact that the COO. Oh. Like back (inaudible).


Yeah. So. So, uh. And you started to do that much more. So what happened is after this project helped him with some more stuff. Um, I think he also likes my energy and, uh, and I am I, I think a little bit different. So sometimes you bring new perspectives and it’s good to change. So he he became CEO and, um. Long story short, I sent him an email and I said, hey, free me up, I’m going to do cool stuff for you.


And he was like, well, I’ve seen that in the past, so. Yeah, why not. So so then I was wasn’t a very free role reporting, uh, to him.


Um, and actually I was helping him with, uh, realizing ideas of. So all kind of ideas, small things, big things like what. So so he had an e-mail address, which is Yeah. And that but he said, hey, if you have ever I have an idea to everyone, if you have an idea, it just mail me. But obviously he was not behind this email address. But I was so I was managing that.


But he wanted to read everything that came in. So I had to to make overview so he could read all the ideas that came in. And then what happened is I said I responded. So people were first shocked. I sent an email and someone responds. Wow. And then the second thing, what happened is I said, hey, let’s have coffee. So someone comes over. And then I said, OK, how are we going to do this together?


So people were a little bit surprised, like, OK, we’re going to actually do this. And because of my my career in many different places, I had also feelings about some kind of ideas like, oh, it is easy to do here is just being held back by a manager for five years. But we can do it. Oh, yeah. So from all kinds of things. So, uh. One is the uh in an aircraft you in the in the kitchen, the galleys, you have all kind of panels that they used to put up stuff.


Apparently there was one panel that they never used. So a purser send an email like, hey, can we can we take this out a couple of kilos? So why not? So I had some friends who were able from engineering side who were able to to to judge with me this idea that we can do it. So they took it out. And in two weeks for the whole fleet, how many airplanes? Those were bigger. So a 50 air aircraft, I think.


And but because they fly so much, this was a saving of fifty thousand euros because it was a couple of kilos. And then the fuel saving was… exactly. Small thing. And then still this time of saving. So then I report back to this person, hey, thank you very much. This is what you have saved. And so this person was like, wow, it’s my idea. And I can tell a lot of people like what I’ve done.


And then what I also did is I organized breakfast sessions with the CEO. And then I invited, like, different kind of people from the company who had ideas. And then for the CEO was just one hour investments. And he really liked to hear stories. And I always said, don’t only tell the pretty stories would also tell  the ugly stuff, because he also wants to hear what’s really happening in the company. And for those people, it was like super recog.. recognition because they would have an hour talk with the CEO.


And there also met five or six other people from other kinds of places because people from a engineering maintenance, they don’t know what happens in cargo. They don’t know what happens with cabin crew or pilots. So it was also a very nice way for people to. And it was for the company. Very interesting because they saw that this kind of behavior was recognized. So it was a real stimulation for this is the kind of culture we want and that is what we’ve done.


Maybe that’s the culture I felt we have got in touch.


Yeah. So but this role for me was also a career ending move because the board loved this. The employees loved this. But I think all the managers in between there were a little bit uncomfortable because I started to implement ideas that they held back for a long time. Yeah. So there was really tough. So it was, I think, one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had, but also one of the toughest jobs here. And then I was recruited by Vueling to become head of innovation.


But then. How  does somebody recruit, you know, like LinkedIn and they’re like come to work with us or something like that.


I got a call and then they said, Do you want to talk? And I was like, oh, no. And not I had to answer no. And then somehow I was like, OK, maybe I should listen little bit more.


But like, what do you mean head hunter? Does your reputation grow so hard? I don’t know. Oh, just random. I think so. OK, cool. Yeah. Yeah. I’m strong believer in serendipity. So. So this happened. And then I started to talk with them and it was actually pretty, pretty nice offering. And then and I was ready for something new. Yeah. But then I set one condition. I’m going to find my own company and you can hire me from that.


No more corporate contracts.


Oh. And that’s how you ended up at your own company.


And then they said, no, we’re not going to do it. I said, OK. Then the deal is off and (inaudible) shit. No, we really want her. really. So that’s how it happens. And I think for me, it was the best thing ever. So now you do Vuelling and Chanel. Yeah. So I went to China last year on a trip. Uh, innovation trip. And there I met te CIO of Chanel.


What’s the CIO? The chief, uh, innovation, you know, information officer. So from Europe. And we were on the same trip. And, um, we had some nice conversations. And then he said, have you ever thought about the luxury fashion or the luxury industry? And I was like, no. By the way, I have a full time job, so. And I wear sneakers all time. And I looked like…


You actually look great. Actually, I said it.


I said this. Well, I had a more serious interview when we when we were both back in Europe. He texted me and said, I really want to talk to you now. Okay. Yes, I will come by because somehow I always say yes. Does it get too much when you say yes, all the time for me it gets a lot. After a while. Yeah. No, no. It’s still okay. Okay. Yeah.


But um. Still works out somehow but. So. So I visited him in, in a Chanel boutique in Brussels because, uh we met there was also the first time for me ever to be in Chanel boutique.


And then I said, hey guy, I look like this all the time. Please stay like that. And you said, I actually love your company name Rubella. That’s actually what we need. So then. And then I said, I have a full time job in Barcelona. So let’s see how we can make it happen. Yeah. And you said, yeah. Make a proposal. So. So I made a proposal and I support them for five, six days a month.


Not always on sides. So Paris is in between Amsterdam in Barcelona. So sometimes, um. And in Spain, you have a lot of holidays. So sometimes I use the holidays to get to Paris. Yeah. So


And I don’t have children, for instance. So that’s why I also have a lot of time that I can spend on this kind of stuff. So and for me it was actually I have some I have a mentor here in Holland and he really pushes me to think about optionality. How did you find (inaudible)? I did


A leadership program is called Think. It’s Creative Leadership Program. It’s in Amsterdam. And there I met him. He was assigned to me as my mentor, which is also serendipity because we had a really great connection immediately. He’s also a little bit nerdy.


So but he he really pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I’m very thankful for that. And we still have a lot of contact. But he he he always pushes me for optionality. And and that is, uh, being in KLM in a corporate environment for so long, you get a little bit narrow minded. And so think lured me to open up. And then his mentor pushed me at the time. So then I said yes to Chanel.


And I read it so for half a year. So I was like, I have no idea how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it anyway. I don’t care. And then they asked me now if I could stay a bit longer, so. Yes. And then Chanel sounds like a really cool company. Like, would you do there like. Yeah, I love luxury brands because of what they’ve created. Even though tech changes luxury somehow just keep selling.


Even when the markets crash. Luxury brands like maintain the Apple Watch came out. The Rolex is still relevant. Yes. Yeah. So I. I completely admired the luxury brands for that reason. Yeah. So it must be like fascinating working at Chanel and seeing like how is it.


Yeah. So what for me is very interesting to have these two worlds next to each other. So Vueling Chanel. If you look at Chanel is privately owned. Oh really. Yeah. So much more a long term vision. Well, in Vueling  everything is much more short term driven and low cost means not always a lot of money here. Uh, Chanel, there’s a lot of money. Doesn’t mean that everything goes at all. But it’s, uh, it’s a different kind of vibe.


And luxury means they have a really nice product. Really, really nice. And they invest a lot of it in that. Uh, if you look at the locals, the Aradigm, the product by itself is not that nice. Right. Actually, quite shit to fly because… You have all the waiting in a boarding and then the plane seats are not that comfortable. So it’s a completely two different worlds. On the other hand, some technology you can leverage.


So in Vueling we are testing. How can you track your luggage with RFID? And that technology you can also use to track fashion right if there’s a whole logistic chain before fashion gets into the boutique and in the boutique. It can also be interesting to use some technology so you can leverage technology. And actually, I think it’s even  more interesting to be outside of the industry to look at things completely different. So what I do is in Chanel is not not so much on the product itself because you have artist artistic directors and they do all the product innovation.


But I more help into how do you start innovation? How do you set up. How do you organize? I challenge you a little bit with these kind of solutions. And there is a lots to innovate. When you run an organization. Right. So you have how many employees are in Chanel? I think in total, about 20000, 18 or 20 thousand. And in in Vueling?  Uh, four or four and a half. Oh Vueling is smaller than Chanel?  Much smaller. Oh yeah. Yeah.


No, but Chanel is like world wide, right? Yeah, I know. But I assumed somehow airplanes would be big. No, no. Well if you look at KLM, for instance thirty four thousand or thirty three thousands. So that is, uh, that is the difference between locals and those older airlines because they have everything in-house. So engineering maintenance is part of KLM and we just buy that. We have a supplier for that. Yeah. No.


So. So for me, innovation is and this I, I decided two years ago also to to to prototype my career. What do you mean? Um, that I’m just experimenting. What do I want. What do I like. And trying stuff out. So. So Vueling this is also my last couple of weeks there. So I will stop my assignment there and jump into a new adventure. I have no clue what. You don’t have a clue yet.


What. Nothing. Preplanned ideas something. No. Yeah. So. But it doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities. But it’s not like I want to do that. So that’s why I stop. No, it’s I stop and then I’m like, okay, let’s explore.


But so do you want to continue what you were doing? Because now you have a company. Yeah. And it’, somebody is offering you full time contract like the jump between KLM and Vueling so now you actually have a company. Yeah. Chanel is there f first six days a month. So yeah.  Technically you could just do something with your company.


Yeah. But I’m going to do that. Oh.


But I don’t know. So yeah. No. So but this is what I mean with that I’m going to experiment. Um because I’m not sure if I want to do a rule like this like a head of innovation rule. But in an interim or kind of because it’s quite it’s quite hectic and tough and it’s I already did that. So what can I learn more? So for me, it feels like my learning curve is like stabilizing is like a stagnant.


Yeah. So do you advise that job?


Though to somebody who’s like just graduating or wants to head into innovation, just graduating?


No, because if you are head of innovation in a corporate. You need to understand our corporate works a little bit. Okay.


So then how many years do you think they need experience before it’ll be worth it? That’s… that’s diff… different. It depends also a little bit on the person itself. So it’s different.


So once you understand corporate, it’s worth exploring that position.


And then it’s your last position in that corporate. Sorry, I’m very bold in that. .


No Okay


I get it cause you’re gonna  create some enemies, probably. if you are for me, innovation is to really drive the company forward. You ask provoking questions. Yeah. Uh, it’s, uh, it’s unsettling for people. Um, and I think that if you don’t do that as and when you drive innovation, I’m not sure if you’re doing your job well. But that’s my personal opinion,  because someone has to say, hey, guys, the world is changing, we need to wake up?


Yeah. Um, so and I see that many. I have a lot of people around me in similar jobs because you connect that easy and they all struggle with the same. Therefore, the construction doing this as an independent is actually quite interesting because I don’t care. Oh, you’re also the first person I’ve met from all of our partners that were the most of the partners are innovation managers. Yeah. You’re the only one that I know. Yes.


That has her own company.


It’s a disruptive model because I think as innovation manager, you also get to know every facet of the company. Yeah. So then it’s harder for a company to outsource. Like to have it outside.


Yes. But then if you know every asset of every little aspect of the company, the question is, can you come up with disruptive stuff? Are you sticking in horizon one in the here and now. Yeah. True. Yeah. And then so do you want to share some thoughts that you have of what you’re going to do? Or is that too soon? No, it’s I, I’m approached. It’s so it’s quite fresh news. So it’s I’ve told my team couple of weeks ago and that was tough.


There was some tears there. Um, no. And that is the hardest thing to do because I built a build a really cool cool  team and, uh, I worked for them. I would stay, but they. How do you you say like built a team and it gets close and everything. There’s so many books explaining that but like.


What do you do to create that? Yeah, there’s I mean, there’s the one theory you have to go through a lot of adversity together, but some others are just glitzy retreats. And I know that the people who write Avengers, they go in like a week long or two week long retreats and then they come up with ideas for the Avengers movie. So how do you bond the team?


Uh, yeah, that’s a good question. Um, well, I, I, I’m very clear about what kind of DNA I want in the team.


So, um, do you do the recruitment. That is like very specific to certain types of people. Yeah. I hire people who have a growth mindset and that can be, uh. How do you test them? Yeah, that’s a good question. And, uh. I have some people who have been intern in my team. So, then, for three months, you see a little bit of how they are then You know, it also I that is for me one of the the best things I can recommend.


Everybody just work a lot with interns. They bring fresh perspectives, but you get to know them. Um, sometimes. Yeah. You just have a good feeling. Sometimes you’re wrong. That’s why I had to fire someone as well. I didn’t hire him, but, um, I had him for quite some time around. So would you sometime. Yeah, you were wrong. You make a mistake to make it. That’s a failure. You learn from that.


What I would do to bond is also, uh, organized. Also cool things together. So, for instance, I started to to organize pop up demos. So we have a canteen and we show our stuff. The first time I had this idea or my team was like, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, wait. And now they’re like, yeah, we’re gonna go for it because it gives a lot of energy.


Now we have a sweater with, uh, avoiding innovation lab. And it looks it’s cool sweater. So everybody in the companies  we want one. Oh, I have to be a part of the team, of those kind of small things. They bond. It’s also, uh, when you have when you battle together, there’s also bonding. Sometimes we have we have very difficult battles with with the company because we are we want something, but that’s that bonds. But what I try to do is create a safe.


Haven. Yes. So that there’s trust amongst each other, so that whenever they got a punch in the face out there, they can come back. And now we are like, OK, here we are. How can we help? And how big is your team? And 14. And so do you also talk about personal stuff or is it only work?


No personal stuff as well. And everybody knows each other really well. I talk I have personal conversations one on one if they want to share it. So I have, uh, one girl in my team. She’s really, uh, powerful. She’s born in Venezuela. So she has had a rocky life. So the other day we had a team day and, uh, the team day was actually really cool because, uh, I hired… I brought one of my friends from Holland talking about adaptable mindset or a growth mindset.


And then at the end we went indoor skydiving really cool. But during the day was also emotional. So. So. So this girl, my younger, she she shared some something really personal about and explaining why she is like she is. So she chose to open up there. But also, she felt safe to do that. Yeah.


So you created like. That’s to me the most interesting when you were able to create a safe space for people to share. Because I think in those moments when people are vulnerable, they allow others also.


But I am also like that. So I share sometimes things. And I’m I’m also very transparent on things that happen in the company because then they start to understand a little bit more about the dynamics. And I’m also transparent also, if I fucked up something or I just tell them or if I don’t know, I, I start doing their help. Yeah. Sometimes also show her vulnerabilit. Yeah. But it’s that is I think who I am.


So I don’t want to do it differently. And I know that this well what you say is a new beginning when you when you sort sort of pay it forward. Right. I don’t expect people to do that with me. You know, I’m just like that. And when you are like that, people. Get that also that. If  you want something  give first. Yeah.


But it’s not because I want people to give back. It’s not that I expect so. Sometimes people give because they expect something back if without expectation. Yes. That’s a hard thing to learn for most people. I noticed that when we recruit people, we know that. I’ve noticed that we have to do a strict recruitment because you have to be almost raised that way. Yeah, it’s it’s hard to learn. You can learn it, but it’s hard.


I don’t know. What do you think? I’m not sure if I was specifically raised like that.


I actually wanted to. I know how deep you want to go with this, but I want it so fascinating. Which told me about your career. I wanted to know about your personal life then. So then how were you raised? Do you want to open up about that?


I can explain a little bit there. I come from the south of Holland and, uh, from a pretty small town, uh, 15000 to so one five inhabitants. Which one? It’s called Austin.


Austin, Texas. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.


But I think Austin, Texas, probably a little bigger, but maybe the mindset the same, I don’t know. Um, small very small town. My mother was born there and my father made the big move. So he moved from village 10 kilometres away to this and they were still together and they have never lived anywhere else. So it was not naturally that my brother and me, we are all over the world. So I lived in different continents and I don’t know where that came from.


But, um. So I was born there. My mother had a really tough childhood. She was pretty smart. She was a mathematician, uh, but she came from a, uh, farmer’s family. And in Brabant the  South of Holland, so large families, uh. But she was unlucky enough to be the third daughter and the fourth child. So they wanted to have boys for a farm and not girls. So she had a really tough childhood.


And then she was too smart to, uh, to stay at home, which she was not allowed to go to school. So. So it was really tough. And then my father, um, he started to work when he was 16. At how you say that, that’s the local town hall…  city hall.


And in the evening, I think he did some studies to to learn more. So he was also smart, but not as smart as my mother. So they they got married and they got my brother, who is older and then  me. And they raised me. My brother was also smart. And they raised me not knowing that I was also smart. So how do you not know? Like don’t test or?


I don’t know. So they do. But I think they were maybe they knew a little bit, but they were also like, oh, you were a girl and take it easy. No, really. Because when I went to and I was also more like a, uh, enjoy life a little bit more so. If I don’t have to study, I’m not studying. So I was not, like, making A’s all the time. But I.


But I could be. But I could have done that. I think so. So I was not like naturally stimulated to really go for it.


And, uh, but I somehow I wanted that. Well, what happened is they started to compare my brother and me with my… more with the grades… Yeah. And they said, yeah you see, he had better grades. And I was like, okay. So I think that also triggered something with me. I don’t know. And then I went to high school and my brother went to. I know how you call that in ENglish .


But he went to Gymnasium.


It’s like. And then I went to trade school or something. Yeah. I think it’s like the highest  when you have the high schools, you have different kind of degrees. Right. OK. Like the highest. I’m not sure. Yeah.


And then. And then you have one level below. It should be school to HAVO. So my parents said yeah  you go to the HAVO. Oh okay. Okay. I don’t. But I said I want to the same school. No, no, no, no. You go there. Okay. So and it was super easy for me. And then I went to not the same school but just after, after I graduated and then I went to to do two more extra years to make up for that.


So I could go to university. And then I said, okay, let’s do mathematics. And they were like, what? And and that sort of worked out. So I was almost like a rebel move and I think so. Yeah. And that sort of worked out. So my parents literally said so actually I think she’s smarter than me. So he admitted that later on. Yeah. So with me. So I don’t look back at my childhood with a grudge at all.


It’s for me. And I’ve learned a lot. Maybe you still have contacts with your parents. Yeah. Yeah. And they still live in the in the south. And my brother lives in the US right now. And he has lived in Sao Paolo and Mexico. And I’ve lived everywhere. So it’s quite interesting to see. So my parents never went to university and that we took a complete turn. Different. Yes. Yeah. That is so cool.




But maybe because my father comes from a butcher family and my mother from a farmer’s family, which is entrepreneurial. Right. So maybe I have the entrepreneurial DNA coming from that. I don’t know.


Maybe you’re going to innovate in the butcher in the farm… in agriculture right now. Yeah.


But you know, I don’t eat meat for over 20 years now. Vegetarian or Vegan? I do eat fish sometimes, but not too often. But farmers. Yeah. I think farmers are very innovative here in Holland. It’s just not my thing. What is like. Which way would you go. Airlines then o?  Yes, I did. Airlines for quite a while. Yeah.


So I am talking with some airlines. Uh. I’m not sure if I want to do it full time. It is I and I’m exploring, uh, it’s maybe also good to have to stay connected a little bit with some of your routes. But I also want to explore more. And when I was still working at KLM, uh, I almost launched a startup with, uh, with someone else. And we were pretty far, actually. So, um, so that is still something that is, uh, that is there we have a pretty large innovation thing happening here.


So, yeah, we can always get in touch with a couple of people. Yeah.


But but maybe with all my experience, it could also be interesting to help. A startup to scale. So maybe leading a scale up is I think I can do it with all my experiene.


How would you so. OK, so I’ll give you an example. So we actually have one department and is now spinning off into the education sector so that the one question that kept popping up in my mind was how do I hire like really experienced people? We’re mostly a millennial group very creative. Yes. You know, we do a lot of videos. And so it is always the question. I’ve met so many corporates through this journey. And it was always like, how would we use somebody with so much experience? How would they help a scale up? That doesn’t have that many processes to innovate.


But it’s interesting because I think we should launch something together. Because I have quite a lot of people around me who also, like I am fed up with the corporate stuff and I just want to lead a scale up.So I think there is a big market for that. I can meet a matchmaker.


But so. But what do they do? Because obviously my perception I don’t know. But my perception is if you’re in the corporate and you don’t have oh, we need to make money. We need to make money. But when you’re on this side, startup scale up, there is always no matter how fast you grow, you need more money. You need more money. And then it’s almost like my mentors used to say, when you hire, you need to see like a 10x return from somebody. But when it’s unclear where the 10x return could be like, what would your advice be? I’m looking for somebody as experience as you like. What should I as a scale up look at?


Yeah, no, I think you should go for people who are already a little bit entrepreneurial, because I fully agree that if you were born and raised in a corporate, uh, it’s a whole different ballgame if you are. There is always money. So that’s it’s funny because what I see is when you are a startup working on an idea and you spend 80 percent of money when you are in a corporate working on an idea. You spend 80 percent of your time on political political stuff, politics.


So, uh, so I think startups, if there’s obviously a lot of money coming from corporate. Right. So if your sources of money are you or your partner, you want to launch your product in corporate environments, then it helps that someone knows how to play the game, but also has a wide or broad network in that, uh. But I think you you need to find people who have that growth mindset, who are open, who are open minded and not in that tunnel that a lot of people in corporate are.


So they have to have some entrepreneurial background and as well, the corporates. And then it’s like. And then it’s worth it for scale up to help.


I think that every scale up needs to be led by someone who has a corporate background. But I think it’s, uh, some will definitely benefit from that, especially when you have to work closely together with corporate.


And then it may be super personal question, but then one of the questions that pops up in me is I have friends and I know their salaries in the corporates.




I cannot afford those salaries. And I know that most of the startups that became scale ups. I know how much investment they received. Hundred percent. They will not pay that much money. So how do you even negotiate somebody that had a six figure salary?




What would be a reasonable salary to offer someone?


So yeah, I know that. So I don’t know about other so I can only talk about myself. I would if I would get shares than I don’t one or I don’t need a big salary because that even drives me more to make it a big success. So I think that is I think.


And how many shares would that be then?


And depending on the situation, I think,


Let’s say a normal scale up in the airline industry. Right. They have something really innovative, and you see opportunity. They need someone like you. Obviously, you’re sitting on a table. You don’t know what to say. You think five. You think ten. You think twent… like you have no idea.




So but then at the same time, there’s also the what the average is for, like employees who get shares.


And I think that max. Two percent or something. So what would what is normal.


I don’t know. I have not enough experience with that. So I don’t know.


What do you think would. What would trigger you?


I think I’m the wrong person to ask because I’m not so money driven. So my have a very low cost base life. So I’ve never in my career been driven by I want to have a bigger salary. So you’re not taking decisions based on public? The shares are a big thing. It just has to be fair.


Yeah. And if I really believe in it, then I also want to go for it. And I. Some months ago I was talking to someone of well we were discussing a little bit about this and I said, well, I’m also willing to say, okay, let’s try for a year. And then after you re-evaluate, if it’s not gonna work, then I have learned a whole lot. And if we talk a little bit about shares, we didn’t come up with a percentage at that time.But I said I’m willing to do that because I also believe that sometimes you need to jump in to take this kind of razor.


It was only just shares. No salary.


No. I think you can also have (inaudible). I already I have I have my cost as well. Yeah. But for me, I don’t need a six figure salary or whatever.


Okay. So OK.


So maybe, maybe this is also the shifting of the people you want to lead, because if someone comes in and says, hey, I want already this kind of salary.


Yes. So we hire based on how people are like personality wise. And so the common threads, because your own curiosity is nobody really cares about money, including me.




So but people come from corporates. Usually the reason why people work is not always, of course, but usually they work in corporate because they know their career will grow. There’s gonna be a big salary. And then at the time when they leave their salaries pretty high.


Yeah. But nothing is certain, especially not these days. So I think if people working in a corporate assuming that their career is safe, they should wake up. Uh, so I wish everybody to to make this kind of jump sometimes, because then you learn to be adaptable. Whatever happens, you can survive. If people are in there for the money, I think they’re the wrong people. I think it’s Apple. I don’t know. In the early days, what they did is they hired people and when they went through the whole, they made it through the whole interview process.


They offered


Them thousands to leave or not. It was like the last that


we do something similar.


Yeah no buyt I think it’s very interesting. Right. Because then it’s the last shifting on how are people. Yeah. Also, (inaudible) could be. I had a guy in my team, (inaudible) in Barcelona who worked part time for me 50 percent and 50 percent of his time. He was working on his own startup. So he was growing and building his startup. He had he was in his 40s. He had his family. So he had like a income. And then so he was dividing risk. So it could also be for startups to say, hey, maybe it’s not a hundred percent of your time needed, but it’s it’s it’s less. And then someone can find some work on the side that gets paid into those constructions also possible. Okay.


So why don’t you become an investor or something like small angel thing?


Yeah, maybe I should.


I know somebody who heads Transavia Ventures though.




And he was an entrepreneur.




And now we just invest for transit.


Yeah. No, I think so. So Vueling is part of a larger airline group. So that’s called IIG. And there is a venture team in IIG. It’s interesting. Um,


Is that something you would do?


It’s something I would like to explore, maybe, but because it’s something I don’t know really well yet. So then I can learn again,


You know, innovation and tech.


So, yeah. And I know startups, but it’s still and I know to spot also interesting startups. I know what I can. One of the things that I can do really well is to see to identify business opportunities. So I see you starting like, hey, this could be very interesting for that. So I can make the problem solution.


You said you can spot interesting startups. We have obviously our way. But what is your way to spot interesting startups?


I don’t. I will. So I’m a lot at events and I talk to startups and they know about what you have.


What how… When do you know, like this is going to be the real thing? What do you like? What is it? Is it the founder? Is it a team? Is it the product?


Yeah, it’s it’s a combination. Right, so it’s so definitely the team, uh. But also the solution, I think, uh, I need I need to see the light and the solution. Uh, I’m not sure if I’m really well in in spotting the big thing yet because I have not spotted a unicorn yet. Well, maybe. Maybe in the making. Yeah. And by that. No. And I think this also needs some training that you need to be much more into the way to do this. Uh, investing scene. Because then you learn a lot. And I I’ve been in the investing scene a little bit on the side. So it could be an area to explore more.


Cool. Yeah,




Any last, uh, thing, you want to mention.


No, I’m looking forward to next, uh. Yeah


In a couple of weeks we have the Mobile World Congress four years from now addition, you know, do locate your key selling tickets. We need to discuss that.


Yeah. One, uh, one if I can get one for my team.


Yeah. We’ve got extra tickets. So


I know the location because I think I live, uh, four years from now. Right. So.


Yeah, but they have a new location that. Plaza Espana.


Yes, exactly. And I live 50 meters from there. Really. Yeah. So I can go come to the drinks. Nice. And stay until then.


Yeah. Nice. I think we’re gonna have a similar set up there with the cameras and everything and it’s going to be a round table set up and then we’re gonna have some start ups as well, join in and ask questions. So then it’s kind of podcast. Yeah. Cool. Any last things you would like to mention towards the people who would be watching you? Should we start to scale up both or just the general business people?


Yeah. No, go for it. I mean, I have a t shirt, uh, which is, uh, with the text on it. Hashtag (inaudible). So go for it. And, uh, don’t let yourself scare scare off if you believe in it. Keep on pushing. And even if it’s not working the first time and or if you bump into corporate resistance, probably it’s not you. It’s just like our corporate run. So don’t let yourself down.


And, uh, keep going. And then optionality. Yeah, optionality is the thing.


What do you mean?


Don’t bet on just one horse. Let’s make a portfolio and go for different kind of things.


Cool.  I think that’s a really good closing for the podcast. Thank you so much.


Yeah. Thank you.


If you like this episode, you can check out our most recent one here. And if you haven’t already, make sure you click here to subscribe and see the next one.But if you’re interested in more tips and tricks, make sure to join our Facebook group where you can find thousands of like minded people and you get direct access and support to any business question from the entire Startup Funding Event team.






Congratulations on reaching the end!

Check out our podcast Impact Talks, where you can listen to high-profile experts from various backgrounds!

Join our Facebook Group Community with over 4,700 entrepreneurs, innovators, and creators by Startup Funding Event, where you get access to free live training, daily Q&As, design templates to get your business started, and support from the SFE team. Join here!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.