Aliter always has a people-first approach to everything we do. Today, as part of our People of Aliter series of interviews, we showcase the people behind the brand.
Our guest today is Maria van Stuivenberg – Head of Operations at Aliter. Maria has been working with us for almost seven years now. We talk to her about her experiences with Aliter and how work has progressed despite a global pandemic.
Can you tell us about your role and what made you decide to join Aliter?
I got into Aliter about seven years ago. When I started, it was a smaller company, more at the startup stage of its operations. I joined as a sales manager and was leading the sales department. I held the position for more than two years until we had Odette as the new CEO. She made positive changes to the organization and with those changes, my functions transformed as well.
I’ve always been passionate about organizing and planning, which I expressed to Odette during this transformative phase. So, together, we started a new department, OPEX – Operational Excellence, which essentially gathered people from each department into one cohesive group.
And ever since its inception, we’ve been nurturing and growing it. This is something that I’m really proud of at a personal level. I like to see and experience forward momentum and positive change as a person, and in this regard, OPEX is something that holds a special significance to me in Aliter.
“I like to see and experience forward momentum and positive change as a person, and in this regard, OPEX is something that holds a special significance to me in Aliter.”
What do you love most about your role, and what exciting projects/moments have you been involved in?
Oh, there have been many such moments in Aliter! What I like about my role is that there is a lot of freedom of choice. As a person, I prefer a certain degree of autonomy. Checking in with someone for decisions all the time is not something that helps me work better.
Approval processes in Aliter consist of internal negotiation and discussions rather than a strict, standard policy. When you have an idea to improve something, there are very few hurdles to get it done.
Aliterians are motivated to grab opportunities for improvement without the need for pushing. And very often, these initiatives result in success. At the end of the day, it feels like we achieved it together. These are the kinds of projects that are exciting for me.
What’s your favorite part about the place you’re working from?
Well, I’m originally from Russia, but I’ve settled down in the Netherlands for more than a decade. I’m with my husband and my daughter here. My favorite part about working here is not just one thing. My office is pretty close to where I live and it allows me to be a bit more flexible with my daughter’s school and my time.
As for hobbies, my daughter is seven years old, which doesn’t allow me much free time! We have a cat and a dog, and we take turns walking the dog.
I love to travel, but I haven’t been able to do that much these two years. But all said, my colleagues here at the office in the Netherlands are great to work with, and I have no plans of moving anywhere else for now!
What was your experience like as a candidate?
Even though it was quite a while ago, I do remember my interview. It was with Jean-Noel Clot and Heath Mulder, two shareholders who were very different from each other. With them, interviewing was a lot of fun and they had unique perspectives to share about the company which helped me put together the complete Aliter picture!
They were really proud of the company, and I think that pride in our brand has filtered down to each of us at Aliter. The interview process is not like what you experience with other large corporate companies where you talk to the HR, manager, and CEO, and then you’re done.
It was more about making sure that I understood what the company was about rather than asking me questions on my resume. The second round was over dinner! I mean, now when I look back at it, it was a typical Aliter interview. And I feel that’s the difference between us and the rest.
“It was more about making sure that I understood what the company was about rather than asking me questions on my resume..”
We’re not a heavy, overbearing corporate brand. We have fun but also make sure that we understand people who are coming into the company and that they understand us as well.
What do you think makes your department special?
I love working with my team and the improvements that we’ve made over the years through OPEX. We buy, receive, test, audit, and pack the hardware and inventory. And something to note is that the operations team is half of the company and we do carry a lot on our shoulders.
What I think is special is that our team has people connecting from all over the globe, and yet we maintain a fairly easy-going style of communication between us. In our meetings, everyone is able to voice their opinion about a topic of interest, and they’re heard as well.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to work remotely?
Well, COVID has taught us that it is possible for at least some of us to work remotely. The most important thing to remember is to not isolate yourself. Keep in touch with your colleagues.
Use whatever tools you have at your disposal and stay within reach of your team.
Working from home is quite doable and has its advantages too – you’re a lot less distracted, and there is less socializing among us, and some things can get done faster.
How do you find working remotely, and what do you do to stay connected to your team?
Aliter has a 9-11 catchup session where we can talk to each other on various topics. I find this generally helps me stay connected to my team. Yes, there are times when you don’t have work-related issues to share, but that’s when people get creative and share something entertaining or it could be just to wish each other a good day. It is an idea that I absolutely support and like, but sometimes it can be a challenge too.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share with aspiring Aliterians?
Aliterians treat each other well and keep progressing towards bigger goals. We keep trying new things at Aliter, and there are chances it may not work out. If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t consider that a failure at your end but rather a part of the process here.
Try not to think of them as personal failures because the responsibility is always shared among the team. We have a lot of fun, and office pranks are not uncommon, but the important thing is to remember that we are all in this together.
It has helped us through tough times in the past and brought us together as a family. You can always count on the person next to you to help you out in a tough spot. And I think that is what makes an Aliterian!
“You can always count on the person next to you to help you out in a tough spot. And I think that is what makes an Aliterian!”
Aliter is an equal-opportunity employer and is on the lookout for people who love being part of something bigger than themselves and have fun doing that. Check our careers page for opportunities that suit your skillset.