Accenture's Dutch boss Irine Gaasbeek reflects on her career and top role

14 September 2018 5 min. read

This summer, Irine Gaasbeek took over the helm at Accenture in the Netherlands, becoming the third consecutive woman to serve as Dutch country managing director of the global professional services giant. Gaasbeek reflects on the road that led to the top role and what inspires her in her work. 

Could you describe your career path up until now?

‘I studied at Delft University of Technology and started working at Accenture almost straight after graduating. That was in 1994, so 24 years ago now. Since then, I’ve held various posts at Accenture. I’ve been given but also gone after many opportunities. For instance, I’ve rolled out transformation programmes in various industries, mainly gas and electricity, but also in financial services. Besides guiding transformations at clients, I’ve also had several jobs that involved setting up new units within Accenture. Mostly, those centred on building up new businesses in the company. That offered both challenges and variation.’ 

And then suddenly you were offered the job of country managing director. How did that come about?

‘I’ve always been very career-driven. But the offer of this position was quite special, coming literally out of the blue. I was on holiday in the middle of nowhere in Africa with virtually no mobile reception. At some point I noticed that a number of people, including my predecessor, had been trying to reach me for several days. So that gave me an inkling that there was something important awaiting me. From a lodge tent far away in Africa I called via WhatsApp and was told they were considering me for country managing director. Obviously, that was an incredible honour.’ 

What did you think at the time?

‘When you’re in holiday mode, you’re not really thinking about work and so it took a while to sink in. At the same time, it was good that I was off work, because that gave me a chance to really think it over. Basically, I asked myself two questions. First: “Is this something I aspire to?” The answer to that was clear. And, second: “Who am I as a person and a personality, and what can I offer the company?” Everyone, every leader, is different, and that’s why I think it’s important that leadership positions have a changing of the guard every few years, because each person brings new qualities to the job.

Accenture's Dutch boss Irine Gaasbeek reflects on her career and top role

What are your qualities?

‘At Accenture we work with a “strength finder”, which is a method that zooms in on personal qualities. Often, organisations look at what areas people need to develop and what they’re good at, but we focus on strengths and how to cultivate them. My strengths are that I’m decisive, focused on results, a teambuilder and inquisitive. Qualities that I think I can really work with and leverage in this new position!’

What inspires you?

‘People at Accenture progress incredibly fast, and I think that’s brilliant. Also, our incredible drive and culture of helping and honing each other are also things that really inspire me. My motto is one plus one equals three. Together and in diverse composition, you can come up with so many more new and innovative solutions. That applies to our own people, but equally to clients. Whenever I read a piece in the newspaper about something Accenture has helped to achieve, that makes me proud. Recently, there was an article on how we’ve built the supermarket of the future, using all kinds of virtual reality. That makes me proud.’

Accenture is actively involved in supporting the community in and around Amsterdam. The firm is, for instance, supporting this month’s Zuidas Run [a business run for companies based in Amsterdam’s Zuidas business district]. Why are you such strong supporters of this initiative?

‘We initiated the run in 2007 when companies first started locating here. The idea arose to organise an event – something social and energetic – with these pioneers in the district that would help to connect everyone. Ten years on, we’re as committed to creating connections as ever, and to the health and well-being of our staff, too. That’s an increasing focus for us for which the Zuidas Run is also a great encouragement. The Zuidas Run is becoming increasingly professionalised and this year the team is taking several steps to also really put the business run on the map. In addition, the 2018 edition will for the first time be held on a Friday afternoon, so it’s a brilliant way to close out the week with colleagues, friends and neighbours in a fun and athletic way.’ 

This interview was conducted by Romy Lange from Hello Zuidas Magazine, a Netherlands-based magazine that aims at informing and enriching the life of professionals working in Amsterdam’s Zuidas business district. The picture of Irine Gaasbeek was taken by photographer Davien Hulsman.