At Pauwels Consulting, we are continually looking for motivated consultants who are in a position to bring our clients’ projects to a successful conclusion. As a result, we interview lots of candidates and regularly take on interesting new colleagues.
In our series ‘People of Pauwels Consulting’, our colleagues introduce themselves and talk about their projects and experiences. Today, we are going to get acquainted with Jan Tanghe, ICT Project Manager at Pauwels Consulting.
Jan, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Jan: My pleasure! My name is Jan Tanghe, I am fifty-two years old and I live in Knesselare. I am married and have two sons, twenty and twenty-two years old. I am working as an ICT Project Manager for an international technology company.
What do you do in your free time?
Jan: In my free time, I enjoy a game of golf. My goal is to relax and to occasionally be on the golf course with my wife or friends to have fun while playing golf. I play one or two matches each month to ensure my competitive spirit doesn’t waver.
I also like water sports, mainly sailing. In 2010, I successfully passed my exam for yachtsman, which is an international certificate allowing you to sail all the seas and based on which you are entitled to rent a boat.
During summer holidays, our family enjoys sailing the Mediterranean Sea, somewhere between the Greek islands or along the Turkish Riviera. Lovely! (Smiles.)
I also like to sail on the North Sea to cross the English Channel in the direction of England with a friend, which we do regularly.
Sounds nice! Can you tell us a bit about your professional background? What studies did you complete?
Jan: Of course. In 1988, I graduated in electromechanics in Ostend.
Why did you choose these studies?
Jan: I have always been interested in a technical education. Electromechanics covers a vast range and offered many opportunities for the future.
In the end, I never did work in this particular field, due to the fact that I was introduced, for the first time ever, to ICT during my studies. This opened up a completely new world for me, which also truly inspired me, particularly the emergence of the first computers in the eighties. After that, my career was fully ICT-oriented.
Where have you been working?
Jan: I have developed from ICT Coordinator at a SME to Project Leader for ICT projects at multinational corporations. In 1990, I started as an ICT Coordinator at the consultancy agency De Klerck in Bruges. As a complementary activity, I also developed software as an independent company and gave evening classes in ICT at Syntra.
After that time, I worked at Arcadis, an international design and engineering agency, for seventeen years, where I was given the opportunity to develop as a Functional Analyst and Project Leader for ICT projects.
During my time at Arcadis, I was also responsible for a software company in Romania, involved in programme development for the national and international Arcadis offices, but also for clients.
In 2015, I was given the opportunity to be the General ICT Manager at Imtech Belgium. This was a challenge and opportunity I could not resist, but, unfortunately, this company was faced with bankruptcy.
Currently, I am working, via Pauwels Consulting, as a Project Leader at an international technology company.
Could you tell us about some interesting projects?
Jan: The most important projects I developed and managed up to date were projects for the Flemish government, for the European Commission and for companies and authorities such as Arcelor Mittal, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Arcadis NV and Studiedienst Antwerpen Mobiel.
I mainly worked on ERP-focused projects, but, in the end, I analysed and coordinated a vast variety of projects. For me personally, the database development for the Flemish government, including all the roadworks in Flanders, was one of the top-notch projects I managed.
Furthermore, I developed a great many international applications and databases, mainly for my former employer Arcadis. Together with my development team, we have accomplished quite a bit.
You have indeed been involved in very interesting projects! How did you finally get in touch with Pauwels Consulting and what was your first impression?
Jan: Following the Imtech bankruptcy, I got in touch with Pauwels Consulting via LinkedIn. My first interview was a hit! Pauwels Consulting made a very professional impression. Clear, to the point, responding quickly and straightforward.
“As a Project Leader, it is of the utmost importance to continue to be informed, on any details. After all, each detail is part of the package, which, in the end, determines the quality of the product.”
Could you tell us more about your current projects?
Jan: I now work in the field of ‘smart energy’. My client developed software to read out smart meters (for electricity, water and gas), to analyse the data and to take further actions with the results thereof. This software and corresponding meters are implemented at clients on a worldwide scale.
Currently, I am working on the implementation of an energy management platform for a large supermarket chain in Denmark. This software is used by the client to measure and analyse, in detail, the energy consumption of more than a thousand stores. The project involves a period of three years.
What is the objective of your current projects and what are your responsibilities?
Jan: I am General Project Leader. As I stated, we are responsible for the improved energy consumption of the client’s stores. The ultimate objective is to save a significant amount of money on their energy consumption.
We identify ‘heavy energy users’ and look for fitting alternatives. This could be exchanging fluorescent lamps for LED lamps. We are also involved in benchmarking: we compare one store with another. For example, why does one store consume more energy than the other?
Finally, we also indicate savings for subsidies and make the employees more aware of their energy use. For example, each employee will be given an app for his/her smartphone which displays the energy consumption, ranking and similar details related to their own store.
You say that employees of the supermarket chain are always informed on their energy consumption?
Jan: Indeed, they are. A very significant savings on energy could be realised by making people aware of their energy consumption and by informing them how they can use energy efficiently. The measurements indicate which effects and results follow from a specific action. As such, we are able to create studies and calculate the effects of such an action.
It goes without saying that reports and analyses regarding the general energy consumption are created on a higher level as well. For example, the replacement of refrigerators with low-energy devices and the return on investment for this action.
What are the timelines of the project?
Jan: The deadline for this project is the end of December 2019, but to not be mistaken, the focus is mainly at the beginning of the project. Setting up a project such as this one involves time: the teams must be appointed, clear agreements with the client must be made and a search for subcontractors and partners must be implemented.
The software must also be implemented and customised in relation to the client’s needs and wishes. Furthermore, all processes must be clearly identified to put the project on the right track. After all, close cooperation with all parties is crucial.
Visiting the stores of the supermarket chain, analysing their current energy policy and installing the meters on all energy consumers (electricity, water, gas) requires a high level of coordination. But then, this is what a Project Leader does.
What does a standard workday look like for you?
Jan: Each workday starts with an Agile stand-up meeting. This is a meeting of fifteen minutes as a maximum with the development team, which is held standing. During this meeting, the assignments for that specific day are discussed and all related activities are aligned.
Every other day, I also call with the client and subcontractors. Apart from that, there are many meetings with the different teams who work on specific components of the project.
For this type of projects, a regular presence on site is also very important. Face-to-face meetings with the client or local parties strengthen the cooperation. This is why I travel for my work on a very regular basis.
And do not forget the significant part of administration, such as making the planning, financial statements and reports. Last but not least, the typical everyday activities as a Project Leader are part of my day as well… This sums it up, my working days are fully filled! (Laughter.)
What is challenging or interesting about this type of projects?
Jan: The fact that I am working on an end product with various parties and teams makes it all very diverse. All parties involved need to cooperate in a coordinated manner to make sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
This makes continuous management and adjustments essential, but this is also what makes the job so interesting. It is very rewarding if all works out well, even though the successful result is, naturally, mostly in the hands of the Project Manager!
The international aspect plays an important role as well. This is the extra dimension which makes the job even more interesting and challenging, and always just a tad different. The sense of adventure is another aspect involved.
Which general tips would you like to give colleagues who work on comparable projects?
Jan: As a Project Leader, it is of the utmost importance to continue to be informed, on any details. After all, each detail is part of the package, which, in the end, determines the quality of the product.
This is why it is important not to lose overview and to work in a structured manner. I follow the Prince2 principles, which follow a clear but tight line within the project.
“Do not allow yourself to be influenced by others too quickly. Stick to your view!”
Have you learned interesting things up to now?
Jan: Absolutely. Smart metering was unchartered territory for me. The fact that I was ‘thrown to the wolves’ did not give me any other choice than to learn quickly. No day goes by or I learn something new or am surprised. Most often in a positive manner, but, unfortunately, at times in a negative sense of the word as well. (Laughter.)
What would you like to do once this project is completed?
Jan: I love projects of this scope, with a distinct international character. I can certainly picture myself working on similar projects in the future.
As I indicated earlier, I already closely cooperated with a software company in Romania in the past. After setting up the office, I continued to be part of the team to determine the policy and I also coordinated the projects for a period of fifteen years. It was an interesting and varied job.
If I would be given a similar offer, to build something from scratch, I would not hesitate to accept the challenge once again.
What are your ambitions for the future?
Jan: I would like to further develop in functions related to responsibilities, to which you can give a personal touch, preferably no nine-to-five jobs.
For me, it has always been a dream to set up a software company of my own. But until now, I have never had the time to act upon this dream, due to other interesting possibilities. Who knows. One day. (Smiles.)
Is there any other wisdom you wish to share or perhaps an inspiring citation?
Jan: Yes. Do not allow yourself to be influenced by others too quickly. Stick to your view!
Upon the start of each project, you must develop a strategy, with the assistance or expertise of others or not. Once these decisions are taken, it is, in most cases, essential not to deviate from the plan.
In each project, you have people with another view who wish to influence your work method. My advice is: do not allow yourself to be influenced! In events as such, consult experts. In the end, you, as Project Leader, assume the final responsibility!
Well spoken, Jan! Thank you for the interview and here’s wishing you success with your projects!
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