Marco Houweling, Senior Vice President Finance at TomTom

We see that TomTom seems to be going against the market trend and continues to grow through enhancing and diversifying products within software and services - can you identify how your organization stands out from the market and your competitors?
When our world-leading traffic service started to use location traces (probes) from vehicles, we got into “big data” before the term became popular. We process more than 21 billion data probes every day and with this TomTom will help cities become Smart Cities.

 

What challenges await your business and how do you hope to overcome them?
We work hard at continuously improving the way we develop our software, which is a challenge for any company to do at scale. We believe that our map making process is world class efficient where we are using probe input to identify road changes and are capable of making changes to the map in a highly automated way, enabling a fast turnaround time.

 

What does your organisation currently do to contribute towards the corporate social responsibility?
TomTom recognises that long-term value creation goes hand in hand with maintaining a sustainable business. We understand that importance of strong environmental business practices, doing business with likeminded partners and engage employees who live up to our goal. It speaks for itself that we are in compliance with ISO14001 standard and the Electric Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) requirements. What I like most is our contribution to the local communities we live and work in. For example, in the Netherlands we are a proud partner of the Richard Krajicek Foundation. This organisation was founded by Dutch Wimbledon Champion Richard Krajicek and gives underprivileged youth the opportunity to participate in sports. Our employees have hosted a number of fundraisers throughout the year to directly support this organisation.

 

What excites you about working for TomTom?
I have a personal interest in the technology sector. I am excited about what technology has made possible over the course of the years and even more excited if I think about the future. Who would believe that we would be seeing self-driving cars on the public roads, already in 2017?! I work for a company that has invented the first personal navigation device and I still haven’t forgotten what that brought to many many people. It was like magic. At the same time, I am working with brilliant minds who collect billions of data points from more than half a billion probe sources every day and turn this into a realtime traffic service. We were working with big data before this was actually a buzz word. Being at the forefront of technological progress, working with great minds is one thing but what really matters is the people you work with and I have been lucky to be surrounded by colleagues not only with high IQs but also high EQs. TomTom is very employee friendly in my view. Management cares for its people.

 

When did you decide to explore a career in this area and why?
After I sold my previous company to our main competitor! After I finished the handover I wanted to explore new markets and by coincidence I bumped into TomTom which was a very small company at the time. We are talking about the period before we invented the PND. After one conversation with our CEO, I was sold.

 

Looking back through your established career, what would you identify as a personal highlight?
That was undoubtedly the IPO. Unless you work for investment bankers as a business finance person you won’t get many opportunities to work on an IPO. I have put my heart and soul into that process and can rightfully say I had a meaningful stake in the successful IPO of an European Consumer Technology company. Who else can say this? Closely second, is that I have lead the finance team of a company that went from hyper growth through to maturity and decline and back to growth again; its path paved with success and failures. I often refer to this as a pressure cooker experience. Some companies will take decennia to go through these phases, we’ve experienced it all in under 13 years.

 

What would be your advice to someone aspiring to be where you are now?
My advice is usually: care about what you do – whatever you do. This will deliver high results and will be picked up by your peers and managers. Take ownership of problems, support others where possible, even if this lays outside your direct area of responsibility. As a manager, having seen many young finance professionals start their career with us, I could very easily identify the ones that had a promising career in front of them. These were the ones that were humble, cared, were pro-active and team players.

 

Being a sparring partner is a pre-requisite for a finance professional - what do you feel makes an effective sparring partner?
There are many factors but the ones I like to highlight are active listening and – again- caring. Trying to truly understand the challenge your business partner is facing, making it your challenge and help them to evaluate different options to overcome their obstacles to success. That is ultimately what they need.

 

What are your personal motivators?
These have changed over time, from the basic: being able to provide for my family to supporting young finance professionals kickstart their career in the right way and always: make a valuable contribution to the company who is paying the bills and continue to learn and gain experience from others.

 

Who was your most admired person when you were in your childhood and why?
Without being cheesy that was my dad. No doubt, he was a hard worker and I admired him for that. I learned valuable lessons from him with the most important one being maintaining a high standard in work ethic: work hard, by the rules and be a nice person.

 

What books / blogs are you currently reading?
I am currently reading “Getting to Yes” from Roger Fisher and “The Third Industrial Revolution” by Jeremy Rifkin. I am also following the developments within blockchain technology closely. For relaxation I usually read biographies of people I find interesting.

 

Do you have any hidden talents?
I have to think hard which says it all… I don’t think so! Nothing odd anyway. I was always very proud of my ability to run to 100m within 12 seconds when I was young and strong. I used to win all races against my peers. I never explored this further though because I enjoyed playing football too much and this ultimately ended in an injury that prevented me from participating in team sports.

 

*Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the Interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment

 
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