Continuously raising the bar: unburden customers even further in the future

Published on by NTS. The reading time is approximately 8 minutes.

Monika Hoekstra has been working at NTS since 2017. Recently she started in a new position as Program Manager ONE NTS. Before that she was responsible for NTS’ key-account in the semiconductor industry: ASML. Monika compares working for such a large OEM with playing top-level sports: you need to be at the top of your game, every day. Flawless game is the ultimate aim. There is no room for mistakes. This requires a substantial amount of perseverance and even more important you need to be willing to continuously raise the bar for yourself. Day, after day, after day.”

Monika Hoekstra grew up in Czechoslovakia, played top-level tennis and when she was 19 years old - even before the fall of communism in this country in 1989 - she left for America on a tennis scholarship. After having worked and lived in America for seven year and after having completed an international MBA study in Prague she moved to the Netherlands in 1998.

Years of involvement with innovation programs

“In the Netherlands I fulfilled a wide variety of positions,” says Monika: “and in 2007 I got involved in national innovation programs. At that moment they belonged to the top sector policy of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. In roles such as program manager, strategy advisor and managing director, I got to know the very divers playing field of companies, knowledge institutes and government agencies that collaborate closely in the innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem  of the High Tech Systems and Materials sector.

Generalist background used to its full advantage in a comprehensive role

“In the technical sector people who do not know me, sometimes see it as a disadvantage that I do not have a technical education background. However, once we start working together, they come to the conclusion that it actually turns out to be an advantage. The combination of my business background and generalist management experience allows me to successfully fulfil complex roles. What you often see is that engineers immediately go into depth & details and sometimes get lost in them. I then take them back to the essence and turn the focus towards what the business and the customer need, what we are trying to solve and what we can do to achieve our goals. Besides this, my feeling for human dynamics and my top-level sport mentality are of benefit.”

Managing projects in complex environments

“As I have been involved in various partnerships between industry, knowledge institutes and government since 2007, it has become my specialisation to manage partnerships or programs in a very complex stakeholders environment. Through my various roles in the High Tech Systems and Materials sector, I developed a solid network and this also led to my contact with NTS. After a number of interviews, I started as Global Account Manager (GAM) in April 2017, responsible for one of NTS’ most important customers.”

Seen from many perspectives my role as GAM was similar to the roles I fulfilled in the past. The similarities are mainly in the complexity of the relationships and the fact that you are constantly in a  balancing act between stakeholders. NTS delivers to this customer from seven different sites/locations and we have contact with five different locations of the customer. A complex interplay during which daily business interests and strategic developments are frequently mixed with escalations and urgent operational matters.”

ASML’s level is incredibly high

“Besides ASML’s technological superiority and its organisational complexity it is also a demanding customer. Its level is unimaginably high and the drive to make the impossible, possible is a mindset that can be felt in all layers of the organisation. That mindset appeals to me enormously. And that is exactly why I chose to work on this account in 2017. I also always set the bar higher than I can reach and I don’t want to give up if something doesn’t come off (yet). I have great respect and admiration for ASML, exactly because they also continuously raise the bar, for themselves, for the entire supply chain and the region and because they are constantly defying the boundaries of what is possible.

NTS can unburden its global customers even more

“The GAM role started at the time in 2017 as a pioneering role within NTS because customers want NTS to function more as one company, and within the business complexity also act as one company towards customers. For a number of large and global customers, NTS has appointed a central and global account management team that is responsible for managing the account across the entire NTS organization. Creating this central account management team is part of the ONE NTS transition. The role of this team is now well anchored within the organization and NTS is busy with the transition process towards one integrated company. ”

Switch to Program Manager ONE NTS

“To take this process to the next level and ensure its steady progress, NTS CEO Marc Hendrikse asked me to help him with this challenge. And so I started working as Program Manager ONE NTS since November 2019 and I switched from direct customer contact to working in the context of strategic change management. A new role in which it is also necessary to be able to see through the complexity of the organization, to have a continuous view of the needs of the business & customers and the goals of strategic change.

ONE NTS is about value creation for customers

“Of course the improvement of our internal organisation plays an important role during this change process but from the perspective of my previous role as GAM, I mainly have one goal in mind which is to increase the value for our customers. The degree of unburdening and the added value varies per customer and we as NTS must be equipped for this. That is what the ONE NTS program is about - further optimisation of our knowledge and skills, improving how we organise ourselves and collaborate in an even better way so that the customer benefits from it.”

Fall and rise, continue and improve

“Unburdening a customer does not always go flawlessly. On an average day, account managers go from one meeting to another. Thinking of a long-term strategy for the customer is often combined with day-to-day operational matters that take a lot of time. If something goes wrong or tends to go wrong, it requires immediate attention. Our customers' production processes must always continue as normal and our processes must be supportive of this. We are in a continuous state of tension between timely delivery, perfect quality, and ideal price.”

“It may sound like a cliché that we all strive for a satisfied customer, and of course we do, but in reality, there is no better way to learn than to work for a customer like ASML that has such high demands and is not easily satisfied. It is a huge challenge to try to excel in such a complex environment and to regard every "failure" as an opportunity for improvement. Just like in top sport, it is a lifelong cycle of fall & rise, continuing and improving. Buckle down, hold your head up, and go on. That is the mentality I grew up with and that has also been the reason for me to switch from public-private sector to the dynamics of industry. It simply appeals to me more and suits me better.”

Inspiring others

“I grew up in an extraordinary culture - a combination of a communist country and a top sport environment. My father, once also a fanatic athlete, taught me that you should never be satisfied with yourself. He would then say: being satisfied with yourself is the beginning of the end. Although this sounds like quite a harsh way of being raised, I can now understand these kinds of statements and put them into perspective. I have found peace and contentment with it. Nevertheless, I still continue to raise the bar for myself and I want to see progress, both for the customer, for our company as for myself. What really makes me happy, though, is when I have been able to help others to raise their own bars. Inspiring others, letting them excel and achieve their goals (regardless of what those goals are)…. that is what I actually get the most gratification out of, then I'm really satisfied. ”

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