Last Refreshed: 7/6/2022 3:45:37 PM
Diversity Inclusion

International Girls in ICT Day at Ahold Delhaize

April 28, 2022 – In this day and age, technology plays a role in all kinds of careers. And as today marks the International Girls in ICT Day, we want to draw attention to the great need for more women and girls in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. According to the UN Women, 65% of children entering primary school today will grow up to have jobs that do not exist yet.  

Entering a field that she did not set out to end up in when she began her studies, is Marije Costerus. One of Ahold Delhaize’s very own, very talented former trainees who transferred into our ICT department to explore if there would be a match. And what a match it is… 

 

Hi Marije, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 
Hello! Of course, let me start by telling you how my career journey started over 16 years ago, when my sister got me a job at the Albert Heijn store she was working at. During my Business Administration studies at the VU (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), I continued to work at Albert Heijn stores as a Team Lead. Fast forward to today, I am now a Business Analyst for Ahold Delhaize at our Global Support Office, better known as GSO. Although my studies do set you up for a broad range of careers, I did not know I would end up in IT when I started my studies. Along the way I figured out I love strategy, but I also get a lot of energy from adding a bit more creative elements. This is how I ended up doing an economic Master’s in Marketing. Still no IT in sight, right? Along came the Retail Management Traineeship that I did and where I started as a concept manager.

When did you start working on IT related projects? 
I developed various store solutions like the moveable display that was in stores during Easter time. There are 3000 of these displays in Dutch Albert Heijn stores and they appear about four times per year for special occasions. This was my very own project, so I still get a little excited when I see them. Back then some of my colleagues also worked on the electronic shelf labels and I remember thinking how cool and innovative their projects were. I realized I wanted to broaden my horizon, so in my third year of the traineeship, I transferred to the GSO tech department. At the time it was pretty challenging since I wasn’t necessarily trained in tech. However, I am, not afraid of a challenge and I like gaining new knowledge so my manager took a chance on me, and I soon realized this is where I am meant to be – in tech!

Can you tell us a bit about the work you currently do? 
Although my official job title is Business Analyst, I would describe my role as more as an adoption and implementation specialist of tech solutions. On a daily basis I am the scrum master of the team, and I am part of the user experience team. We work on such a broad range of projects, from the integration of the M365 suite for HQ and stores, to building a film studio for the board to support their hybrid way of working. Currently, we are working with a very impressive tool called Synthesia, where Artificial Intelligence allows us to create videos with lifelike people, it’s very exciting to be a part of these innovative projects. 

We pay attention to days like this one to promote ICT amongst young women. How would you describe the current representation in your field?
Hmm. I would say it is still a male-dominated group when you look at the department, but we are definitely growing in the right direction. Our collaboration team is divided into three sub-teams, the technical team, the Power Platform team and the UX team. For the latter, we have a 50/50 balance I would say. For the other two teams, the girls are still a minority. So, when we bring on internal or external members, we consciously assess who the best candidate is, and we try to be aware of improving the balance. 

How could we attract more girls for this field? The stereotype of working in tech might have something to do with requiring long beards and funny t-shirts. How do you see this?

Haha! Many of my friends are ‘real’ techies, which does sometimes involve long beards and odd t-shirts. But I must say, nowadays there is so much more to the tech department. The stereotype of people hiding in their offices and not seeing any daylight is definitely outdated. Within tech we all work in an agile way and for me, the work that I currently do requires well-established organizational and people skills. It also involves a lot that I learned during my masters and is also sometimes heavily focused on psychology. Helping people get used to a new tool can be tricky, most people are not necessarily enthusiastic about change. So, figuring out how to assist in this process, provides a whole different challenge. It really makes my work diverse and challenging.

So, what would you say to anyone considering a career in tech?
Definitely go for it. Tech is the future and if you are starting now, you are already ahead of the game. Nowadays ICT departments can be seen as very mature concepts, we cover strategy, innovation, marketing, adoption, communication, the works. Any skills you have or want to develop, you can apply those to a role in tech. There is much more to the tech world than you might assume at first and if you are interested in innovation and tech, ranging from hardcore programming to developing escape rooms to helping people understand how Microsoft Teams works, there is something in it for you. I don’t think I will ever find a team and a manager as great and supportive as this one, so if you are wondering if you would fit in, don’t worry about it. We are just as human as any other team you might find!

Last Refreshed: 7/6/2022 3:45:37 PM
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