Hi, I’m Thomas Verhoeven, and I started working for ACA IT-Solutions on the 2nd of March 2020. It’s my first job! As a junior...
My career path at ACA: lots of courage and supportTessa Tuteleers
ACA has been an Atlassian partner for 10 years. Ten years! This made me think about where I was, 10 years ago: just 18 years old and almost out of high school. These past 10 years have been a blur to me. And because my career path at ACA is an unconventional story, I wanted to share my journey so far. Or at least, I will try. So here goes!
The start and stowing away of a dream
Ten years ago, I started a journey that lead me to where I am today. I had everything going for me: I was in college, had my own little dorm room, a car to get me wherever I needed to be and a student job at a bowling alley to pay for any frivolities I wanted. Already back then, I knew I wanted to be a developer, but had no clue what that actually entailed. Confronted with so much lingo and surrounded by students who – in my eyes – had been studying the art of talking to computers ever since they could walk, I felt like I was drowning.
A year and a half later, I gave up and put my dream in a box in some far away corner of a closet, to be forgotten. Instead of just frequenting the local watering holes, I started working in them as a waiter and later as maître. Later on, I found my way back to doing something pretty remotely related to the field I was originally interested in. I started working as a recruiter for an agency and worked my way up to recruiting engineers and developers. I loved the job, but calling 100+ companies every day to try and ‘sell’ the awesome people I recruited, I really didn’t love at all.
Committing myself to a career path at ACA
After 2 years, I got fired from my recruiting job. I’d never gotten fired before, and the time leading up to it had been extremely stressful. The recruiting agency I worked for pitted us out against each other to up their sales, and colleagues became competitors instead of friends. I knew one thing, and that was that I never wanted that again. Instead, I longed for an environment where I’d be safe and a company that has my back. Why? Because God knows, when I commit to a company, I will have theirs!
In ACA I found a company that not only had great values on paper, but seemed to follow through in real life as well. I wanted them to be my partner in crime, and for some reason, they wanted that too. I’m not sure why: I stumbled through my interviews, blanked out at the simplest of questions and overall didn’t leave a very good impression. But I must have done something right, because they offered me a place at their table as a recruitment specialist.
The first few weeks in any new job are always exciting and stressful. It was no different here. Do they like me? Am I doing okay? Do they expect more? And at the other end of the spectrum, there were questions as well. Are they really as good as portrayed, or is it all talk again? Soon, the suspicion made way for trust, peace and an intrinsic motivation to be the best I could be. ACA made me feel I was worth it, and so they were, too.
Dusting off my original dream
After settling down in my new environment and my new team a bit, I discovered some quick wins to improve the way the recruitment team worked. I was by far the most structured (read: nitpicky) person on the team, and needed things to be done a certain way. As time went by, I slowly improved things step by step, and spent more and more time pulling the IT departments’ sleeves to help us. Reviewing recruitment applications, which I should have been doing, became a necessary task instead of the thing that kept me awake at night and got me up in the morning.
The coaching framework ACA employs, consists of two levels. Just like everybody else at the company, I have an on-the-job coach, who basically listens to us whine, cry and rage, and helps us find solutions to overcome today’s and tomorrow’s problems. Secondly, I have an evolution coach, who helps us find a path in life and a future in the company. After a lot of thinking and at long last, I pulled both of these coaches. With a very small heart, I told them I loved organizing the way the team worked, and would like to do that on a day-to-day basis. Since the tools we worked with were part of the Atlassian tool suite, and we had a team that – sweet summer child that I was – I thought just tinkered with that configuration all day, I wanted in on that.
Joining the Atlassian team at ACA
After a lot of talks with my coaches and other people (and liters of sweat), the Atlassian team at ACA actually wanted me to join them and teach me the ropes of the business. Bottles were popped that night! To this day, it is one of the most challenging, exciting, tiring, stretching but most of all rewarding times of my life. Being a member of ACA’s Atlassian team has been a rollercoaster ride for me. The team gave me some great tools and some basic stuff in my new backpack of knowledge and then sent me off the deep end. I started responding to support questions for our own in-company toolstack, which allowed me some margin of error. In no time at all I became a certified Atlassian expert, which is where the tinkering stopped and the real stuff started.
I started accompanying my more experienced colleagues to customers, first as a ‘transcriber’ (or so it felt to me) just jotting down whatever was said, then as a silent partner, and eventually, I even dared open my mouth for more than a hello and a goodbye. To give you an idea of how nerve-wrecking this was for me: at one point, I introduced myself with the wrong name. 🤦♀️
For one of those customer meetings, a colleague called in that they were late, and that I had to start the meeting without them. Later on, I learned that he did it on purpose, to force me to do what he already knew I could but was too afraid to do: kick off the demo I had worked on for days, instead of letting him do the talking for me. I hated his guts at the time, but pulled through and came out the other end stronger.
In the few months that followed, I still suffered from pacing in front of meeting room doors, encouraging myself to go in, hiding sweaty palms when greeting customers and clearing my throat to hide my trembling voice. But now, at last, I can hold my own in a meeting room full of expecting customers. The baggage I have gathered in the few past years at ACA has given me the confidence to not only speak out when I know my stuff, but admit without diffidence that I have reached the current boundaries of my knowledge and have to explore further to give a satisfying answer.
Where am I now, and where will my journey lead me in the future?
As of today, I lead my own projects, help newer colleagues with their journey in the tools and help our team hire new members (no surprise there 😉). As for my own journey, “doing something right” has been complemented with “doing the right thing” and I feel good about what I can bring to the table, within ACA and for our clients as well. And I really have ACA to thank for that.
So what’s next? Even though I still have a lot to learn as an Atlassian expert, I always look for ways to further expertise myself and broaden my horizon. ACA still supports my thirst for more knowledge and helps me reach the goals I set every day. Just last year, I found the confidence to face off with my old nemesis once again, and started at KdG (college) as a blended bachelor student for Applied Informatics. I’m about to finish my first year (with great success I have to say!) and hope to apply what I learned at ACA soon. For school, we’ve already made our first little project, an e-version of AntiMonopoly. If you’re interested, you can get a sneak peek here. At ACA, I’m already in the process of writing small scripts right now. App development, here I come!
And a little advice to end my blog post with: just remember, when you don’t succeed at your goals at first, don’t give up on them. Find an environment in which you can grow, that mutually benefits you as well as that environment, and be happy. I call it ‘taking the scenic route’. ☀️