Part seven: Carsten van Raalten – Delivery Manager
Carsten (42) lives in Ens, a small town with just over 3,000 inhabitants in the polder and province of Flevoland, in the central Netherlands. He is married and has two kids: a daughter of 13 and a son of 11 years old. He started his career as a system administrator. During his education, his passion for software development started to grow. His passion, as he describes it, is “to make things more beautiful than our clients expect.”
Carsten: “The great thing about software is that end-users often do not fully know what is possible; by developing software, you can quickly open a whole new world for your customers.”
Profile Carsten van Raalten:
System Administrator / Software Developer, Information Technology @ Deltion College Zwolle
Previous working experience:
Solcon Group: Developer, Manager, Architect
What do you do on a daily basis at Vanenburg?
“In my day-to-day responsibility as a Delivery Manager, I am usually the linking pin between the end customer (managing director or shop floor) and our Vanenburg development teams. This requires good communication and project management, which are part of my natural skill set. In my role, I mainly take care of 3 activities:
1) Solution Architect: in various projects, I take part as a pre-consultant to analyze the needs of the client and come up with a functional solution proposal. At the beginning of a project, this design is high level and functions as a good foundation to guide the client in defining the right direction and approach. During the project, I design and refine the requirements, and together with the team, I translate them to work packages. In SCRUM methodology we call this the ‘product owner’ role.
2) Project Leader: as Vanenburg usually executes complex projects, the project guidance usually requires in-depth knowledge and skills. Because I design projects and have coaching skills, I usually guide both the project, the client, as well as the development team. As our organization is both based in the Netherlands as well as India, our project development teams most of the time consist of multiple nationalities, based on the skill set of our developers, and depending on the needs of the customer.
3) Team Manager: I enjoy guiding the team to help our ‘modernizers’ as we call them, to chase their career dreams and pave their road to personal development. I like to see myself as a coach and guide instead of a manager. Vanenburg is putting itself in the spot as the enterprise IT modernization expert and this requires a dedicated and experienced team. To get there, you need training and guidance.”
You have been working at Vanenburg for 3.5 years now. Can you tell us about your previous experience?
“My IT interest started as a teenager when I met the founder and director of Solcon, which is an internet provider, with more than 70.000 internet connections. When I met him (in 1995), I was about 15 years old when he showed me his – today old-fashioned – 15k.4 modems that were THE connection to the (back then) ‘mysterious internet.’
From that moment I wanted to know how the internet works, how computers work, and how they can communicate. It won’t be a surprise that Solcon was my first employer and I have been joining the ‘Solcon group’ ever since, before switching to Vanenburg in 2019.
As a rookie, I started as a developer and have been growing over the years to manager and architect. During my time for one of Solcon’s sister companies called Qaleido International, I made a switch to set up a managed hosting industry. This was becoming so successful that I had to focus on this division full-time.
After 2 years of working with virtualization and networking and barely touching software development, I figured I wanted to continue in software development. That’s where Vanenburg came into play. The challenge of knowing a lot about software development and telecom, while there is a world of information to learn in the landscape of ERP and enterprise IT, really got me interested. After some conversations and getting to know the company atmosphere, I was convinced. This would be – and still is – my next step.
At Vanenburg, you keep learning because every project and every client is unique. If a customer knocks on the doors of Vanenburg, they already know that standard software solutions do not fulfill all the needs of their company. You need something better, probably more complex. It is exactly that sweet spot I love the most: challenge!”
“The thing that gets me going is to develop a piece of software that is capable of things no one expected. And doing that together with a group of people as happy as I am: cheers to that!”
What makes you so passionate about software development?
“Software development and processes can be very complex to a lot of people. My drive is to always try to make this look very simple. It gets me very excited to bring a complex challenge into a single digital drawing. Today’s accepted ‘agile’ approach makes this possible. You don’t have to explain every detail on day one. You need to find the right direction, convince everyone this is the best way to Rome and then start travelling. Speaking about Rome, ‘making the trip look like a vacation’, is what I find to be the cherry on top of the pie.
I am a people person, so I tend to make people happy and feel comfortable while collaborating. I believe that, if people feel happy in a project or team, the result will be better. Especially the creative process. This is a key element in complex surroundings.
The thing that gets me going is to develop a piece of software that is capable of things no one expected. And doing that together with a group of people as happy as I am: cheers to that!”
Can you share how the delivery team within Vanenburg is organized?
“As we support multiple technologies, our teams consist of developers with various backgrounds and interests. We have hardcore Java developers, low-code developers that are specialized in Thinkwise, as well as Salesforce experts. And we have graphical and functional designers, like myself, and another project manager.
Just depending on the project demand and size, we closely collaborate with our teams in India. Sometimes during an entire project, sometimes just for a certain module, like Google Cloud’s machine learning tooling for example. And some projects require just the expertise that we can offer from within our Dutch development team.
As we are involved in very different projects, each project team has its unique way of working. Customer projects usually take 6+ months to implement, so you work in the same team for quite some time. Next to client projects, we also develop our own solutions like our rapid application development tool Rappit, or our micro apps platform Flowcreate. In these products, we bring our knowledge and experience together to support an even faster time-to-market solution for various business processes.
As we are growing and seem to be a wanted employer, we hired 3 new developers in our NL team recently.”
Can you share your involvement in any customer projects in the recent past?
“In the recent past, I got the opportunity to work on a project at a major blood bank in the Netherlands. It is their mission to preserve and store people’s blood to save the lives of others.
Imagine this company with thousands of employees. Imagine there is no solid track record of when and who has cleaned and maintained devices handling blood. Imagine most of it was handled by paperwork. We got the opportunity to build a work order and work permit solution, all in a single portal, with a mobile app, running on top of SAP technology. This relieves the workload, gives a clear and simple process, and gets them ready for future compliance regulations.
Another project that I’m honored to be part of, was at our customer Bax Metaal Holding, which is a company that not only supplies metal but also delivers custom-built products for clients in need of metal deburring and finishing solutions. We automated the order intake up until management approval. Speed in communication and order acceptance is key to getting the employees on the shop floor to execute the orders as soon as possible. Our system can detect the client and based on rules per client extract the necessary information from emails and attachments to create a quote or order. After approval, it is automatically sent to their existing manufacturing ERP solution, called MKG 5, for execution.”
Any exciting customer projects that you are working on at the moment?
“Today I am fully occupied with a project for our customer Omoda, along with my team members. Omoda is a fashion retailer and sells thousands of shoes, clothes, and accessories each day, using their webshop and via almost 30 shops across the Netherlands. Omoda is growing at a high speed and aims to double its turnover in the next few years. Their systems require modernization in order to keep up with the numbers, latest standards, and delivery speeds. We are guiding the client in a project to be future-proof for the years and growth to come. This actually is the sweet spot for Vanenburg; enabling growth by modernizing legacy IT. I have the opportunity to both design and guide this project.”
One of the things I love about working for Vanenburg is that it is a family company, with not a massive team but a great group of around 25 people in the Netherlands, which gives the possibility to connect with all colleagues in the NL team.”
Life at Vanenburg – apart from the customer-related work, can you share any highlights that are part of your working experience at Vanenburg?
“For starters, being an outdoor person, I cannot talk about working at Vanenburg without talking about the beautiful surroundings of the office space. As we are located on a 17th-century estate, with lots of walking paths through the tree and flower gardens, this is an inspiring environment for taking a stroll or having a one-on-one meeting with a colleague.
Next to that, Vanenburg is an excellent learning environment, as we are working with high-end technologies, both from our product development teams as well as our partners Google Cloud, Thinkwise, and Salesforce. I enjoy learning about these technologies, by following courses and applying for certifications. We encourage this, by facilitating learning time for our team members.
One of my favourite moments during the week is what I call a ‘fruity moment’; on a regular basis, I spontaneously arrange this, which is basically a 3 PM short break, enjoying a healthy snack, if weather permits outdoors, with the simple rule: hands off the keyboard, feet off the floor. Just for inspiration and teambuilding.
Speaking of team-building; we recently had our team outing. One of the things I love about working for Vanenburg is that it is a family company, with not a massive team but a great group of +/- 25 people in the Netherlands, which gives the possibility to connect with all colleagues in the NL team.”
How about ‘life outside Vanenburg’? What keeps you going in your private life?
“Being occupied with software development during workdays, I love to do something completely different outside work: off-screen, constructing with my hands. However, it has some similarities, for instance ‘solving complex challenges’: I love being outside and working on construction projects around and inside the house. My motto is ‘I’ve never done this before, so I’m pretty confident I can do it’. For instance, I have reinstalled the entire central heating system in our house. The house itself is a couple of decades old, and there are a few areas of the house that haven’t been touched and renovated by me.
I own a professional wheel loader that can carry more than 2.000kg, which helps me in constructing things outside the house, like a sitting pit in our garden that I recently created. I also love to take care of our vegetable garden.
Something else that keeps me busy outside work is all kinds of community activities. I usually step up when something in the neighbourhood needs to be organized, and I am the coach of my son’s football team.”
“Professionally, I love to spend time on getting my Professional Cloud Architect and Master Auto ML certifications from Google Cloud. Especially Vertex AI – Google’s environment for data scientists to complete all of their ML work – really makes Google a unique cloud provider, which is why Vanenburg is partnering with Google when it comes to cloud infrastructure provisioning and machine learning capabilities.
On a personal note, I am currently working on transforming an oldtimer camper (from 1979) into a mobile home that is suitable for our family vacations. Lots of work needs to be done; all interior has been torn out, and now I’m working on repairing the roof, building a new kitchen and toilet, etc. Who knows, next summer it might be ready for our holiday!”