An interview with Marit de Vries: Project Manager at Plek
The world behind Plek consist of many roles and processes. Earlier we explained that it is very important for us to keep Plek simple but still incorporate a lot of complex functions. We also described the platform's security and the high standards we set for ourselves in this area. Today we are talking to Project Manager Marit. She explains all about her role, success stories and vision for Plek's future.
Let's get to know Marit a little bit. Who is Marit?
“I was born and raised in Lelystad, my family is originally from Friesland, and I now live in Amsterdam. I'm a cheerful person and someone once described me as a perfectionist workhorse, and I think that's an apt description. It may seem contradictory but it comes down to the fact that I, on the one hand, care about the wellbeing of others and, on the other hand, like to do everything really well. I try to be the glue and the mood maker in the team but at the same time I try to make sure we get things done.
I studied Communication in Zwolle, with a minor in Online Communication. I worked for internet agencies during my studies. I got an internship at one of my clients and was subsequently hired as an E-commerce employee. After that I went to South Africa for a minor in Sustainable Development. I did the online marketing for a resort, in order to raise money for an orphanage. I also taught computer classes at schools there. When I came back to the Netherlands I did a Communication internship at Plek for my thesis, after which I was offered the position of Project Manager.”
Can you tell us more about your role within Plek?
“I'm a Project and Account Manager. I am the connection between our clients and the team. I collect requests, feedback and input from clients and I make sure these are properly conveyed to our development and design team. I attend our internal meetings about the platform and I am very actively involved in them too: I represent the client, after all. This enables us to optimally develop the platform.”
Can you describe a typical day at the office?
“My day usually starts with reading and replying to my email. These emails are mostly about bugs, questions and requests. Then I check the upcoming release in our system and I go through the tickets to keep an eye on the things my clients have asked for. I often call and email clients to provide them with status updates on their requests. I'm also often in meetings: internally about the future of Plek but also several times a week on location with a client. For example for an implementation session or to discuss feedback or new requests. During the day I also talk to developers a lot, about how to tackle and solve issues.”
What are the best and worst moments?
“I like it best when I can quickly solve a problem. And when clients realize you're working really hard for them. That they appreciate what we're doing. I also like to build relationships with my clients: of course it's business first, but I can also be myself around them. Rolling On the Floor Laughing while I'm on the phone with them is no exception!
Our internal discussions about what's best for the platform is always very interesting. Something that's fun and educational at the same time is when developers tell me about the technical aspects of the solutions they build. Oh, and it's always a pleasure when we get a visit from Jelle the cat (currently employed as Mouse Hunter by the cafe underneath our office).
I have to give a short introduction before I tell you about the worst moments. We work with a four-week release cycle: every four weeks we update Plek. During the first phase of the cycle I collect my clients' requests. Then we discuss what we will build for the next release. So it's always a disappointment when a client comes up with a new request just a few days after we have defined what will be in the next release. When this happens, we can unfortunately only start working on that request during the next cycle. We try to anticipate and proactively think about what our clients would like to have, so luckily this hardly ever occurs!”
What is the most satisfying thing about being a Project Manager at Plek?
“It's always satisfying when one of my clients goes live with Plek. When that day goes well, when an organization receives Plek with enthusiasm, and when the usage immediately shows how well it's doing. It's very nice to see how people start using Plek and it's great when positive feedback starts pouring in! An employee of one of our clients, Vlietkinderen, posted a praising message about Plek the day after it went live. When someone is really happy with Plek and takes the effort to show this to colleagues (and to us), that makes me happy too. I pass these kinds of things on to my colleagues too, because everyone loves to hear from users how they experience the platform. By the way, another very satisfying thing about Plek can be to open up a bottle of beer after one of our four-weekly releases...”
What are you most proud of?
“As it happens, I had an evaluation with our client Heembouw today. They went live on April 4th, with an incredibly fun and festive launch and great communications surrounding the event. During this evaluation I found out that they are still very enthusiastic, and the statistics also prove that Plek is doing well at Heembouw. Now let's keep this up!
An ongoing success story is our client BMK (Branchevereniging Maatschappelijke Kinderopvang, an association for daycare centers). Their members use Plek to talk about all that is going on in their line of work. Two of our other clients, Vlietkinderen and Ska Kinderopvang, are members of BMK. So they are part of BMK's Plek too. This way, Plek connects three of our clients. That's a beautiful thing to witness.”
What are your goals for Plek?
“Document editing: if we enable working on a document within Plek (together or alone), it would mean that the version on Plek is always the right and most recent one. I would also like for Plek to become more intelligent. Imagine: your profile says you're in Communications, and someone posts a message with the word 'communication' in it. Then you'll receive a message from Plek about it. That's how the platform will soon be completely personalized to give you exactly what you want!”
And how do you see Plek in 5 years?
“As a habit. I mean, it should be really strange if a company does not have Plek. Today people might ask: "Do you have SharePoint, Slack or Facebook Workplace?". In the future people will only ask: “You do have Plek, right?””
Marit always likes to pass her mother's good advice on to her colleagues.
Did your mom give you any advice that applies to working at Plek?
“At some point there was talk of making me ScrumMaster here at Plek. When I told my mom about this, she said: "When they start giving you fancy titles, you're in trouble!". So I'll stick to what I know and love: being Project Manager at Plek!”