Welcome to this Spotlight on Essenters! Today we will have a chat with Toon Wijnands, Lead Enterprise Architect at Essent IT.
HI TOON, CAN YOU TELL THE READERS A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
Hi, I'm Toon and I am a Lead Enterprise Architect at Essent.
In my free time I like to play the piano and used to play volleyball for a long time.
CAN YOU TELL US WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN THE IT AREA?
In my teenage years I was playing around with computers and was debating about a study on mathematics or computer science. The last one is what I decided to do, and I enjoyed every bit of it.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIFIC INFLUENCES OR PEOPLE WHO HAVE SIGNIFICANTLY IMPACTED YOUR CAREER PATH?
The big names don't inspire me as much as my (old) colleagues do. I’ve learned a lot from the people I worked with. I am very thankful for that. Furthermore, on the tech side of things, I learned lots while working at smaller companies. You are responsible for all parts of the systems, therefore you work with everything instead of with just one single technology or task. I think that shaped me to be a good architect.
HOW DID YOU COME TO WORK AT ESSENT?
After 12 years at another company, a couple of factors triggered me.
The work-life balance wasn't good anymore, and the travel time became longer every year.
That's when I decided that I wanted a new challenge, and I happened to came across a job vacancy from Essent.
COULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT ROLE AND YOUR PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES?
I started as an Enterprise Architect, after 4 years I became the Lead Enterprise Architect.
My days are mostly filled with managing and facilitating our DevOps teams and architects to transform our application landscape towards a cloud centric, event-driven landscape and keep delivering business value at the same time.
CAN YOU SHARE SOME CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED IN YOUR ROLE, AND HOW YOU OVERCAME THEM?
One of the challenges that we had as a company was the situation after the war started in Ukraine.
Customers became insecure about their energy bills, and as a result we had lots of extremely high traffic peaks in our landscape. This traffic was ten times our normal level, and the landscape couldn’t handle it properly.
Lots and lots of people worked overtime to fix this, basically by speeding up the implementation patterns we wanted to do anyway. It was great to see how this all worked out within 3 months' time.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING ASPECT OF YOUR JOB SINCE YOU STARTED?
One of the things I liked the most is that Essent is like a family company in a bigger jacket. Everyone is welcome here. We embrace and respect all individuals, regardless of religion, skin color, or sexuality. It is a very safe space.
We like to get things done together, so cooperation between different businesses and IT units supersedes silo thinking.
HOW DO YOU PERCEIVE THE INTERNAL CULTURE OF YOUR TEAM?
The culture of the team is good, we can work very hard and everyone respects the qualities of one another. Besides that, we also laugh a lot, which I think is important. When there is some kind of problem that needs to be solved, everyone is ready to jump on it. There is sometimes the need to work longer hours, but people bring that drive themselves to their work. My job is to occasionally slow them down and make sure we keep a healthy balance.
HOW DO YOU ENVISION THE FUTURE LANDSCAPE OF YOUR INDUSTRY AFFECTING YOUR ROLE OR THE COMPANY?
My role is there to stay, there will always be a need for architecture in large enterprises to keep the complexity manageable. The interesting part are the changes happening in our industry.
The energy transition brings lots of uncertainties to the table. It is difficult to predict how things will look like in 10 years' time. Therefore, we need to architect for that uncertainty. If we don’t know what’s coming, we must be able to integrate new ideas quickly. To be able to do so, is what we are steering towards now.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I think I manage it well. When my laptop is closed, it really is closed.
Because I am part of the leadership group, there are sometimes messages exchanged in the evening or during the weekends, but that comes with the job and is an exception.
The traffic spike we had during the Ukrainian war took a toll on my weekends. But again, that was the exception.
ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE ASPIRING TO WORK IN YOUR FIELD OR IN A ROLE SIMILAR TO YOURS?
My biggest advice for starting architects would be: the job is not only about the content, but also about working together with people. You need to find balance in that. Please be aware of it and nurture your people and communication skills. Starting architects are often not aware of that.
The only relevant architecture is the one that is implemented, not the one on whiteboards or presentations. The teams are implementing it, so make sure they understand the goals of the architecture.
A top skill to be developed is listening. Listen to the engineers and take their insights into account.
We would like to thank Toon for the time he took to speak with us, and the insights he shares.
If you have any lingering questions for him, don’t hesitate to drop a comment down below.
We will ensure you are promptly connected.