As a child, he was fascinated by packaging; now, Thijs Megens (31) works as an IT and innovation project manager for DeFabrique. In the past six-and-a-half years, he has spent time in all departments within the company, which means that he can hold his own anywhere. In a hidden attic space above the office, he talks about his traineeship, his passion for innovation, and his promises for the future.
‘Are you familiar with those matzo cracker packages, the ones that open like a fan? I was fascinated by them as a child,’ Thijs says, smiling fondly. ‘In fact, I was intrigued by anyone who was involved in coming up with the most efficient solutions for issues, even simple ones like milk cartons.’
His fascination resulted in him studying industrial design at TU Delft. He also joined the board of his study programme’s student association. ‘With six others, I managed the daily operation of an association with around 35 committees and 4,000 members for a year. You really get thrown off the deep end with just one instruction; just fix it. I organised a wide range of events during that year, from small parties and galas to student festivals. I realised that I enjoyed organising events more than I did designing products. It allowed me to use my problem-solving skills faster and more often.’ In spite of all this experience, Megens also took a master’s course in Organisational Behaviour, to learn all about the internal organisation of companies.
‘I then started applying for jobs in the events secto, with no other experience.’
At DeFabrique, they were looking for someone who had no prior experience in the world of events at the time. ‘I was able to start as a trainee straight away and passed through all of the departments, from planning and sales to right there on the floor. Throughout those early years, I was the go-to person for anyone with a technical query; I like solving issues. On top of that, I keep up to date on current trends through magazines and blogs and have a clear vision about DeFabrique’s continued development. The position of IT and innovation project manager was created to suit that skill set.’
Thijs is involved with new activities for the Kartfabrique, such as Prison Island, but also deals with technical matters such as the new online booking system. ‘He’s really good at explaining things clearly,’ says co-worker Nicolien Nusselder. ‘And if words don’t quite cut it, he’ll just grab a marker and start drawing.
Megens wants to bridge the gap between marketing and IT. ‘Good collaboration between those two sectors is crucial for success. Big Data has been hot for several years now, but things are really reaching a point now at which we need to really start utilising that data properly. On top of that, we are focusing a lot on beacons and live streaming this year.’ The plans for 2018 have already been created as well. ‘DeFabrique wants to be a breeding ground for creative people and will thus be offering facilities for business meetings, flexible working, and for people to just meet up. People will want to come because of our great service and the inspiring location.’ To realise this new meeting space, one of the warehouses is going to be renovated. ‘It’s quite a big project, sure, but I’m getting enthusiastic just talking about it!’
No matter what problem or project he is faced with, Thijs is always looking ahead. ‘You can never do it all, because trying too many new things can damage your brand. If you do decide to do something, you have to do it well. For each individual project, I try to look ahead as far as I can and figure out which roadblocks we might encounter. The word ‘pilot’ is very popular around here,’ he laughs.
’We do so many pilots that we’ve just stopped counting them. They allow us to quickly determine whether something is right for our venue or not.’
Right there on the spot, Thijs thinks of a tip for other project managers: ‘Involve your co-workers in new projects early on, instead of waiting until the final product is almost ready to be launched. It is important for people to feel involved, and on top of that, your co-workers can be a source of valuable feedback. Their fresh look often enables them to see things that you have been overlooking for a while.’
According to Megens, working at DeFabrique never gets boring. ‘Things change so rapidly; we might be organising a corporate event in one of the warehouses right now, but by tonight, things will look completely different.’ He is also inspired by his motivated co-workers. ‘We make brief presentations in front of one another in which we share trends, try out new products, or introduce new tools. Marketing manager Eugene Lubbers is often the one to introduce the latest gadgets; thanks to him, we now all use Wunderlist for our to-do lists.’
Clients with an innovative drive are the icing on the cake, says Thijs. ‘For example, Accenture has both the vision and the budget to try new things and try them on a grand scale right away. Last year, they invested a lot of time in beautiful 3D projections for during their plenary session and organised interesting pitch sessions during which guests could vote live.’ DeFabrique tries to facilitate the innovative ideas of its clients as much as possible.’
’We aim to be a frontrunner and try to be unique, investing primarily in technology and sustainability. A great example is the app we developed to support the extensive possibilities of our new beacons.’
Although Megens primarily looks ahead while he’s at work, he also likes to review the past every once in a while. ‘I’ve learned so much over the past couple of years: primarily how to get things done, and to be honest. There’s no point in trying to hide the fact that something has not worked out or isn’t going to work out: the truth will out. My self-confidence has been boosted immensely by the many opportunities I have been given here at DeFabrique.’
’Thijs knows something about everything and will always try his very best to solve something for you.’ – Account Manager Carmen Meems
‘Thijs is always willing to help people. If I have a question about our booking system at 11 pm on a Saturday night, Thijs is there to guide me through it.’ – Event Manager Martin Bogaerds
’The ‘Smederij‘, because it is full of possibilities and is an as of yet unexplored space.’