Well, when I’m talking to you, I’m Rene. In a way, it is the same when I’m talking to my friends. . I’m an open guy. When people get to know me a little better, I always talk about what I’m doing, my plans, and my hobbies. But of course, I’m also interested in what other people think, like, and want to achieve. That’s one of the best ways to create a connection with someone. I’m most of the time positive and really enjoy when I have the opportunity to talk to people. Then, I try my best to influence people around me into a more positive attitude whenever possible.
I see myself as a very open-minded person and a conceptual thinker. And I am always curious about new things and creating new ideas. So, I have several hobbies. I am interested in whiskey, for example. I also have a race bike, which I love to take for a spin. My other hobby is flying with drones – I make fantastic videos with them. I even manage a website called uniekplekje.com and an Instagram account where I post my productions. I am a very social guy, so I do like to be with friends. Oh, and I enjoy deejaying as well – I have all the equipment for that, and I create my own mix recordings on Soundcloud. I don’t do all of that at the same time, of course. It depends on which mood I am in. I think it’s important to do other activities besides your work to think about different things and energize your ideas.
I come from the north of the Netherlands, and I speak fluent Frisian. I can instantly recognize when someone is speaking Frisian, so then I switch to it as well – they are always surprised, so that’s very cool.
I studied economics and marketing at Groningen. At that time, I also played water polo at a student team. I did that for several years, also after my graduation. After Groningen, I moved to Amsterdam, where I worked for an American company called Verizon. There, I had a commercial role. After my experience at Verizon, I started working at UPC, which eventually changed in VodafoneZiggo. In that period, my role evolved from a commercial into an external affairs one.
External relations manager is a strategic role within a complex market and a lot of public and private stakeholders with several interests. My goal is to bring these organizations together to have a societal impact with innovative technologies and applications. Our team is composed of Regulatory Public Policy and Public Affairs. My focus is on the private sector, municipalities, and other local governments. I make the bridge between what’s happening in the market and VodafoneZiggo.
One of my hobbies is to communicate with people, which is also what I do for a living. That’s the essential aspect of our work: we’re talking with people, not with smart technology or innovative devices. So, it is crucial to think and analyze the scenarios carefully: what people and organizations genuinely want to do. And that is a fantastic job to do because I can talk with people and validate ideas the whole day.
VodafoneZiggo was the first in the market to have 5G in the Netherlands in April 2020. There were (and there still are) many questions about 5G. So, I am often the first person the municipality is contacting about several topics. Another part of my job is that I position VodafoneZiggo in the market. That’s the reason why we started the 5G Hub in Eindhoven together with our partners in crime High Tech Campus, Ericsson, and Brainport Development.
My involvement has to do with the positioning of VodafoneZiggo in the market. Our discussions with Eindhoven municipality about 5G-technology had started about three or four years ago. They were often concerning research or how 5G could be beneficial for the region. Ericsson had also begun their conversations with the local government. They asked us to think together about the position towards Eindhoven’s municipality, specifically concerning 5G. That is where I came in.
My first question for them was: “what do you want to achieve with 5G? What could be the benefit?” After a few discussions, we changed the focus towards the city and region’s main priorities. We searched for these specific themes we work with today: health, business, entertainment, sustainability, and last but not least, talent. In January 2020, we transformed it into a cooperation with the four founding partners because we can’t do it by ourselves. To create the future today, we need the ecosystem; we need to do it together. That’s very important. And the 5G Hub is the beating heart of the community. Because that’s what the ‘Hub’ stands for: community or ecosystem, and not only a specific place for testing with technologies. That is just a tool.
Well, I have been involved since the very beginning, so I know exactly which way we are going with the project. I have a more strategic role in it. Therefore, I’m part of the program board together with the other representatives from the founding fathers.
We have a specific strategic plan for the coming three years. We started in 2020 and, since the opening of the 5G Hub, we intended to create market awareness, which was crucial. This year we are in the growth phase. So, we need to search for the great and the most appealing examples in the use of 5G in the Netherlands related to the themes: health, business, sustainability, and entertainment. And then, in the third year, in 2022, we want to position ourselves as a reference in the market, together with the ecosystem. The 5G Hub is a philosophy, an idea. And it’s not about the technology, which, again, is just a tool: it’s all about the ecosystem.
As I see it, it’s not a challenge but something that happens when you bring people together. And sometimes, for a company like VodafoneZiggo, it’s tough to understand that. So, I don’t believe in challenges in the direct way: I see things happening naturally. Everyone brings some input, and then things turn out to follow a more organic path. These ideas are the best. So that’s why I don’t believe in challenges – that is not the right word. Something is always happening, either in a way you like it or in a way you do not. And if not, then it’s not a good idea.
If you ask me if I believe the corona crisis, for example, has had an impact on our project, I will say that it depends on what you make of it. From my perspective, you must think positively. The corona crisis demanded from us to reshape our strategy with the 5G Hub. We did that, and we keep working, as hard and as smart as ever. We always do. That’s the basis for a promising future.
Yeah, I’m proud of it, indeed. Our organization also carries the 5G Hub philosophy, which’s really important because VodafoneZiggo is unlike many other companies. In general, companies are leaning more toward product push or a technology push. We need to think more about what is happening in the market – which assignments or priorities an organization has, and how we can help them grow and shape the future. This task will not be completed by merely saying, “we have a brilliant project.” That’s not the point. We must say: “we need to solve it together.” We have to listen to the organizations; we have to listen to our customers in order to be more efficient in solving their issues.
We are in a changing market, and 5G technology is remarkably complex. So, we need to work differently. That’s a tremendous accomplishment and a real transformation within our organization. Together with the 5G Hub, we at VodafoneZiggo are striving to get closer to the goal of creating an environment of co-creation.
I am also very proud of our Computable Awards, of course. I am sure several more will come. And I want to ask all the people from our organization to think of ways to win new awards this year. But in the end, it is all about realizing our goal to position ourselves in 2022 as a reference in the market.
It’s inspiring because every organization involved in it has a different story, which is very interesting. We are working together with Brainport, Ericsson, and the High Tech Campus, and they all have very particular and spirited stories. Also, the story of the people who built these companies is very relevant. All those stories come together in the 5G Hub. And that narrative is built on an ecosystem of other organizations, which make their path a success. That success is still going on, and we are part of that. That’s also one of the reasons why the 5G Hub is located in the High Tech Campus. I’m not talking about the latest and most remarkable technologies in the 5G Hub: as I said, they’re just tools. But the people within the 5G Hub and all the other organizations working with us make it an exceptionally inspiring project.
It is the year of creating more appealing examples for the Netherlands. So, we are developing a 5G Hub Innovation Challenge, which is going to involve the community. It is about the themes of health, industry, sustainability, and entertainment.
We constantly establish new partnerships either in the way of ecosystem or in projects. One of those inspiring companies is Dimenco, which explores Simulated Reality and 3D objects. It is fantastic. You can turn and move objects in any way you like without goggles. You can imagine that this brings a lot of opportunities for society. In this context, we work on an amazing use case with an academic hospital. There are many more companies of this kind that we aim to work with to shape the future. And the future is now, basically because we make huge progress with all those companies within this inspiring region.
Yeah. With digitalization and new, innovative applications, together with all those inspiring companies. We must work together to create many more valuable projects for society, like the Connected Ambulance, to save lives. That’s my biggest dream.