What does it mean to make it in the north? This is part of a series of portraits of local people, organisations, and companies working to further internationalise Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe. This time we spoke to Carola Bos, Location Director at the IBM Client Innovation Centre Groningen: a full-service digital and IT hub
By Thomas Ansell
The IBM Client Innovation Centre in Groningen certainly looks like an innovative office. Though perhaps office is the wrong way to describe the interior of the building, with its ‘treehouse’, ultra-cool meeting rooms, and rows of young techies tapping out the next generation of tech-based solutions. The Centre is run as a full-service destination for businesses and institutions that want to find a creative way to achieve their business wishes: whether that is a fully customised database system, a new way to engage with their clients, or a way to make their IT infrastructure more integrated with the cloud.
It is the result of IBM, one of the largest tech companies in the world, thinking locally. “We have been open about 6 years”, says Carola, “we decided that, based on the needs of our clients, these innovation centres that can better support them in close proximity. It solves any time-zone issues, as well as language and data security and privacy. They were a reaction to the needs of IT provision, which have changed recently and now require closer proximity”. What has resulted is an agile, broad-skilled facility where the tech experts are close to their clients.
The office has around 34 nationalities working on a whole range of projects for clients: from private companies to the government. All of these are managed and led from the Centre in Groningen, although you won’t hear any boasting: “sometimes our modest character can stop us from really showing off just how good our region is. Some cities, like Eindhoven, for example, are good at promoting themselves as a ‘tech city’, and there is no reason we can’tbe the same, or better!”, says Carola.
One of the main reasons that Groningen was chosen to host the Client Innovation Centre is the amount of talent in the city. “There was a choice between Groningen and Eindhoven, but in Groningen there is a little less competition for all of the skilled people, whereas Eindhoven already has a large number of companies with links to the graduates. Naturally, this has changed in the 6 years since we opened!”, adds Carola.
Indeed, since opening the Centre, competition for Groningen’s stock of talent has grown too: “in particular we find it tricky to find the right experienced hires here”, says Carola, “but there are still lots of people who are suitable: we have links to the universities and also have a presence at all the career fairs which means we get in contact with recruits quite easily. We are a really varied business, and so we need both technical and non-technical people in our team, and this means we have a need for both practical-thinking and very theoretical recruits, too.”
Being in an office with tens of nationalities, and having met hundreds of talented people from both within and outside the Netherlands, Carola thinks that some ‘meeting in the middle’ is required between businesses and International job-hunters: “in lots of business situations, you don’t need to speak Dutch: so employers should be aware of this. However, if you really want to integrate into a country, you have to be able to speak to everyone. So it would be good if everyone’s expectations about speaking Dutch could meet in the middle.”
The IBM Client Innovation Centre Groningen takes on new recruits quarterly, and also when senior positions become vacant. Check www.makeitinthenorth.nl for these and many more jobs for international people.