Stretch your limits: Thierry

10 October 2019 ... min read Listen

Enterprise architect Thierry Parmentier was challenged to the max at one of Belgium's biggest and muddiest extreme running events. This is his story, in his own words.

When things get difficult, just keep going.

Enterprise architects think about the future of ING. We consider which new technologies will bring value to the business in, say, three years from now and then try to convince the company on the way to go. It’s not always easy... But life is not supposed to be easy, there should always be a challenge.

Talking about challenges – a few years ago a friend told me about this event he was organising, the Trolls X’trem Run. It’s a 16-kilometre race with 40 obstacles: jumps into water, crawling through mud, it’s really crazy. He bet I wouldn’t make it to the finish. Of course, I did. And again the next year.

Three years ago, he called again with a new challenge. The event was getting bigger and he needed help on the IT side – setting up the website, registering runners, social media, IT security, live streaming on the web, setting up a network at the track, everything. I agreed, and together, we took up the challenge.

Preparations took a full year. We built the entire IT system, including a control room connected to cameras along the track to feed a live stream on our Facebook and Twitter channels. We fully automated the control room so it could run by itself on the day itself.


We had it all planned. But as always, surprises happen. The first one was that the emcee couldn’t make it. So they asked me. Suddenly I was running around with a microphone, interviewing people, hearing my voice over the speakers in front of a crowd of 8,000 people. Scary? No, actually it was great fun!

Emcee Thierry

Emcee Thierry

More worryingly, we lost power several times to part of the installation – the live stream on social and the giant screen onsite. To restart the system, there was a very strict sequence for the eight servers we had running in the control room. That was a stressful moment, I can tell you. But we just kept breathing, took it one step at a time, and managed to get the systems up again.

You might wonder what all this has to do with my work at ING. Well, I don’t make a distinction between work and the rest of my life. I’m Thierry, I’m always the same person.

Actually, the run has taught me many lessons. The first one is don’t give up too quickly. Even when things get difficult, just keep going, after a while it becomes more easy. I learnt that from running through the mud, especially when I had to jump seven meters down into the water. Going beyond myself…

At this year's event, I learned a lot about collaboration. Without my friend’s help, I couldn’t have done all this. We often disagree and can have heated debates. If that happens, we just stop discussing, pick a solution and get back to work. Collaboration is the art of letting go. Sometimes someone else’s idea works just fine too, you have to accept that. And that’s a skill I need in my work at ING as well!

Stretch your limits

At ING, we like to challenge ourselves to continually develop and become the best we can be. In this series, employees talk about the interesting activities they take on outside their ‘regular’ job, and how these also help them grow in their role at ING.

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