Athena Koekkoek

Exciting transformation

Athena initially wanted to work in the world of art and culture, but she gradually discovered that her true strength lies in providing advice, particularly in the context of people and organisations. Her role as HR Business Partner for IT at ING fits her like a glove.

“A career in HR was never my goal, but I did want to become the very best organisational consultant in the Netherlands.” Somehow or other I kept ending up in HR-related advisory roles – first at Telfort Mobiel in the early days of mobile communication, just as the country’s network was being opened up; a whole new internal organisation had to be established. Then I worked at Cap Gemini as a Business Consultant Human Performance, followed by Deloitte, which I really enjoyed and learned a lot. Even so, I started to get itchy feet… Change management, group dynamics and helping people to acheive success increasingly became the common thread running through my work, and I could really get my teeth into all those things when I subsequently joined Shell.”

“ING had contacted me a couple of times by then. At first I wasn’t interested in becoming ‘just’ an HR Business Partner, but that changed when I realised what an exciting transformation ING was in the midst of and the importance of technology in that process. And once I’d spoken to the person I’d be the HR Business Partner for, my mind was made up.”

Engineers are extremely important to ING

“The business is evolving all the time, which means that we in HR are too. We’ve got big ambitions, and ‘craftsmanship’ is one of them. We want our engineers to be recognised as best in class, both internally and externally. That’s why we’re continuously checking where we currently stand, where we want to be, which skills and competencies that requires and whether we have already got them or if we need to take action. Employees must have the opportunity for continual growth and the chance to become the crème de la crème. Engagement is another key ambition for us. We want to reinforce the social engagement within our organisation, not least because there is a correlation between social engagement and performance. That takes even more effort in an engineering culture because engineers tend to be more focused on their work than on the social aspect. The engineers are extremely important to ING. We want to become the very best digital bank around, so there’s a lot depending on them. And because there’s a general shortage of engineers, our employee value proposition has to be particularly strong. It’s challenges like these that make my role so great. Plus tech itself is interesting – I love being surrounded by engineers.”

Making your own mark

Although ING is a large, worldwide organisation with global standards, we’re not restricted by rigid frameworks. There’s plenty of freedom to make your own mark and shape your own role. There are strategic, tactical and operational aspects to my work, which is a really good mix. The people are professional, open and ambitious, and it’s a flat and goal-driven organisation – a fantastic place to work.”

About Athena

Athena spent a number of years studying for a degree in culture & policy before switching to studying public administration & political science at university. She started her career at Telfort Mobiel. She joined ING as HR Business Partner IT at the beginning of 2018. She has one son and a foster son, aged 13 and 14, and two Labradoodles (“although I actually prefer German Shepherds”). She plays softball in a mixed team, organises all kinds of things for the local baseball club and loves watching all the latest film releases with her sons.

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