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‘You’re hired for who you are, so make sure to contribute’ – Anna Klapwijk [Interview]

Article-‘You’re hired for who you are, so make sure to contribute’ – Anna Klapwijk [Interview]

© Fi Global Insights Women in Food Interview with Anna Klapwijk
Anna Klapwijk is strategy and innovation manager at international consultancy Deloitte. We found out more about her career to date and what motivates her in her work.

Anna has a bachelor of science in product design from the University of Northampton and a master in strategic product design from the Delft University of Technology.

She holds a position on Deloitte Impact Foundation’s Advisory Board and previously, she led the Amsterdam team of Female Ventures, a non-profit organisation that aims to empower, connect, and inspire female leadership and entrepreneurship in corporates, SMEs, and startups.

Your career to date spans multiple sectors, from blockchain technology to sustainable innovation in the food industry. Could you share with us some of the highlights of your journey? How did you get to where you are today?

“I always go after impactful projects, that’s the base of it. When I started at Deloitte, blockchain technology was relatively new to the business environment. Already then, I focused on tech for good, and more specifically how decentralised tech could transform agrifood chains. One of my highlights was working with the World Food Programme to see if we could increase the speed of food delivery in the East-African corridor. Over time, I moved more into the ‘future of food’ space and broadened my scope on strategy and innovation, as blockchain is just one of the tools that could be used, rather than always having blockchain as an answer.”

Thinking about your experiences in the food sector, which achievements are you most proud of and why?

“My experience ranges from building blockchain-based platforms to strategy renewal. What I like from my role is that [when] working with large organisations, the changes you facilitate create impact at scale. But if I look back at all projects I’ve done, I most enjoyed the ones related to social problems. They often have a strong purpose and there are a lot of ways to make impact. Helping an organisation to redefine their direction and plan how to execute their strategy gives a lot of energy!”

Tech has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, with an average global ratio of three men for every one woman, according to Deloitte. What are your experiences of being a female leader in the foodtech sector? Have you faced any challenges, and if so, how did you overcome them and achieve success?

“The tech space is still male dominated. When I started, I felt much more isolated than I do now. Over the past year, there is a lot more awareness, more discussion, and more support for women industry wide. Women find each other better and are better supported by male colleagues than before.

“Within our own Future of Food community at Deloitte, a lot of the women have sub-groups where we connect and work together, and there is a Deloitte-wide Women’s Network. At the same time there is a lot discussion within [the] organisation on how to better support women.

“While it is getting better, there is still a shortage on the leadership level, I still find myself in boardrooms with sometime all-male leaders. I often joke about it and make it explicit so that they also become aware of the lack of diversity. It is part of a much bigger societal debate, but my two cents in terms of what is needed is: more role models, male allies, and community and peer groups to help each other forward. Men do this much better [with] ‘the old boys club’.”

As a leader of the Amsterdam Female Ventures team and board advisor of the Deloitte Impact Foundation, you have broad experience as a mentor and leader. How has this shaped your own leadership style and what advice would you give to aspiring female leaders?

“Open, flexible, human-centered, outspoken, and approachable. That’s my style, I would say. As a leader I find it incredibly important to be open to others, but also to ideas. I don’t always have the right answer and it is crucial that people feel secure and confident to share their ideas. We often work on complex problems so we have to do it together.

“Yet, I learned from some of the leaders I look up to that it is ok to be critical – in a human way – from a perspective of making it better together. So, I try to find that balance. Tough on the contact, kind on the person.

“My advice would be to always stay true to yourself and, if you disagree, even as the most junior person in the team, speak up and share your thoughts. You’re hired for who you are, so make sure to contribute.”

Looking forward, what is your vision for the future of the industry, particularly regarding women's leadership, participation, and innovation? How do you plan to contribute to this vision through your work and ongoing initiatives?

“For the future, I see there is a great need for technology development, especially regarding sustainability and transformation of the space. We therefore need to create an environment where women feel comfortable, accepted, and recognised.

“At the same time […] the problems and solutions are becoming more complex and require people with excellent stakeholder management skills and leaders who are inclusive, responsible, and take a long-term perspective.

“I think women are very well positioned to navigate these uncertain and challenging issues. Personally, I will keep pushing the needle on the topic and continue to grow the community of female leaders!”