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Changing Jobs in a Lockdown: A Question of Will

Rogier Bart de Jonge has been with Beiersdorf for six years. Having held various positions in Amsterdam, he took the plunge in September of last year and moved to Prague, where he now serves as Country Manager for Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. We spoke to this 39-year-old family guy about changing jobs in the midst of a lockdown, the most important lessons he has learned over the past few months, and what characterizes him as a person.

Rogier Bart de Jonge has been Country Manager for Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia at Beiersdorf since September 2020.

Rogier, you have now been with Beiersdorf for six years and 6 months ago you assumed the position of Country Manager for Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. What was it like for you to take on this position in the middle of a lockdown?

It wasn’t the ideal time to change jobs, but let’s just say that where there’s a will, there’s a way! Following my previous jobs in the Dutch management team, initially in Sales and subsequently in Shopper & Customer Marketing, the change of job first and foremost meant a change of geographical scenery for me – in somewhat challenging times.

But all in all, I settled in quickly. The teams in all three countries were very welcoming. I am now fully onboarded and no longer feel like the ‘new guy’.

What were the greatest challenges for you on top of the extraordinary coronavirus situation?

As already mentioned, Covid-19 didn’t make this new beginning any easier. Building up a relationship and establishing trust with a team in the middle of a lockdown is quite challenging. It calls for even greater sensitivity and the ability to see things from other people’s perspective. Then there is the fact that I first had to familiarize myself with three new and different cultures. On the one hand, this was very exciting, but it was also challenging because nothing is ‘normal’ here still. But on balance, I do still see this experience as being a very positive one. The last few months have been especially informative for me in spite of – or indeed because of – all these challenges…

Looking, listening, and strengthening trust – this is Rogier Bart de Jonge’s recipe for success.

In what way? What lessons have you learned?

It sounds simple, but my new role started on the very first day, right from the moment I set foot in the office for the first time. Another important lesson I learned was that what got you here won’t get you there… You can’t assume that you will be able to directly apply your old behavioral patterns. The things you know and the experience you gathered in the past cannot necessarily be applied to new countries. It’s important that you listen in order to find out how things are done in a country and to learn about the local markets. And in this respect, I really did learn a great deal over the past months.

Rogier Bart de Jonge took the plunge and moved from Amsterdam to Prague together with his wife Marleen and their three children Tim, Lauren, and Fe.

The Czech Republic has been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic in recent months. How did you personally cope with this difficult situation? And what was it like for your family, who moved to Prague with you?

It was clear to my wife and three kids right from the start that we would tackle this ‘adventure’ together as a family.

The last few months have been somewhat of a roller-coaster ride for us, but each of us is finding their way and we are delighted to have this exciting, new chapter in our lives. I’m sure we will be able to make up for some of the lost time once we have seen the back of the coronavirus. Prague is a beautiful city and we are loving being here as a family.

His two oldest children, Tim and Lauren, support Rogier Bart de Jonge in his new challenges – and like to visit him at his office from time to time.

What else characterizes you as a person and as a manager?

Sport is my major passion. I am active myself – I try go jogging once or twice a week and have just taken up tennis again. I also like to watch sport on the TV. In this respect, I think I am living in the right country as many of the people here in the Czech Republic are as enthusiastic about sport as I am. And like me, they like to drink a beer afterwards… (laughs)

What else characterizes me? Having three kids, I am a morning person and, like many Dutch people, I also have a sarcastic sense of humor. Many of my colleagues here may still be a little unfamiliar with this, but I am working on making them love it (laughs). Another part of my personality is the fact that I don’t take things too seriously – especially myself.

As a manger I like to keep things pragmatic and simple because I think our business is complicated enough as it is… For me, collaboration is the key to success. And it takes mutual trust to optimize this. In my position as a manager, I therefore always endeavor to establish and nurture this trust in my teams. I am also someone who is always looking ahead, and not so much back, both in my personal life and in business.

Let’s take a look at the countries you are now responsible for. What characterizes business in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia? And what are you looking forward to the most in 2021?

What I am especially delighted about right now as a manager is the huge commitment and passion with which our team is tackling each day in these difficult times. The situation is currently not easy, but I am very confident that 2021 can turn out to be a strong year. I am excited about our innovation pipeline and I firmly believe we have the right approach to successfully roll out the innovations in our markets. Even though there are many similarities in the consumer behavior in our three countries, it is not always ‘one size fits all’. We are continuously shaping and optimizing our plans according to local opportunities and needs. Being flexible and agile is key to being successful in our markets.

Rogier, many thanks for your openness and the interesting insights.

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Diana Lühmann

About the editor: Diana Lühmann

Since autumn 2019, Diana has been responsible for corporate communication related to HR and inspiring people at Beiersdorf. These include the areas of Diversity, Learning & Development, Career, Leadership, and Health. Previously, she was in charge of R&D Communications and explored the exciting world of our research and development.