Ellen Vehoff is a product owner who, with her team, works on developing new features for our AEOS access control software. More recently, she’s also taken on the role of coach to help colleagues map out their future in a post-coronavirus climate.
We had a really interesting conversation with her covering everything from working from home to long-term vision setting and Delft silverware.
Security for life is the ethos our brand is built on – what does it mean for you?
Actually, working from home because of the coronavirus lockdown has really highlighted to me what this philosophy means in practice. We moved to a new house and hired painters to redecorate it. So, while I’m working upstairs, I can hear people coming in and out downstairs. There are the sounds of materials being moved and other noises I can’t identify. My brain is constantly scanning the environment; are these sounds to be expected? Are the noises from the nice workmen we hired? Or do I need to check downstairs?
This makes me think back to working at the office in pre-coronavirus times. I went to the office, got access to the building and worked at my desk. All without having to worry about anyone else in the building – even though I didn’t recognise all of them. Other employees had their ID badges, guests were being verified by our receptionists and workmen had been granted access rights.
So, for me, especially in these days of COVID-19, security for life means being able to have 100% focus on my job without worrying about my personal security.
What are the biggest challenges in your work?
The greatest challenge for me at the moment is actually a great opportunity. As well as my position as product owner, I’ve recently become a coach for my indirect colleagues. It’s a role I love very much as it’s in my nature to prioritise asking questions above providing answers. I like to search for multiple angles and support people to keep looking for new perspectives.
I just love it when someone I’m coaching comes back to me with ‘Ah! I didn’t look at it that way before!’. It’s a real joy to see people discovering or rediscovering their strengths, qualities and possibilities.
What else are you responsible for at Nedap?
I work on our access control software, AEOS, with a team of frontend and backend developers, an architect and a tester. As a product owner, I basically decide what features we are going to create and in what order. Together we work out the technical how and then test and demonstrate the implementation to make sure it works like we want it to.
Alongside this intensive daily work with R&D, I’m also a member of the product management team. As a team consisting of other product owners, and business and product strategists, we zoom out and look at the mid and long-term vision for AEOS.
We discuss and brainstorm a lot. Everyone brings valuable insights as we’re all in contact with different stakeholders bringing different information, questions and wishes to the table. Together, we define our vision and product roadmap. Which enables each of us to go back to our daily teams and explain the actions needed to take to make it happen.
Why is this focus on the long-term so important?
Today’s opportunities are only of value when they support our future roadmap or vision or shed new light on long-term goals worth investigating. For me, being a product owner means, amongst other things, being in contact with both our long-term vision and the daily processes. Collecting and providing information to the teams and being a link in the chain to make sure we’re all heading in the same direction.
With the COVID-19 measurements in place to make sure we stay all healthy, this also frees up time for people to think about their own long-term future. We’re not having to travel to the office or visit customers as meetings go digital, for example, and that saves a lot of time.
More and more colleagues are wanting to use this time wisely to work on their personal development. Working with a coach is one of the ways Nedap enables you to invest in this so you can shape your future to make a real impact. It’s also given me chance to invest in my development too; finding time for both roles and gaining more and more experience as a coach helps me to grow.
When you’re not coaching Nedap colleagues or working on AEOS, what do you enjoy doing?
My interests cover a wide range of topics and I love to dive in deep, which is a dilemma as you can’t be an expert in every topic in just one lifetime. So, while I’m still searching for ways to free up hours by not sleeping, I’m actually enjoying this conflicting state. It means that every project, conversation or challenge has something interesting for me just waiting to be discovered and explored.
One of the things I really enjoy doing is going to art exhibitions and I’m lucky to have a life partner who enjoys this too. So we often go to museums, art dealers and art fairs like the TEFAF.
Recently, we went to an exhibition on Delft silversmiths in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The curator was asked in an interview ‘How do you recognize Delft silver pieces?’. In his answer, he refers to the way it feels – for example a Delft beaker compared to those from cities like Leiden or Haarlem. To get to know an arts and craft subject not just by studying books and archives, but by actually holding objects in your hands is something I can relate to and is a real privilege.
So, at such an exhibition, I’m not only enjoying the beautiful pieces, superb craftsmanship and sucking up all the information – I’m also dreaming a bit about the special experience the curator just went through. Happy days!