Service Designer Dravis Haman started as a Discover Trainee at VodafoneZiggo three years ago. We asked him how he looks back on the start of his career:
Dravis was completing an MSc in Communication Engineering at the University of Manchester, so it would have made perfect sense to apply at Vodafone Group in the UK. But life had other plans. Dravis: “I guess I have my mother in law to thank for that. You see, I had a Dutch girlfriend – we have since married – and her mother called to say there was something going on with Vodafone in The Netherlands. That turned out to be the merger with Ziggo...”
“Once I found out the merger was going to be based on a 50/50 ownership, that really caught my attention. Especially because, to my knowledge, this had rarely been done in the telecoms industry. A merger where the separate entities keep their own brand? I was curious about how that would work out in practice, and how it would all synergize internally. So, the combination – Dutch girlfriend plus merger – were my main incentives to apply for the traineeship in the Netherlands.”
When you joined, did you have a clear picture of what it would be like or did you take a go-with-the-flow approach?
“In all fairness, everything was new to me. I had little idea what to expect. Just to give you a bit of background; I am from Mauritius, a small island east of Madagascar, and I have moved around quite a bit, ever since I was a kid. I’ve lived in Mauritius, in Zambia, the UK, and now the Netherlands. I had no idea how things were done in the Netherlands, and whether the business culture had anything in common with the UK. What I found, is that the ‘Dutch way’ is less hierarchical than I was used to. At least at VodafoneZiggo. Everyone is easily approachable. For example, if a project necessitates bi-weekly get-togethers with a director, that’s what happens. And I don’t have to go through my manager to arrange it, either.”
Like all trainees, you worked on three projects. The first zoomed in on the question of how to switch off the 3G network without negatively impacting customers. But the second project was directly related to the merger you were so interested in. Was that a coincidence, or…?
“Yes. That was a coincidence, actually. But a happy one. I was asked to unify Vodafone’s and Ziggo’s go-to-market processes. As you can imagine, a project like that has many political dimensions. Both companies had very different ways of operating and managing situations. The reason they brought in a trainee, was to get a fresh perspective. Someone who didn’t have a history with either of the brands, who could take an unbiased, outside-in approach. It was very difficult to get started. Not only because I found myself in a domain I was unfamiliar with, but also because I had only four months to resolve the competing mindsets. With stakeholders from both ‘sides’ convinced that their go-to-market approach was the best. Rather than bringing everyone into the same room, I decided to zoom out a little. So I started by identifying pain points in the ‘competing’ approaches. Then I created a unified go-to-market strategy that I expected would benefit both parties. It wasn’t just a ‘best of both worlds’ approach either, because I cut out parts that proved ineffective and made changes based on what I thought was right for the company. Only then did I organize a session with all my stakeholders. To emphasize that the approach was entirely new, the processes’ origins – Vodafone or Ziggo – were never mentioned. We followed new naming conventions straight away. That helped to get everyone on the same page.”
And the result?
“It turned out great fortunately! The approach is now the company-wide standard, and I’m proud of that. A go-to-market approach is an important driver of product success and it is great to see that VodafoneZiggo has the guts to let a trainee take on a project like this. The label ‘trainee’ usually implies that you operate in someone’s shadow. But at VodafoneZiggo that’s not the case. You really have the chance to provide long-term value to the company. In any way you see fit.”