Big dreams don’t scare Product Owner Sylvie van Nieuwerburgh
Sylvie works at CSA: Antwerp. It’s like CSI: Miami or CSI: Las Vegas, but without the sunny weather. And instead of crimes, she investigates subscription models and data. Today we talk to Sylvie to gather some evidence on what working at DPG Media is like. Spoiler alert: it’s dangerously good.
Breaking new ground
Sylvie van Nieuwerburgh has been with DPG Media since 2017. Currently, she is the Product Owner of two teams. One team works on subscription systems, and the other team has a scoop: they’re working on DPG Media’s first-ever data mesh. Within the Benelux, DPG Media is most likely one of the largest early adopters. Simply put, a data mesh is the data platform architecture version of microservices in software engineering.
A data mesh doesn’t sound that simple, now does it? Sylvie shakes her head. “Well, the aim is to open up the data gathered in customer services to other internal business users. But we’ve only just started, so I must admit that we are in the process of getting a grip on everything.” It’s a small team of three people – Sylvie included. “It’s very exciting to be part of something new: a new team and a new product.”
Sylvie’s other team maintains all subscription applications within DPG Media. The challenge is to keep them all up and running while also building a system that will replace the older applications – the brand new subscription system is one of the key tech initiatives in 2021. Sylvie feels proud to contribute to that.
A Product Owner in her natural habitat
Sylvie’s teams are part of the Customer Services Area (CSA). Within DPG Media, the area is responsible for providing (subscription) services via preferred service channels. Sylvie joined Customer Services in March 2020. She was already a familiar face, as she had been a Product Owner in the Editorial Area. Editorial was her ‘natural habitat’ because of her history as a journalist. “I instinctively knew what was going on, what was important, and why.”
For her new Product Owner role, Sylvie first took some time to familiarize herself with customer care. It was all new to her, so she put her investigative journalism – and CSI – skills to use: “I spoke to a lot of customer care representatives, from call center agents to managers. At the end of the day, they handle all the challenges with subscriptions on a daily basis; we provide the software that helps them do their work. So their insights are extremely important. We, as a squad, service them, as well as consumers who buy a subscription online. But there’s more to it; just think of distribution, marketing, and sales. They all need our data.”
“We’re a tech company and a media company. I love how driven and ambitious DPG Media is. There are big dreams everywhere”
Her colleagues made sure that Sylvie had a soft landing within the team, even though she started remotely due to Covid-19. “I think remote working is very different. It’s not necessarily bad. Take my newest squad, I have never met them in real life, but we collaborate quite effectively. We all get our work done, but I struggle a bit now and then with the social aspect of it all, or rather: the lack of it. With digital meetups, you easily dive right into the work. No small talk at the coffee machine, no laughs on the work floor, no joint lunches: I do miss it.”
So whenever social animal Sylvie has the chance, she tries to make sure her teams join fun activities – an all-telling smile appears on her face just thinking of previous staff parties. “It’s a big company, but it doesn’t feel like that. People are easy-going, nice, and helpful. I’ve never felt I was just a number here. The organizational structure makes the size easy to handle, and everyone is very approachable. I can speak to my manager whenever I want, and I’m confident that, if I wanted to, I could get a hold of anyone in the higher management too.”
Long-lasting careers and far-reaching dreams
With both teams, all the agile practices are in place: daily standups, refinements, the backlog, you name it. As a Product Owner, Sylvie’s responsibilities are outlining priorities, aligning dependencies with other squads, and stakeholder communication. “I would describe my technical knowledge as ‘functional technical’. I don’t get all the details, and I don’t need to. We have very knowledgeable developers who know what they are doing. Not to say that a technical background wouldn’t come in handy as a Product Owner, but it’s not a must.”
But, what is a must for people to know before applying for a job at DPG Media? Sylvie opens her mouth, but the answer comes from her husband, who had – so far – been silently listening to the Covid-proof online interview. “Your colleagues!” Sylvie laughingly agrees. “Yes, my colleagues are awesome. They are very passionate and always willing to try new things. Some of them have been working for DPG Media for years and years and have a massive amount of experience and knowledge.”
It’s not uncommon for people to stay at DPG Media for quite some time. 46% of the current employees have been with the company for more than ten years. How come? According to Sylvie, size does matter. “I’d say the company size is one of the biggest advantages: it provides endless opportunities to find new challenges within the organization.” But, she’s quick to add, “You have to make it happen – be a bit assertive; nobody will hold your hand and do it for you.”
If you’re interested in working as a Product Owner at DPG Media, Sylvie says you should go for it. “We’re a tech company and a media company. I love how driven and ambitious DPG Media is. There are big dreams everywhere”, she says, almost in awe. “It’s special to be part of it. I mean, not many companies dare to say that they compete with Google and Facebook. And there’s a world of difference between saying something and actually doing it. Working at DPG Media is never boring. So brace yourself!”
Photo credits: iso800