At Pauwels Consulting we have a lot of driven consultants and sometimes, unfortunately, we have to say goodbye to a colleague. André Thys will enjoy his well-deserved retirement after a career of almost 40 years. An ideal reason for André to tell us about his fascinating career in our series ‘People of Pauwels Consulting’.
Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I am André Thys, married and I have three kids. In my time off, I like to do gardening and walking or biking together with my wife. We, of course, enjoy spontaneous trips and good cuisine as well. I have always enjoyed working and built an excellent career for myself, so now I’m definitely going to enjoy my well-deserved retirement.
How did your career start?
I have an A1 degree in computer science, which is called a bachelor nowadays. I chose computer science because the other options seemed less interesting and it was a very up and coming topic at the time. During classes, we had to learn how to work with punch cards. With the punching machine, you punched holes in these cards. After that, you inserted these cards into a processing computer to transfer information. Computer science was mostly programming and 0’s or 1’s, so I saw it change a whole lot.
My first job was at AVON Cosmetics. After that, I worked at several software companies and then decided to start at a consultancy company. I chose consultancy because of the variety of projects, industries, and clients. A good consultancy firm opens doors for you at interesting clients and helps you grow your knowledge. You tackle different kinds of problems and you get to know various business processes. The bottom line, you learn to do your job better. This way, I quickly climbed up the corporate ladder to become a Project Manager.
How did you come into contact with Pauwels Consulting?
Through the acquisition of PIT Advisors, I started working for Pauwels Consulting. I had already experienced a few acquisitions as an employee, but this transition went smoothly. PIT Advisors organized a dinner for all consultants and Bert Pauwels, where we were introduced to the company and we talked about our future. I immediately had a good feeling about it, and that never changed.
You worked a long time as a Project Manager IT, in what way did the job appeal to you?
I initially ‘stumbled’ into the position of Project Manager IT but it seemed like a great challenge, so I gave it a 100%! You need to obtain a helicopter view of the company by talking to key persons within the organization. From that information, you filter the needs and challenges. After that, you translate the needs into a strategy and later on, a well-defined project. Always keep the focus on where change or improvement is needed the most.
For instance, sometimes I started a project and the company had already decided on what needed to be done. However, from my conversations, I understood that such a project would not solve the underlying problem. At that moment, you need to have a sit-down with all parties involved and find common ground.
What are the challenges you face as a Project Manager?
Sometimes, you realize at the start of a project that neither the company nor the employees are ready for change, or management is not sufficiently committed to the project. When departments are directly opposite each other and reproaches are hurled back and forth. At other times, you realize you’re not truly welcome because an employee wanted your job and now that person is thwarting you… Those are tough moments.
You need to find a way to deal with such conflicts and always enter into dialogue with all parties. I find the human aspect of my job fascinating, you learn how to ‘read’ people and you certainly learn how to be a good listener. It felt very satisfying when I could reconcile all visions.
What are your best memories?
Late eighties, I worked on my best project at Janssen Pharmaceutica. It only lasted 6 to 7 months, but we accomplished so much in a limited amount of time. We wrote new software for order entry, from scratch. An all-in-one package, fully customized with modules for logistics and invoicing. Everything was communicated in real-time, unlike most programs at the time. Our software optimized the flows between departments and made everything more efficient. I’m very proud of that.
My time at Inbev was also a lot of fun, I worked on projects there for about 20 to 25 years, from exploratory to coordination and implementation, I’ve done it all. Now I think about it, I’m actually quite specialized in IT Project Management at breweries, I also worked on projects at Alken Maes and Skol :).
Do you have any good advice for starters or students that aspire a career in project management?
After many years of experience, I still give this piece of advice: “Always look on the bright side, the glass is always half full”. Bring people together and stimulate interaction, the dynamic will lead to new insights and eventually to acceptance. That’s how you create solutions that make everyone happy.
What is your first week of retirement going to look like?
I haven’t planned anything actually, I’m keeping my schedule open so I can go on nature walks with my wife 🙂