One of her favorite quotes is ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ So it’s no surprise that Scrum Master Petra van Veen is a big culture advocate. Not to say that she’s against strategy – not at all. Petra has a game plan to boost culture. With her vibrant personality, she even manages to make it look easy. Maybe she’ll let us in on her secrets?
Work like magic
Petra van Veen is Scrum Master for the app and website teams of Algemeen Dagblad (AD) and Het Laatste Nieuws (HLN), both news brands. Petra started the role with very little tech knowledge but now feels perfectly at ease in her teams. “As my two teams are very no-nonsense – which I love – they started teaching me everything I needed to know from day one. I got a crash course in tech, you could say.”
“At first, a lot of the conversations during the standups were like abracadabra to me, so I asked many questions, did a lot of desk research, and now I can confidently join the conversation. As a Scrum Master, I don’t need to offer technical advice; the team already has all the technical knowledge. To succeed in my role, having an affinity with tech is more important than hands-on coding experience.”
A world full of opportunities
“I enjoy working at DPG Media because anything is possible. The company is ever-growing, which creates opportunities for everyone willing to grab them.” A perfect environment for a go-getting, energetic person like Petra.
A little startled by how long Petra and DPG Media go back already, she remembers starting as a student at AD in 2009. She joined the editorial team for four years. Next, Petra finished her Communications studies through research on digitizing news brands at DPG Media. After which, she got offered a project management position. From there, she went onto a new role as a People & Culture Consultant while also working on freelance projects.
Add a world trip, a baby, and a Scrum Master certification, and this is where she is at today: Scrum Master for the AD and HLN web and app teams. “Happy to be back!” she smiles. “I enjoy being part of a team – which is something I missed freelancing. I wanted a role that allowed me to work on culture while also being a fully-fledged team member.” So, Scrum Master it is.
Smells like team spirit
Petra: “The Scrum Master role is a perfect fit because it entails processes and people. I like both. I enjoy improving processes to speed things up and increase quality. But, I’m by no means a Scrum-bible-guru; I have a more flexible approach to Scrum. As a team, we take from Scrum what we can use. Otherwise, we fall back on Lean principles.”
Petra’s other objective is boosting team spirit. Team spirit and team culture are topics that she’s passionate about. She tries to keep a close-knit team by supporting, sustaining, and inspiring the team and its culture.
Usually, the teams work in Antwerp and Rotterdam, with a few shared days a week in Rotterdam. Now, because of Covid-19, everyone works remotely. “The regular Scrum moments of contact are, logically, work-related and leave little space for anything else. We lost the office murmurs that sparkle unexpected connections and small talk to build personal relationships upon”. How does Petra deal with that?
“I think it’s important to have both that professional and a personal connection.” Petra organizes fun initiatives such as team lunches or at-home festivities to celebrate their deliverables. “But also, facilitating an open feedback culture and encouraging knowledge sharing and learning. Concepts everyone talks about, but we, we walk the talk. I believe people get their short-term work satisfaction from reaching goals, but when you look back on your career, you remember how it felt working at a company. That’s what company culture is all about.”
“I can genuinely say that DPG Media offers a great working environment. I like that it is a very goal-oriented organization. The goal is clear, but how you get there is up to you.
“Real trust, real responsibility, real pride”
“I can genuinely say that DPG Media offers a great working environment. I like that it is a very goal-oriented organization. The goal is clear, but how you get there is up to you. You can make decisions and find solutions; nobody is breathing down your neck or dictates what you should do. There is real trust. But of course, you have to be able to deal with the responsibility that comes along with that freedom.”
DPG Media reaches 90% of the Dutch population and 8 out of 10 Flemings through its brands, so your work matters a lot, says Petra. For Algemeen Dagblad and Het Laatste Nieuws, it matters a lot to 8,5 million users per day, to be exact. If something breaks in the app or on the website, the team needs to fix it asap, regardless of the hour. “Real trust, real responsibility, real pride. It’s cool to see our work in real-life. When I’m on the subway, for example, and see someone using our app: that’s such a satisfying aspect of my work.”