Interview with Ulli Held
With his background in packaging technology, Ulli Held is like a fish in water at JASA; since October, he is the first German Sales Manager at the company. Ulli fluently speaks the Dutch language and enjoys traveling to the countryside. Among other things, he talks about his start at JASA during the pandemic and the differences between Dutch and German companies.
Love for the countryside
Ulli is married and has two children: daughter Nele and son Matthias. Ulli was born and raised in Bergisch Gladbach, a town near Cologne. The surrounding area is a real hidden gem: a beautiful hilly area where you can enjoy a wonderful vacation.
Despite that beautiful nature, Ulli wanted to go out into the wide world: "I love to travel and discover new places and was always planning to go and work somewhere far away. The reason I stayed here is that there were always exciting jobs nearby. I like it here, but I really like the countryside. That's why I like being in the Netherlands.
Fluent in Dutch
Just as much as Ulli loves being in the Dutch countryside, just as fluent is his command of the Dutch language. "When I was 15, I studied Dutch at a night school for a year."
Ulli wants to be able to express himself in the language spoken on the job. "I think it's important for the business to be able to say at least simple sentences to a customer, such as 'good morning', 'good evening', 'thank you, and 'goodbye.' Because I am in the Netherlands a lot, read the newspaper and go to the supermarket, I automatically learned quickly. I meanwhile learned to speak the language fluently, but writing is still difficult."
In the countryside and on the water
Ulli not only loves the countryside, he also loves being on the water. "My father always sailed, and I share that love; from the age of 12, I could be found on the water every weekend." That hobby stays.
"I still go sailing. Whenever possible, I'm on the water." Ulli even adjusts his vacations to it. "I only take vacations between April and October; outside of that period, vacations don't make sense, haha."
With a little help to JASA
Over a cup of coffee, a former colleague told Ulli about JASA. “It sounded like an interesting company, so I investigated what exactly JASA does. It immediately appealed to me, especially their focus on innovation.” Ulli tells his former colleague that he is fascinated by JASA and was then suggested to JASA.
"Within 24 hours, I had Ruurd Schut on the phone." That was in February 2020, which is why COVID-19 initially throws a spanner in the works. In the summer, the contract is finally drawn up. "Since October, I have been working as a Sales Manager at JASA, which I incredibly well like."
Ulli's view on packaging technology
With his background in packaging technology, Ulli is like a fish in water at JASA. He considers his technical background important for his work as a Sales Manager at JASA. "I don't just want to simply sell something to our customers; I think it's important that I can also offer technical assistance. Customers are welcome to come to me with technical questions. In this way, I offer added value to our customers."
Getting started during a pandemic
Ulli starts working at JASA after the first corona wave, but even then, the pandemic is still in full swing. "It was a challenging start, as it was just the period when the Netherlands was declared a risk area by Germany. At that point, I knew that two weeks later, I would be starting at a company in a country that I was in fact not allowed to travel to."
Despite the measures, Ulli is able to get to work in the Netherlands. The first day he works in Alkmaar with Piet Pannekeet, he immediately feels welcome. "It was a super interesting day; everyone was open-minded, which made me feel a part of the company right away."
Today, Ulli works mainly in Germany. "In the beginning, I worked from Monday to Friday in Alkmaar because this is how I best learn the techniques, which is essential for my contact with customers. It also allowed me to get to know my colleagues well. I now have all the knowledge and the skillset I need to carry out my work in Germany."
Working from home
The pandemic brings challenges; dropping by at customers is difficult. "People are reluctant to let you come over for a visit. Only when a company is really interested, you are welcome to drop by, but at the moment, they prefer you do not drop in just to get acquainted." That's why Ulli works a lot online and speaks to customers over the phone. "That's different from how we all like it."
Ulli works mainly in Germany, but he still regularly shows his face in the Netherlands. "I strive to come to the Netherlands for one day every two weeks. Once the travel restrictions are lifted, I will make that two days. The team needs to see each other face-to-face."
Dutch and German companies: the differences
At his previous employer, Ulli had a sales region in the Netherlands, which made him already familiar with the Dutch culture. However, he does see significant differences between the Dutch and German company cultures.
"The Dutch have a worldwide reputation of being good traders, and when I attend meetings, I definitely notice that. Here a project is looked upon differently than in Germany; it's more about the finances and the tasks, while in Germany, it's more about the technical backdrop. That is a very different focus."
The way of communicating and the hierarchy are also different in the Netherlands. "Someone once told me that if someone in the Netherlands addresses you with 'u', you have done something wrong. Addressing each other on a first-name basis is actually always the standard. Germany is a lot more traditional, there you never address the boss with 'you' and you don't joke about things with your employer either."
Happy at the family business
Ulli feels like a fish in water at JASA. "This is exactly what I was looking for. A professional family business with about 80 people, where everyone knows each other."
Ulli also feels entirely at home in the team. "We don't work off a to-do list for the boss, but go for it to achieve common success for which everyone accomplishes their task. It can't get any better!"
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