1. Manon, can you tell me a bit about your journey at Bechtle so far?
Manon Smulders: In November 2008 I started working for ARP Netherlands as Inside Sales for small accounts. Then I moved into large accounts and was responsible for Dell and Cisco. From there, I progressed from Assistant Team Leader to Team Leader to Inside Sales Manager. At the same time, I also took on the role of International Customers Coordinator. It became international, and I liked it. Before, there was a limit to the business we could do with our customers. Now new possibilities are opening up.
After forming the International Business and Big Business team at ARP NL, I started talking more and more with the International Business Unit (IBU) and the HQ team. Eventually, I was asked to work for the IBU. I started on August 1, 2017.
2. What an exciting journey. And what are you doing now?
That’s a good question. Sometimes I call myself the spider woman of the web, connecting all the dots. The main objective is to build and maintain the international business community across Europe. We need to ensure that everyone understands what international trade is, that our salespeople receive adequate training and that communication platforms are up to date. I troubleshoot and lead the operations team. I work on the OneBechtle spirit at different levels.
3. It sounds good. What is it like working with 14 countries every day?
I love it. I like the diversity of people. Not only concerning culture but characters, languages and temperament. I speak to men, women, colleagues who are 50 years old and have so much experience, but also to a member of my team who has just graduated from a student program with Bechtle. It’s refreshing to hear his ideas. I like diversity and being able to speak to 14 different countries.
4. Diversity is an important subject, especially for you personally, and we talk about it more than ever. 8 months ago, Bechtle changed their banners to rainbow colors. It had a huge impact on you. Do you want to tell me why?
When I first saw the banner – the Bechtle logo with the rainbow flag – I thought, Oh, what’s going on over there? I needed to let him in. I thought, finally a statement from Bechtle. Something I already felt. I never thought I couldn’t express that I’m a gay woman.
Seeing this flag prompted me to write a post on LinkedIn. In the morning, my first thought was to delete the message. When I started checking out LinkedIn, I saw so many positive reactions. It took me by surprise. I wrote a second message indicating that I felt like I was going out.
For a company like Bechtle, showing this commitment to its employees is a big plus. For the first time, I also spoke to several other colleagues who are in the same situation as me. They had the same feeling. Wave that flag because you shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are.
5. How has your experience as a gay woman with Bechtle been so far?
I can imagine working in a culture where people don’t accept who you are is difficult. Sure, there were jokes sometimes, but Bechtle has a great culture, and I’ve had the luxury of always working in open-minded teams.
It was not an easy step for me to do this interview. But I thought if I just inspired five people to start talking, to spread the word that it’s okay to be who you are, it would be worth it. So keep an open mind, don’t judge people based on their gender or sexuality, but only consider individuals based on who they really are.