An Interview with Jantine Hak, CTP and Managing Partner of Kruger Rotterdam
CTP TALK is an interview series where we ask senior CTPs to share details of their careers, motivations, challenges and advice.
The European Association of Certified Turnaround Professionals counts among its members some of the most successful and experienced turnaround professionals in Europe.
One such member is Jantine Hak. Over the course of her career, Jantine has achieved remarkable success, progressing to become Managing Partner of Kruger, a market-leader in turnaround and restructuring in The Netherlands.
With expertise across interim management, restructuring, corporate finance, boardroom advice and business consultancy, Jantine is a highly accomplished turnaround professional.
In this interview, Jantine tells us how she started out in turnaround, how she deals with imposter syndrome and why she thinks continued education is essential for career progression.
Question: How did your career in turnaround begin?
Jantine: I actually started my career in Audit, working for Arthur Andersen between 1996 and 2000. And while the experience and knowledge I acquired taught me a Iot about how companies are organised, I came to the conclusion that while, as an Auditor, I was providing value to the community as a whole, the added value for a company was very limited.
Therefore, after graduating as an Auditor I made the decision to change course. First, I went to work at a bank but quickly realised that working in such a large company wasn’t where I could be at my best. By this point, I knew I wanted to work in an environment where I could be of more value to a company.
By coincidence, I came across Kruger. Back in 2000, Kruger was a small consulting firm with just 10 people working in it. But it was growing and was looking for consultants who were experienced with, and could interpret and analyse the financials of companies, and who knew how stakeholders around companies, like banks, were acting. Although I was still young, I had the right work-experience and I was in the right place at the right time.
When I began at Kruger, I didn’t even really know what ‘turnaround and restructuring’ was. But in a very short period of time, I discovered that it was exactly what I wanted to do.
What draws me to turnaround and restructuring is that it’s about finding answers to a series of questions: What’s the status of the company? What is the performance now? Can it be brought back up to standard? What is needed to do so?
To answer these questions, you must be able to understand the company (financially, but also the market in which the company is active and the people who are working there), you must be creative (see the possibilities) and you must be able to deal with people.
If you can do all of that, then you are of real value to a company. Even at the beginning of my time in the profession, I found that my skills and knowledge meant I could provide significant value to companies, and now, more than 20 years later, I still think that’s true.
Question: When you started out, did you ever imagine that you would have a senior leadership role in the turnaround industry?
Jantine: No definitely not. Especially since I have never been very active in developing a career path. As I mentioned, I didn't know what turnaround and restructuring was when I started at Kruger. My primary motive was to find a job that matched my skills and that gave me satisfaction. Luckily, I found it and since then, with determination to excel in my job, I have been given opportunities to progress. By seizing these opportunities, I have been able to grow into the leadership role I am in today.
Question: During your journey to Managing Partner, have you ever felt ‘imposter syndrome’, and if so, how did you navigate your way through it?
Jantine: Yes, I experience it sometimes, and I think everyone experiences it at one time or another. In the past when it first reared its head, I reached out to speak with people who knew me well, but who were a bit further from the business. When expressing my doubts to them, they advised me to be transparent in what I do, think independently; express my opinions and trust in my experience.
This is the way I conduct myself in my professional life. Still now, when I am not quite sure about something, I remind myself of this advice and the fact that everyone experiences uncertainty and imposter syndrome in certain moments.
Also, I've learned to celebrate successes!
Question: While the male/female split amongst junior turnaround professionals is currently quite even, men still hold many of the senior positions in the industry. What advice would you give to young women looking to progress to senior positions in turnaround?
Jantine: My advice to everyone embarking on a career in the turnaround profession would be to focus on doing your job well. Keep challenging yourself substantively to serve your clients and the stakeholder field as much as possible. You can’t go far wrong.
My advice specifically to women would be to show and share your successes; with others and with yourself. This doesn’t mean shouting them out from the rooftops, but make sure you acknowledge yourself and your successes and try to consider them as an objective observer would. We all tend to judge ourselves too harshly but by looking at your successes from a distance you can conclude that you are doing well. Yes, things can always be better; but don’t waste the journey in pursuit of the end goal.
Another piece of advice I would give to women is to work on visibility. In the turnaround profession it is common to work on projects or join meetings where men are more highly represented but be confident that you can make the difference in a group. As a woman in a male dominated environment you stand out. Make sure you’re remembered for the positive impact you had.
Question: How important do you think continued education is for career progression?
Jantine: I think continued education is crucial for the development of individuals, careers and organisations. Turnaround and restructuring is a working field that combines so many things in the world that are constantly evolving so you have to keep up.
On the one hand you need to be well informed about the developments in the world, the impact on the various sectors and companies in those sectors and on the other hand, you need to educate yourself continuously on the ever-changing developments in the fields of law, finance and management by continuing your education.
Question: Kruger has been very active in encouraging its professionals to become accredited with the EACTP. Why do you think accreditation is so important?
Jantine: Kruger was very happy when the EACTP-certification was first created in the EU. As an organisation with more than 25 turnaround professionals, Kruger takes its profession very seriously, and we work to maintain high standards. The CTP accreditations held by our professionals allow us to show our clients, colleagues and partners the level at which we’re working. With our affiliation with the EACTP, we show the world that we take our work very seriously and adhere to best-in-class EU-wide standards.
Question: What advice would you give to your 25 year old self?
Jantine: Do things you enjoy, stay true to yourself, keep challenging yourself and have a little more confidence!
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