René Pingen appointed as Utilus’ CTO
René Pingen became Utilus’ new CTO at the start of the new year. Though this promotion first and foremost affirms Pingen’s professional merits, creating a CTO position is necessary to cope with Utilus’ growth pace. It’s no coincidence that the company has been granted one of the prestigious FD Gazellen Awards for 2022. This award signals the public acknowledgement of Utilus’ status as one of the fastest-growing start-ups in the Netherlands. Growth, however, creates its own problems, especially in times of extreme labor shortages. The new CTO sheds light on his career path and how his ambitions align with Utilis’ strategic view on scaling up its business and workforce in 2023.
‘The CTO academy’
In an overstretched labor market, accommodating Utilus’ growth is a considerable challenge. ‘Especially if we want to maintain our high level of quality. To scale one’s workforce is not simply a matter of offering the highest salaries in the market. According to Pingen, it’s a matter of bonding and finding good people, ie professionals with the right skills and mindset. ‘Finding them is done by adequate recruitment,’ says Pingen. ‘We further distinguish ourselves in the labor market by offering content, entrepreneurship, and ambition. Working for Utilus means that you are content-driven, eager to learn, and capable of dealing with responsibility quickly.
‘To be able to bind professionals to us in the long term, we are now developing what we have named ‘the CTO academy. This is an educational program that helps technical people and solution architects. The academy enables our team members to develop themselves along three pillars. First is personal development, for example, leadership or communication skills. The second pillar aims at further developing IT skills through learning sessions, expert webinars, and, certifications. The third focuses on the skills needed for Utilus’ approach to projects, for example, dealing with stakeholders and scaling up a project. This program will help our architects to keep learning and develop themselves as even better architects and even towards future CTO positions.’
‘The CTO Academy is part of the larger scale-up plan Utilus is developing at this moment, Pingen adds. ‘For our project managers and project owners, similar projects are designed. In 2023, we will scale up with skilled and ambitious people in alignment with our busyness philosophy.
Balancing technology and business
Pingen’s qualities and career path set the standard for Utilus’ professionals. He combines technical skills with a broad outlook on businesses, now 36, and studied software engineering at the TU in Delft. ‘I learned a lot, and after receiving my master’s degree, I wanted to do more than write code. I’d promised myself to explore various business branches and be involved in commercial projects relating to IT.’
Putting the money where his mouth was at the time, Pingen took a job as an IT consultant at KPMG. Ping worked indefatigably, tackling several assignments simultaneously, varying from software projects and building data platforms to high-level strategic reorganizations. Pingen: ‘At KPMG, I developed into a versatile IT professional. After nine years of exciting engagements for multiple clients, it was time for the next step… ‘
Honestly, I had never heard of Utilus before, but I knew Tobias Kuipers (CEO) and Rolf Bonninga (Partner) by name because of their previous engagement with the Software Improvement Group, a prominent company specializing in software quality. I wrote my thesis in that field. After years of assessing the quality of other companies, Tobias and Rolf decided to build the software themselves. They founded Utilus to solve business challenges by providing high-quality IT solutions.
‘What impressed me the most is that Utilus had qualified itself for doing strategically important software projects for large companies, even though Utilus itself was a start-up at the time. The combination of a start-up culture, while being able to do strategically important projects convinced me to accept Utilus’ offer.
Thus Pingen started working at Utilus as a Solution Architect. ‘I started my job with a very ambitious project. Energy supplier Eneco asked us to build a virtual power plant, ie building software that balances the electricity coming from wind farms, solar farms, and traditional power plants in one system and on a real-time basis. The system reacts to events and requests from the actual energy market. What a challenge!’
This assignment had precisely the right focal point between technology and business for Pingen. ‘Focussing on developing IT solutions for complex business problems and being able to explore a new business field is what suits me best. Utilus allowed me to take the lead in a big ambitious project, and I took the opportunity without hesitation.’
According to Pingen, the way Utilus deals with its employees is quintessential to its strength. ‘Quality is not the ultimate effect of a settled and premeditated methodology; in our philosophy, as said, it directly stems from the quality of the employees. At Utilus, therefore, employees will be given the opportunity to work on the most ambitious projects and are quickly granted responsible positions in them. Still, one must be able to deal with the challenges. Not everyone is up for it, but if you are content-driven and ambitious, Utilus is the right place.’
Plans for 2023
Creating the CTI academy is one of the top three priorities for the new year, explains the new CTO. The other two are:
- Building a great team of skilled architects and engineers
- Consistent delivery of high-quality solutions through the Utilus software delivery method
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Interview by Sven de Graaf