Who are the people behind Popay? Today, let’s meet: Yvonne van der Ree

Who are the people behind Popay? Today, let’s meet: Yvonne van der Ree

Published on

07 Jul 2023

At 60 years old, Yvonne has been with Popay for a while. She has gained a variety of experiences in her career and discovered that she has truly found her place at Popay. With a hefty dose of people skills and a background in programming, Yvonne knows how to flawlessly translate client needs into user-friendly solutions. Because that’s exactly why she does it.

Yvonne, nice to meet you. Where are you from?
“I was born and raised in Dordrecht, in the Netherlands. I now have two grown-up children and four grandchildren. I live alone and am living apart together with my partner.” 

You had a nice path to joining Popay. Can you take us along on that story?
“Yes, it was funny. University of Twente was a client of my previous employer, and my current colleague Pim also worked there on behalf of Popay. A reorganisation was planned, which meant I would be losing my job. The head of payroll knew that Pim was looking for a colleague and that I was looking for a job. So he brought us together. There was no vacancy involved. The job interview was also just informal in a café in Rotterdam, which I really enjoyed. It’s now 12 years down the road and I’m still working at Popay as a consultant for HR and payroll questions.”

And that was that! What did you do before Popay?
“A long time ago I started as a physiotherapist. That gave me the opportunity to develop strong people skills, because you come into contact with all kinds of different personalities. There wasn’t much work, just a lot of substitute work. After that, I worked in pharmaceutical research. And at that time, there were retraining opportunities for ICT. After taking an aptitude test, I retrained as a programmer and ended up at a large payroll software provider. I then progressed from there and eventually joined Popay. And this is where I found my place.”

You had sent out several applications. What was it about Popay that appealed to you?
“Someone gave me a tip: write down the ten things that are most important to you in your life, and give them a score from 1 to 10. Another one of my applications was with a very large organisation; Popay is a lot smaller. Making that list helped me discover that I value a flat organisation, and a lot of variety in my work as well as flexibility. I recognised that in Popay. You sit in smaller cubicles in very large organisations.”

So your work day is varied. Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you?
“It is incredibly varied, indeed. I completely run the payroll for one client. I make sure everything is calculated properly and that the payslips reach the employees. At other customers, we build new systems such as self-service. As an intermediary in this case, I translate the customer requirements to the technicians. I have also programmed myself, but in a different programming language than the one we use at Popay. I do some simple changes myself, but for the more complex stuff I enlist the help of our developers. I certainly think about the content. That’s what makes it so nice.”

So you’re a contact with technical savvy. What do you think is important in that regard?
“Listening carefully and finding out what the actual requirements are and how best to translate them. That’s my strong suit. In the process, I always keep the employee who will be working with our system in mind. What does it mean for that user? Because we need to make the system as user-friendly for them as possible so they can work comfortably and efficiently. That’s very important, because in these times of labour shortages, you need to engage and captivate people. That often involves customised focus. I’m also the one who deals with laws and regulations for the Netherlands. I can actively assist customers when there are new rules. In other words, I can lend an ear, contribute ideas and consider what is best for employees.”

What defines you in your work?
“I think I’m very engaged, both with customers as well as with my colleagues. Another clear trait of mine is that I am analytical. I’m good at listening and building rapport with customers and colleagues. And with that I mean long-term relationships. I don’t come in right away, but build things up slowly. For example, the other day I received a nice compliment from Pim. He said, ‘You won’t be retiring any time soon, even though you are 60 now’. That’s a good sign, that he’s keen for me to stay.”

Well, that’s great to hear. So you have a good relationship with your colleagues?
“Yes, I think that is very important. My colleagues can tell me anything. And it doesn’t just have to be about work, I’m also interested in things outside of the office. I enjoy working with my colleagues from other generations. In the Netherlands, we don’t have an office. We all work from home or at customer locations. Sometimes we get in touch and work at each other’s homes, which is pleasant and informal. I also think it’s interesting to collaborate with colleagues from other countries. We’re doing this more and more often. Once I met colleagues from Africa in Senegal – this international element enhances my work.”

That’s nice, all these lovely collaborations. But what is one thing that you really can’t stand?
“Long-winded meetings with no end in sight. And what I also find difficult is when you feel that there is a lot of work to do but you can’t yet do anything concrete yourself. Then I often think, ‘Pass me over something, come on’. That’s always a tricky phase, it needs time to grow.”

You are 60 years old. Is there anything you still want to achieve before you retire?
“Well, I’m not that ambitious and don’t plan things like that. I go along my way and occasionally come across some side paths. Then I consider whether I’ll go down that way or not. That’s how I work. My main ambition is to enjoy my work and combine it with other things in my life, such as being a grandmother to my grandchildren. I often want a lot, so I tend to focus on keeping a work/life balance. Because that’s when I can mean the most to my family as well as to our clients. And staying healthy, of course. I see a lot of things happening around me, so staying fit at work is enough for me.”