Who are the power people behind Popay? Today, let’s meet: Dorien Gielen

Who are the power people behind Popay? Today, let’s meet: Dorien Gielen

Published on

22 Jun 2023

It’s impossible to miss when you see Dorien walk by… that enthusiastic smile. That ‘bring it on’ look. And even if you don’t see her, you can definitely hear her. She’s always busy consulting, or ‘chatting’ as she puts it. As Head of Payroll Services, Dorien spends all of her work days taking care of customers and empowering her team members. Meet this power woman! 

Tell me, Dorien, who are you and where are you from?
“I was born in the north of Limburg and decided to stick around in Leuven after my studies. That is where I now live with my husband and two daughters, aged 9 and 5.” 

Way down south, in other words! How did you end up at Popay?
“In my previous job as a consultant, I was with customers full-time. I was looking for a job where I could still work for customers, but could also start running projects internally. Then I saw Popay’s vacancy and it was an instant match.”

And that was that! What is your role at Popay?
“My position has changed a lot over the eight years I’ve been working at Popay. At first, I mainly helped working on projects, while now I spend 85% of my time in project management. I also manage the Popay team, especially when it involves transformations. That means change projects. These could include migrations from one system to another or software implementations. We provide guidance throughout these processes. I’m also in contact with customers a lot, I maintain the relationships. And sometimes I get to work on internal tasks for Popay and the team. So it’s a real mix.”

Okay, now we’re getting curious. Can you walk us through a typical working day?
“No day is ever the same. That’s the perk of an organisation like Popay. It’s a relatively small company with a lot of flexibility and independence. That means you’ll often be working on an ad hoc basis and can take on different roles. I usually work in the office or at the customer’s site and have a lot of calls. I’m constantly tuning in and am very communicative. When I’m in the office, everyone knows I’m there. You can’t miss me!” 

It’s nice to work at customer sites. What exactly do you do while you’re there?
“I’m scheduled for one day a week at one particular large customer of ours. I help that organisation with their project management for payroll-related workflows. This includes mapping processes, conducting workshops, fine-tuning schedules and dividing up tasks.”

That’s important because salaries have to be paid. What does the customer gain there?
“The Popay team has a background in payroll and in project management. That experience helps us shoulder the burden for customers who are less versed in that area. We make everything clear, take over a few tasks and deliver an end result that really helps the customer.”

How do you empower your customers?
“By taking the load off the customers so they can do their jobs well. Without the stress and panic that is sometimes involved in certain payroll issues. We make sure that it all works out. If a customer wants something delivered, then we make the structure very clear. We break the process up into small chunks so that everyone knows exactly what should happen when. Managers and employees know what is expected of them and they know what to expect from us. This gives them peace of mind. And the energy to do what they are good at themselves.”

Why do you think that’s important in this day and age?
“You can see that a lot of organisations and people are overloaded with work. Because of inflation, major external pressure, cost-cutting. The workload is high in a lot of workplaces. If you can then outsource a process such as payrolling to a party that specialises in it and takes your needs into account, then you can stay focused on your core business yourself.”

Got it! So what defines you in your work? What is ‘typically Dorien’?
“Well, I’m very present and quite extroverted. In the office, I like to create a positive atmosphere with my colleagues. I’m also very enthusiastic. I can draw people into my story. As a project manager, you need to do that not only with your own team but also with the customers. That helps everyone stay motivated and feel good.”

Nice. And at what point is this enthusiastic Dorien satisfied?
“The bar is very high. With Popay, and also with myself. We always go for 100 percent, 80 percent isn’t good enough. I’m satisfied when, as a team and together with the customer, we’ve delivered the results they expected from us. I’m not someone who just sits there and finishes a project. For me, it’s only truly successful if both the team members and the client are happy. The process is important in that as well as the end results.”

What is the biggest compliment you have ever received from a customer or colleague?
“That I exude confidence. I have a certain calmness about me that they can latch onto. Everyone knows that I take responsibility and that I will act on everything you say to me. If I say I will do something, I will do it. I won’t forget that, ever. Both internally and externally, they can count on me. Which means everyone can do their jobs in the best way possible.”

That’s great! What is the working atmosphere like at Popay?
“The working atmosphere is very important to me. I actively work at helping people feel good. Because you don’t just come to work to clock hours, you come because you want to have conversations or discuss things with colleagues. So that you know you’re not all alone on an island. When we work at the office, we enjoy nice meals together. We also have get-togethers on Fridays at 4 pm to finish off the week. We often go out for a bite to eat or to do something together. We’ve even been away on holiday together a few times. The last time, we were in Italy for four days. And when we go, then we’re really on holiday, unless there’s something truly urgent that comes up. Customers know that and respect that.”

Recharging on time, then. What gives you energy and what is something that you really can’t stand?
“I get energy when I’ve aligned people and processes. When the energy is right with the team internally and with the customers, when we’re working together towards a goal. That’s when it really starts to surge between people. Then I feel this lovely tingling sensation and get lots of energy from that. What I can’t stand is ‘paraplutrekkerij’. That’s what we call ‘passing the buck’ in Belgium. It’s when someone shifts all the responsibilities away from them. I have trouble dealing with that.”

Lots of energy, then! With all this energy, where do your ambitions lie, what are you striving for?
 “We’re now going through a transition at Popay because we’re growing. This has implications for the organisational structure. We’re working on a new branch: HR consultancy and transformation This is the branch I would like to develop further. In terms of customers, team members and structure. It’s a nice challenge and it’s something I can put my heart into.”

And what do you want to have achieved for yourself by this time next year?
“I make a lot of decisions based on gut feelings and common sense. That works out well, but I would still like more focused training on change management.  So I’d like to develop myself, to grow and work on my professionalism. You always have that freedom at Popay.”

Nice ambition. And last but not least: what are you grateful for?
“We gain so much trust from each of our customers. With new projects, it’s very often the case that other customers or partners have recommended us, or it’s a returning customer. That trust has been pivotal for me over the past few years at Popay. This not only applies to my branch, but to all the branches in the organisation. It’s fantastic to see and I’m grateful for that.”