For a Quintiq technical operations consultant (TOC), there is no such thing as a typical day. It’s a unique attribute of the role, one derived from being in a company that has customers on five continents, across a broad spectrum of industries ranging from oil and gas to logistics. Each Quintiq installation can vary greatly, with customers running anything from a single module of software to an end-to-end system spanning orders to deliveries. Thus, even though the problems are the same, the context of the issue is never the same and the people involved are never the same.

It takes a very specific type of tech elite to fill this specially-created role at the Quintiq Global Delivery Center (GDC). Read on to learn about the challenges and opportunities in the role and to find out if you have what it takes to be a part of this top-tier team.

You have superhero complex

It’s 4 PM at the GDC. An incoming red alert has the support team jumping into action. A server crash at an airport has resulted in the entire planning system coming to a total halt. Every department in the airport is affected — from security and ticketing, to air traffic control and fire services. No one can log into the system, much less identify their assignments for the day. Quintiq TOCs work quickly and rapidly with the airport IT team to swiftly bring the system back online before travelers even knew there was a glitch. Flights arrive and take off as planned.

Being a Quintiq TOC demands some amount of superhero complex. You push yourself to find the source of an issue a little bit quicker because you want to save the day (along with millions of dollars in costs or lost business) for your customer. You strive to find the right solution for a bug because that’s what makes a difference to the average person somewhere in the world who unwittingly relies on Quintiq’s software to make sure trains, buses and planes run on time. You wake up in the morning with the knowledge that, thanks to your efforts to restore a corrupted database, a logistics company didn’t lose worldwide historic data on orders and delivery routes. More importantly, people got their parcels on time.

You can’t fly; you can’t turn invisible and bolts of lightning don’t fly from your fingertips. But when you are a Quintiq TOC, your knowledge, problem-solving skills and analytical abilities let you be a hero to someone, somewhere out there.

Your favorite word is “challenge”

Quintiq built its name as a company that solves the world’s planning puzzles. We love pitting our software against complex processes to bring efficiency and order out of chaos. Rising to challenges is a fundamental part of the company’s DNA. Tackling challenges is the reason we exist.

Nowhere is this more exemplified than in the role of the TOC. Given the sheer breadth of industries that are supported by Quintiq and the fact that almost every Quintiq customer runs a specially-configured version of our optimization software, no two customers will experience the same issue in the same way, which means no solution is ever the same.

For the TOC team, their job is never ordinary, and every day is a new day with fresh challenges and new goals to strive for. As Philemon Lim, a founding member of the support team at Quintiq explains it: “As a TOC, you handle a broad range of tasks: You talk to the customer, solve the problem, interface with business units and collaborate with colleagues around the world to resolve an issue. It is diverse on every level. Every challenge, every issue you get can be something new. It’s always challenging which is fun. It’s not the same old, same old day in day out.”

“Problem solver” is your middle name

Another emergency crops up. Production at a steel plant is on the verge of being halted. Tons of steel due to be delivered on that day cannot be processed, resulting in corresponding manufacturing processes being compromised. The support team is dispatched and TOCs sift through all the data to identify the single piece of bad data that had caused an erroneous planning process. The data was then corrected, and production was able to resume on time.

TOC Elizebeth Lee’s favorite part of the job is when she gets to play detective at work, sifting through data and logs to figure out the cause of a customer’s issue with the software. TOC Nurul Kamilah enjoys the creative thinking demands of the role, noting that “most of the time, even for the most experienced people in this position, there are unexpected problems. That’s when you have to be resourceful in trying to solve the problem.” For TOC Lim Mei Ying, there’s no sense of achievement like the one that comes from having helped a customer deal with their software issue, big or small.

Every day our TOCs pit their analytical and problem-solving skills in a race against time to prevent downtime, costs and unhappy end users. And they love doing it because problem-solving is in their DNA.

“Excellence” is your other middle name

When we hire TOCs, we look for something that tells us they are exceptional individuals who have a strong spirit of excellence within them, academically and beyond. Quintiq’s TOC team is replete with exceptional characters, including but not limited to Tae Kwon Do black belt holders, Muay Thai boxing champions and accomplished divers. Striving for excellence is an integral requirement for TOCs because that must be imbued in everything they do, from documenting a new problem they have discovered to identifying the optimum solution for a customer.

This is no ordinary job — it’s a role for the truly extraordinary individual.

You have the urge to know

TOCs spend the initial period of customer engagement collecting information about a problem or issue before analyzing the issue. They then resolve the problem using a combination of existing knowledge, deduction and analysis. Software forensics, data collection, solution discovery, are all skills that require inherently curious and intellectually inquisitive individuals.

That’s why at Quintiq, we place tremendous importance on hiring people who aren’t afraid to admit they don’t know something and who love to learn and acquire new knowledge. It’s the inspiration for our famous five-minute rule. It's also the reason why at Quintiq, roles and rank are significantly defined not by title, but by your knowledge level, ranging from 0 for newbies to 5 for masters.

You're a self-starter and a team player

It’s 5 AM at the GDC. The soft hum of laptops and air-conditioning contrast with the flashing touchscreen on the wall indicating an incoming red alert, a designation reserved strictly for situations where there is a total systems failure. A retail customer’s website had gone down. The company’s Quintiq application is throwing up a “network cannot be found” error. With Christmas season in full swing, this outage means customers are unable to complete their transactions.

A senior TOC starts to suggest workarounds for the customer in collaboration with a technical expert from Finland. A junior TOC begins the process of requesting clearance to remotely access the Quintiq components in the customer’s system. For the next three hours, the TOC and technical expert work to bring the site back up so that customers can go on with their Christmas shopping.

Like people who join the SWAT team, Navy SEALS and Special Forces, TOCs have to be self-starters who can also operate as part of a team. While you’ll take the lead on an issue that’s assigned to you, you’ll also need to know when to call for backup from your fellow TOCs. Excelling as a TOC demands the ability to balance your role as an expert in your own right while knowing when to marshall assistance from fellow Quintiq experts around the world.

Your communication skills rock

A great deal of a TOCs time is spent communicating with a range of individuals in varied roles across the globe. On a given day, a TOC may need to field a query or propose a solution to a customer, correspond with business units on service levels for specific customers, document a problem for Quintiq software experts, obtain information about a customer’s installation from a technical expert or speak to a third party vendor to learn more about how their software is integrated with Quintiq’s software. This demands communication skills that are adaptive, from the ability to write clearly and concisely, to the capacity to persuade and advocate an idea or solution.

At Quintiq, workplace culture forms an integral part of the company’s commitment to its employees. Building a great culture isn’t easy but at Quintiq, every employee, from top to bottom, espouses the Quintiq way in everything that they do. Here are some insights into the Quintiq way that permeates through every level of the company.

Open communication

A key bedrock principle of the company’s culture is that it allows for employees to express themselves, no matter who they are in the organizational structure. Indeed, the company welcomes feedback from its employees, especially when that feedback is about driving greater efficiency and effectiveness. As Lim Mei Ying, a six-year veteran of Quintiq explains it: “Here, we are free to say anything we want and propose ideas to anyone at any level, even to the CEO. This creates an openness that lets us keep on moving forward.”

Technical operations consultant Elizebeth Lim has seen first-hand the company’s strong willingness to embrace change for the better. Upon joining the support team at the Global Delivery Center (GDC), she found that there was a great need for enhanced automation. She made the suggestion and saw the company act upon it: “The company allows the teams to roll and change as required. Even when there are set systems, if you suggest something needs to be changed, the management will accept it.”

The five-minute rule

At Quintiq, every employee is only allowed to struggle with a problem for five minutes. Once those five minutes are over, they must ask for assistance from their colleagues. “Whether it’s the coffee machine or a massive bug, all you get is five minutes because we don’t want you to be stuck reinventing the wheel for half an hour” explains Nasreen Izzat, director of support services. The five-minute rule keeps everyone efficient and effective, while reducing the learning curve for new Quintiq employees, allowing them to start contributing and integrating much more quickly into their teams. It also encourages greater communication and knowledge sharing in the organization while keeping everyone a little intellectually humble.

Strong collaborative environment

In tandem with the five-minute rule, Quintiq encourages a collegial and collaborative atmosphere at the workplace. Nowhere is this more evident than in the newly formed support team. As 24/7 support manager Philemon Lim explains: “We have a very strong teamwork culture. If there’s a big issue that comes in, all the technical operations consultants come in to work on it. Everybody has different expertise, and they are not afraid to share their knowledge. Quintiq has a great collegial atmosphere where excellence is valued.”

Fresh graduate and newbie technical operations consultant Nurul Kamilah cites the generous culture of sharing as one of the factors that cemented her decision to work at Quintiq: “Everyone is very generous. They like to share their knowledge with others. There’s a culture of mutual respect, and there’s no barrier to talking to anyone, even if they are your seniors.”

Zero blame culture

Quintiq places great emphasis on all employees having a growth-driven and learning-centric approach to their work. An integral means of encouraging this outlook is to enforce a strong zero-blame culture. This is particularly critical in departments like support, where sometimes, team members have to make decisions or judgment calls on solutions for customers that may be challenged or reviewed later. To get to the bottom of things and also improve the processes moving forward, “de-personalizing feedback and removing the element of blame is essential so that productive one-on-one meetings can take place,” explains Nasreen Izzat, Director of Support Services. The zero blame culture is also the key towards ensuring that employees continue to contribute towards a collaborative and collegial environment at the workplace by removing workplace politics.

Technical Operations Consultants (TOCs) work on shift under the umbrella of support services at the Quintiq Global Delivery Center (GDC). As Quintiq’s software is the lifeblood of many businesses that operate 24/7, we need to be there for our customers 24/7. For most people, the idea of working on shift prompts concerns about poor work-life balance or simply the notion of working terrible hours.

At Quintiq, we’re known for our optimization software and our belief that we can optimize any task or process, no matter how complex. With that in mind, we’ve taken on the challenge of making shift work rock. And we believe we’ve cracked it (along with some perks).

Optimized shift rotation

At Quintiq, work culture is a key element in the success of the organization. We know that people are what make a company and the right work culture helps draw in the best talent to our organization and fosters great teams. Building a great work culture doesn’t just mean creating a conducive working environment or a cool office with nap rooms and R&R spaces with PS4s. It also means ensuring that employees have work-life balance. The Quintiq GDC operates 24 hours a day, which makes it all the more important that we create a great work culture that encompasses work-life balance.

Technical operations consultant Kui Tze Lin took on the challenge of finding a way to organize the shift rotations to ensure it allowed for good work-life balance. Being an early member of the TOC team, Tze Lin was a part of the team that went through several revisions of the shift scheduling system as the team sought to find an optimum scheduling pattern. So he was well-placed to understand the problem and craft the solution.

It took some experimentation but they eventually established the optimal pattern for the shift rotation system: “In the past, there were frequent changes [in the schedule], the roster was uncertain and the rotation kept changing. The team members wanted to know with more certainty when they had to work and when they could be off. The team brainstormed and collaborated on the process, which led to our current shift system. Now everyone has a four-day work week with a rotation that sees them working two weeks in the morning, two weeks at night, two weeks in the evening. We now have two teams that operate from Sunday to Wednesday and Wednesday to Saturday, which has created consistent working days and hours.”

No more traffic jams

One of the major perks that our shift-based technical operations consultants enjoy is fewer hours spent trapped in traffic. As senior technical operations consultant Elizebeth Lee notes: “During normal work hours, it takes me an hour to get home. When I joined the shift [team] my travel time shortened. The shift system is really efficient. I’d rather be productive than spend an hour or two in the car feeling annoyed.”

Weekdays off

For millennial team members like Nurul Kamilah, shift rotations imbue the job with an element of flex that she likes. She’s found that she prefers blocking of all her working hours into a chunk, then enjoying a stretch of three days off. “Sometimes, we get weekdays off,” she notes with glee, which allows for getting all kinds of life stuff done without having to fight off everyone else like on weekends.

At 26 years old, Philemon Lim is something of a poster boy for the Quintiq philosophy that lets employees steer their careers and write their job descriptions if that’s what they want. After graduating from Monash University with an IT degree, he joined Quintiq as a Quintiq specialist. Like the star striker of a football team that every club wants to have, he started getting loaned out on assignments to different teams when his superiors noticed his thirst for knowledge and strong work ethic. This experience gave him a tremendous breadth of knowledge and opportunities to try his hand at many different skill sets. So when Quintiq began work on the idea of a support team, Philemon was drafted in to join the original team.

What originally began as support for a single business unit rapidly evolved into supporting several business units. Eventually, the decision was made for the support team to become a 24/7 operation. Somewhere along the line, Philemon decided that he didn’t want to go back to being a developer and threw himself wholeheartedly into the new support team.

Little over a year after joining the support team, Philemon is now the 24/7 team manager. His role involves interfacing between business units and the technical operations consultants on a range of issues, from rolling out new support services to fine-tuning the internal processes to ensure the support services provided by the team meet an increasingly higher standard. Having spent time in the trenches as a technical operations consultant (TOC) himself, he’s also tasked with the role of ensuring team morale and motivation remains positive at all times. It's a unique position and one that he pretty much crafted and designed for himself, based on his expansive and varied experiences in Quintiq.

As a pioneer TOC and a former developer, Philemon has a uniquely personal perspective on the opportunities afforded by the role to fresh IT graduates. “A lot of fresh graduates want to be a programmer or a developer,” he notes. What they don't realize is that being a TOC affords fresh IT graduates the rare chance to be more well-rounded employees because it gives them opportunities to develop and nurture their leadership skills. “Developers respond to instructions — they make what they are told to make. TOCs on the other hand, have to make decisions and need to demonstrate decisiveness on the job,” he explains.

For Philemon, his time as a TOC was an opportunity to gain new skills — from learning how to deal with people to understanding every facet of the Quintiq business. He also relished the empowerment that came from being part of a smaller, newer team and seized the opportunities to exercise and hone his leadership skills. It's these skills that he’s leveraged to create the role he currently holds in Quintiq.

Perhaps he’s a little bit biased, but from Philemon’s point of view, becoming a TOC is the first step towards being a part of something with great growth potential and opportunities. “Support is a very new team — the future is still being built, and everyone who joins us becomes part of that building process. It’s a very involved role. Our processes are not yet entirely defined which means there is a chance here to challenge the way things are done and then create the solution that will do it better.”

Nasreen Izzat is the director of support services delivery at Quintiq, a diverse role which sees her working closely with the technical operations consultants at the Quintiq Global Delivery Center (GDC). All prospective TOC hires will usually have an interview with Nasreen after they have concluded their interviews with HR.

Nasreen has very specific ideas about what makes for a good technical operations consultant (TOC). “By the time the prospective candidates meet me, the technical aspects have already been covered. So the question when I interview them really is: Do you want to work with me and do I want to work with you?” she explains.

Nasreen’s focus is on building a diverse team, with lots of outspoken and bubbly characters, so there’s no room as far as she’s concerned for what she terms “cookie cutter personalities.” She’s looking for people who are different in their way. Thus, in the interview, Nasreen’s focus is on finding out if they have the personality for the role and organization. Hence her killer interview question: What is your passion?

She laughs as she recalls some of the reactions to her question. “The experienced ones tend to try to give me a professional answer, but the fresh graduates like to give me fun answers. I love personal responses because they let me find out about their creative side. Sometimes interviewees show me their YouTube screens — I like to see those. We like colorful personalities in the office because that reflects in their work. For example, we have a team member who plays multiple musical instruments and makes advertisement jingles. One of our recent recruits has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.”

“I’ve had several roles within Quintiq but what has kept me here is the culture itself. People at Quintiq are driven, and they love doing their job. They are proactive and creative and don’t wait for instructions. When something goes wrong, they come to you with an idea. It’s infectious to work with people who love their jobs,” explains Nasreen. She wants to make sure that her prospective hires will be people who can embrace and flourish in this culture, and in turn, grow within the organization.

She believes that Quintiq is the perfect place for self-starters and ambitious individuals looking to advance themselves and their career. The company takes personal growth and advancement seriously and actively encourages employees to exercise both initiative ownership as part of the path towards career growth. Every employee has a five-level career path with level 0 accorded to newcomers and level 5 accorded to those who have mastered specific skills or knowledge. As employees progress up the levels, they are accorded more ownership and the opportunity to gain expertise and knowledge in a particular specialty.

At Quintiq, there's no limit to how fast an employee can move up the levels nor is there a quota system in place to restrict how fast someone can move up. This means every employee is in the driver’s seat when it comes to their progress within the organization. With this system in place, every employee has the chance to write their job description. They can also design their role around a skill set that they have or aspire to achieve. Thus, every employee can keep on growing their talents and abilities within a supportive culture. Nasreen sums it up succinctly: “If you want to do well here, just over-achieve and you’ll move ahead! You can race through your career with no speed bumps!”

When Kui Tze Lin originally applied to work at Quintiq, the engineering graduate set his sights on being a developer. Instead, he found himself assigned to the newly-formed Quintiq Global Delivery Center (GDC) 24/7 support team as a technical operations consultant (TOC). Initially, he intended for his stint as a TOC to be brief and planned to campaign for a transfer to software development.

This was because, at his previous job, support had been a one-person show. Tze Lin wanted to avoid being pigeonholed into a support role. But the young team at support soon captured his interest and he found himself staying on in the TOC role because “I realized that as a TOC, I learned more things, things I would never have been exposed to if I became a developer.”

After a year on the 24/7 support team, where his role included interacting with developers, Tze Lin counts himself as someone with a unique insight into the differences between the role of developer and TOC. “The lifestyle of a developer is very different. Most of the time, you know what is coming next. When you go home, you know what you have to do. Sometimes you have to take work home, crack your head — you can’t chill after you finish work,” he explains. “As a TOC, you never know what’s coming next. When you come in, and the previous shift highlights a ‘red alert,’ you have to solve it. You have to pick up things fast and get into the task of solving problems quickly. It’s very unpredictable, but you never take your work home.”

He finds the challenges of being a TOC markedly different from those faced by developers: “The most difficult aspect of this job is delivering bad news or convincing a customer to accept our proposed workaround, and working with internal personnel to accept customer escalations,” he notes. This is because a TOC typically has to ensure there is approval from key business units and the management before they can offer certain solutions to the customer. “We’re sandwiched between the internal teams and the customers,” he notes. TOCs have to work hard, but also smart, to ensure everyone is happy.

Since joining 24/7 support, Tze Lin has found his personal sweet spot on the job, taking on more operational responsibilities that capitalize on his passion for making people happy. When he realized that his colleagues also found the shift rotation unsatisfying, he took on the task of finding an optimal shift rotation pattern. The current four-day working week — with two-week blocks of morning, afternoon and night shifts — is the result of his efforts. “I’m all about improving processes and making people’s lives happier and easier,” he explains. That is why he’s also actively looking into the team’s training program, working on ways to make it more structured and creating new training material for new TOCs to help shorten the learning curve. Meanwhile, he's also enjoying the opportunities he has now to do a lot more mentoring on the job.

This all is par for the course for someone like Tze Lin, who confesses to enjoying the learning process in everything he does and has a passionate desire to understand the concept behind everything around him.

Much of his efforts are also driven by his aspiration to help make the transition into the role of TOC easier for current and future colleagues. He’d like to clear the path for those who perhaps don’t yet realize they have a talent for the TOC role. But mostly, he’d like to see more people from pure code and development backgrounds give the TOC role a shot. “Quintiq’s 24/7 support team is only a year and a few months old. It’s a young team. Lots of processes need to be developed, and lots of tools need to be built. There’s a lot to learn and a real chance to be a part of a new and young team,” he extols.

As an engineer who aspired to be a developer but has found his niche in support, Kui Tze Lin exemplifies Quintiq’s philosophy of letting the way people work define their opportunities.

Meet the software detective

As a technical operations consultant (TOC), Elizebeth Lee sees many similarities in her role to TV’s favorite maverick doctor, ‘Dr. House.’ But then again, she is a self-confessed TV buff with a penchant for detective and medical investigation shows, which might explain her perception of the job as more diagnostics and forensics work than ER-like lifesaving measures.

Each TOC plays a different role when the team responds to an issue from a Quintiq customer. Elizebeth focuses on the hows and the whys — her job is to figure out how a customer managed to break the rigorously tested software or trigger a bug. “Sometimes the software exhibits strange symptoms, and we need to diagnose what has happened by gathering information and running tests,” she explains.

Before joining the support team, Elizebeth spent five years working on Quintiq internal projects, building specialized tools for the company’s employees to use throughout their business processes. She had always felt the company needed a support team to better respond and handle certain issues, and so took the opportunity to join the support team when it came up as an internal assignment.

The move to support and becoming a TOC coincided with her personal preferences for a role with more results-driven outcomes. “Before joining support, I mostly handled project management within Quintiq. I realized that I enjoyed helping people, particularly in the context of achieving a specific goal. While that did happen when I worked in project management, the scale of a given project usually meant results usually came only after a very long period. In support, the issues are more short-term in nature, but I have a chance to bring about a resolution and take people to a conclusion,” she elaborates.

The Quintiq culture has been a factor in keeping her at the company for the last six years. For Elizebeth, the high-achievement culture of the company is a huge part of what keeps her happy on the job. “In some companies I’ve seen, I get the impression that 20% work and 80% are slacking off. One of Quintiq’s major selling points is we don’t have any slackers,” she states proudly.

While acknowledging that the role of TOC pays well, she cautions against anyone joining just for the money: “The pay is good, but to stay in the role and excel at the job, you need to have an interest and a passion for it.”

On Friday, November 6, 24 students participated in the in-house day at the Quintiq headquarters in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The students were shown how Quintiq solves problems with presentations from the staff, a tour of the headquarters and a case study exercise. They also joined the staff for lunch and post-work drinks – a great way to learn more about the people and the working environment at Quintiq. The day was supposed to start with two presentations. Instead, Dr Victor Allis, CEO of Quintiq, introduced himself and enthusiastically began sharing stories of his experiences with Quintiq for almost an hour, while joking that he would only take 5 minutes of our time. This immediately revealed the atmosphere at Quintiq: Enthusiastic, spontaneous and relaxed. Due to Victor’s introduction, the presentations that were originally planned had to be scheduled differently. Luckily, Quintiq excels at scheduling problems – this particular puzzle was easily solved and the presentations were still given, without adjusting the day’s plan too much.

The first presentation gave a clear view of what Quintiq does and how they solve complicated planning puzzles for different companies all around the world. The second presentation revealed insights into specific roles at Quintiq: Business analyst, Quintiq specialist and algorithm expert. Although each of these professions has different functions, the educational background required for the roles was the same. Econometrics, computer science, supply chain knowledge and/or mathematics seemed to be the most important skills an employee at Quintiq could have, as well as a keen interest in optimization problems. The day continued with the students having lunch with Quintiq employees. The students and employees mingled, with the students being given the chance to ask questions about working at Quintiq. Everyone seemed to share the same interest: Solving puzzles, which is what Quintiq is all about.

The students learned that Quintiq is very flexible when it comes to working hours – for example, some employees start at 8:00AM, others at 10:00AM, to avoid traffic jams. Some prefer to work from home in the morning for similar reasons. These differences do not seem to cause much of an issue and clearly show that Quintiq embraces flexibility. Furthermore, I noticed that the enthusiasm was not limited to the CEO; everyone was passionate about working at Quintiq.

After lunch, the students were split into two groups. One group toured the building, visiting the different floors. The tour gave the students a good insight into the different business units at Quintiq. The premises also reflected the open environment that we had already experienced since arriving – the offices had glass walls. The tour also showcased the company’s international presence. With over 40 nationalities working in Den Bosch, the primary language used between employees is English, and the students were told that there are lots of opportunities to participate in projects all over the world.

After the first group finished their tour, they proceeded to the case study exercise while the second group toured the building. The case study exercise gave a clear view of the merits of the Quintiq software. The exercise was divided into three rounds. In each round, the students individually tried to optimize a working week’s schedule for multiple hypothetical employees. Each of these employees had different requests, and the student’s goal was to satisfy as many requests as possible. In the first round, the students received no help whatsoever from the Quintiq software. Everyone made a schedule, but a lot of requests were still not satisfied in time. In the second round, some features were introduced and used to optimize the schedule – it got a lot better, but there was still room for improvement. In the last round, the students were given access to even more features. Everyone was able to greatly improve their schedule, with some students able to create the optimal schedule. This exercise showed the capabilities of the Quintiq software, even with a small example and only a few features.

After an intense day, everyone gathered for drinks and the students once again got the chance to chat with different Quintiq employees. It was the perfect end to the day, as everyone was able to relax while asking their final questions. Many of the students asked what scores the employees achieved for the Quintiq online puzzle. This quickly steered the conversation to strategies on how to achieve the maximum score and everyone went home with a new strategy for their next attempt at the puzzle.

Dr Victor Allis, CEO, introducing himself to the students
Arthur Torsy, VP EMEA, giving an introduction to Quintiq
Dan Roozemond, Products Optimization Leader, presenting the Quintiq software
L-R: Jelle Duives, business consultant; Dori van Hulst, algorithm expert; and Lianne Marks, Quintiq Specialist shedding light on ‘A Day in the Life of a Quintiq Consultant’
Students rubbing shoulders with Quintiq staff over lunch
Students on a tour of the Quintiq headquarters
Students participating in a case study exercise to see just how Quintiq solves problems in real-world situations
A few weeks ago, Quintiq Malaysia’s R&R committee arranged a trip for its members to Pulau Tinggi in Johor. The trip took place over the long weekend of the Malaysia Day public holiday. We were scheduled to leave very early so many preferred to stay awake and enjoy a night of sleepless fun. It was kinda strange to see so many colleagues at the office before sunrise but for this trip, waking up at such an ungodly hour was totally worth it!

After a six-hour trip on the bus, we arrived at the Tanjung Leman jetty, our last stop before the island. We had a quick lunch, and then we took boats to the island.

The first sight of the island and resort was breathtaking; crystal white sand, clear blue water, with the greenery of the mountains in the background. This was to be our heaven for the next three days!

It was so energizing to see the crystalline beach, the pool, and the beach volleyball net beckoning on a great sunny day. Our exhaustion after the long journey vanished. In what seemed like synchronized motion, we all checked in, got ready, and hit the beach!

“Hmm...what next? Let’s swim in the ocean... no, let’s play monkey in the pool... no, let’s build a huge castle in the sand... no, let’s play beach volleyball or join others in a game Frisbee... no wait; let me get my camera to take some awesome shots!” These words came spontaneously and from all sides, as if everyone was having the same trouble deciding between so many choices.

Suddenly, I spotted a large gathering of people on the beach. They seemed to be having fun and I thought maybe they were building a castle. I hurried to join in and found them burying our colleague Si Xian in the sand! It was great fun and an even greater photo-op, as our many pictures show. (Although I’m not sure whether the sand-covered Si Xian would agree!)

We interrupted our day of fun and games for dinner, and then started all over again. We sang Karaoke, played board games and games of ‘wolf’. A few of our colleagues’ birthdays fell on that day and resort staff treated them to a special Karaoke celebration.

On the second day, the main highlight was the snorkeling off a tiny island nearby. The tide was a bit high, but that did not stop most of us from diving in. Watching live fish swimming between the corals is just so amazing. The lucky snorkelers among us saw live corals and some even spotted live sea urchin too.

Back to Pulau Tinggi for volleyball, Frisbee, ping-pong, and more and more photos to capture memories. The day ended with a BBQ dinner that helped us recharge for a long night of board games and karaoke that went on until morning. Some of us enjoyed long talks sitting at the bar or hanging out on the beach. What a nice way to end our last day on the island.

We all had a blast on those three days. The combination of spectacular scenery and great company was the best treat anyone could ask for.

A big thank you goes to the organizing committee: Harmeshver Singh, Shinto, and Si Xian; Thanks a lot guys!
On Monday May 6, student members of the Dutch study association, VESTING, visited Quintiq Malaysia. Read about the experience of the visiting students in their own words.

Kavin, the Quintiq representative organizing the day, took us to the room where our first presentation would take place. The room was very open and full of colors, and there were beverages and snacks available in the small kitchen next to the room.

The first presentation was by a Dutch employee, who had already worked for Quintiq Malaysia for a couple of years. He told us more about the Malaysian department of Quintiq and his experiences.
After the presentation, a fantastic lunch was prepared for us on the balcony of the building. Besides the food and the amazing view from the balcony, several enthusiastic employees joined us for lunch. The lunch was followed up by a tour of the whole building. We were greeted by many employees, who all wanted to know why we were there and who we were. Talking with them was a very interesting experience. All the employees were very motivated – this was inspiring. It was very interesting to hear their experiences and why they choose for Quintiq. Most of the employees had an international background. Many of them had studied abroad. This confirmed that Quintiq Malaysia is very international.

Another thing that we noticed during the tour was that the whole building was very open and colorful and that the company really put effort in improving the working conditions for their employees. There were beverages and snacks available everywhere in the building, the setting of the workplaces made it easy for the employees to interact with each other and there was even a games room!

After the tour, we had some interesting presentations and cases, all by enthusiastic team leaders and other employees. These presentations and cases gave insights in the daily job of an employee at Quintiq Malaysia. The day ended with some quality time with the employees on the balcony and in the games room. We experienced this day as interesting and inspiring. The whole environment of the company is warm and welcoming. Besides that, Quintiq provided us a good example of a professional company abroad. The company employed a few Europeans and it was really clear that the company had put some effort in making these employees feel at home at Quintiq! The company was very western, which makes it easier to adapt for a European.

With this attitude, we think that Quintiq is an attractive player on the global market to work for. We can definitely conclude that the visit to Quintiq was one of the highlights of our trip to Kuala Lumpur!
Elegant, stylish, powerful, awesome, outstanding!

That’s a lot of adjectives, I know… let me explain…

I was one of the earliest developers to use Quintiq 5.0. In my opinion, Quintiq 5.0 is elegant, stylish, powerful, awesome and outstanding!

Quintiq 5.0 makes a developer’s job easier now by providing more flexibility and functionalities. Developing the user interface is much easier - the alignment and spacing are taken care of by the Quintiq software automatically. The stylish and modern-looking interface makes the application more attractive and colorful. In addition, you only need to write few lines of code to perform the common operations. This reduces the chances of making a mistake… that means higher quality work, and a faster delivery time.

My life as a developer has improved, thanks to an awesome component has been introduced to retrieve data from different forms. A data interface lets us map and visualize object types with external data sources easily. The addition is impressive because, with just a few clicks of the mouse, we’re able to complete the task with Quintiq software handling the bulk of the work automatically.

Since I work on industry solutions, defining a good view for demo is important. In Quintiq 5.0, data can be configured easily and irrelevant data can be filtered out at run-time, without any coding activity involved. The filter feature is user-friendly and extremely helpful especially during the testing stage.

In short, I love Quintiq 5.0, and it gives me the feeling that anything is possible! With continuous improvements, Quintiq software will definitely be the one to beat!
Marijn sent this email to all his Quintiq colleagues around the world, telling them what happens over Chinese New Year in Malaysia. We liked it so much that we decided to share it here.


Gong Xi Fa Cai! Do you remember those two weeks over Christmas and New Year when you received fewer emails, there were no big meetings and no major deadlines, and the office was quieter than usual? Do you remember that epic traffic jam you had to get through to make the dreaded last-minute trip to the supermarket on December 24th?

Well, something even bigger is about to happen in Malaysia. The Year of the Snake begins on February 10th and with it comes the three Chinese New Year planning puzzles:
The CNY Workforce Puzzle Most of our colleagues in the GDC are Malaysian Chinese, and therefore celebrate Chinese New Year.

The official public holiday takes place on February 10th, 11th and 12th, while the traditional New Year celebration period extends from February 10th all the way to February 24th - that's fifteen days in total. (Each day has its own rituals, from eating with family on day one of the lunar month to throwing oranges in ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans on day fifteen.)

Of course, the GDC will be adequately staffed during this time, thanks to our colleagues who are based in Kuala Lumpur or aren't celebrating CNY; they'll be working extra hard to cover any capacity gaps. But, you may still notice a slight drop in a response rates, particularly in week seven. Now you know how we feel over Christmas and New Year!
The CNY Logistics Puzzle Just like Christmas and New Year, CNY is the time to catch up (and put up?) with family. Imagine what happens when millions of people all want to drive home to see parents and grandparents at the same time... Our colleagues will be braving the worst traffic jams of the year to return to their hometowns across Malaysia, their cars laden with hampers, mandarin oranges, and cash-filled red envelopes knows as ang pao.

The exodus is expected to start on February 8th or 9th this year, and many won't return to work until February 18th (week eight).

There will be, as always, rumors about short cuts; trunk roads, and bridges you'll be warned to avoid; alleged optimal times to leave KL (usually around 4am), but it always ends up taking twice the time it would at any other time of year. The only solution to this logistics puzzle is to stay in the city and enjoy the unusually empty malls and traffic-free streets.
The CNY Production Planning Puzzle For Malaysia's restaurants, supermarkets, and even the average family, CNY means ramping up production to cater for a grueling 15-day itinerary of eating and drinking. Misjudging demand can mean either hungry customers and guests or starting the New Year with tons of mandarin oranges that no one will want to eat again until 2014.

At home, there are special symbolic meals to be made, cookies to be baked, hampers and big red boxes of mandarins to be bought and distributed, and the list goes on. Many of our colleagues will also buy new outfits (and maybe new underwear, too), have their hair cut, and clean their houses... it's important to get a fresh start to the New Year.

All of this takes time and planning. There are bottlenecks to overcome, disruptions to handle, and costs spiral out of control. But, that's all part of the fun.
While I get ready for the festivities (and figure out how I'm going to cope for a week with less than half a team), I'd like to share the festive spirit with you - here's a Chinese New Year tune to cheer up your day. (I've heard this playing in the mall every day for the past month; it's stuck in my head and now it's stuck in yours, too.)

Read more about the food, rituals and customs in Malaysia or drop an email to one of your Malaysian Chinese colleagues - I'm sure they'd be more than happy to answer your questions. Every country has its own take on Chinese New Year... . Contact our colleagues in China to find out how their CNY celebrations differ from those in Malaysia.

And finally, Gong Xi Fa Cai! I look forward to working with you in The Year of the Snake.

Marijn van Helvoort
Team Manager
Workforce WP Team

"Hey, I want that bag, I want two!"

"Where is ur company? One U? There got car park? I always cannot get car park, le."

Handling a recruitment booth is not as easy as it seems. Repetitively saying “Quintiq is a..." to everyone that passes by is a task not everyone cherishes. When to/ not to approach, who to give freebies, how to handle commission-hungry agents, how to establish contacts with potentially huge pools of talent (universities, for example)...

Every decision counts, and all these take place while you are busy telling people how cool our office is and how brilliant the people within.

Having to work throughout the weekend, talking to thousands of people, fighting with other hungry looking agents or HR over supposed talents – it’s really hard work! And finally, you have to work your way through all those piles of resumes, invite a few candidates to interview, select one or two... then start the search all over again!

This is the magnitude of chores that a bunch of friendly Quintiq HR folk undertook last week at the Jobstreet.com Malaysia Career & Training Fair. Looking at the number of applicants versus success rates, they have the determination of Thomas (Edison that is) to succeed, and his skill to find the right fit (not tungsten, but talented people like you).

Despite the ambitious hiring target set at start of the year, Oliver - HR Manager - and his comrades never back down, but rise to the challenge and come out with numerous measures to achieve a seemingly impossible target.

Moreover, just like a Premier League club, success is not only about attracting the right people to the company, it's even more about keeping the existing ones motivated. I believe very few people are lucky enough to have experience being greeted by smiling HRs, together with a smiley cup cake the moment you step out from elevators in the morning. Even if you’re not a fan of cupcakes, you couldn’t help but be a fan of HR, standing there smiling and saying hi.

It often goes unnoticed how important the supply line is in battles, yet these unsung heroes are contributing to the same course each and every day behind the scenes. Pat their shoulders the next time you meet these amazing people, trying hard to keep us going.

To Oliver, Marwick, Deveki and Wally. Thanks!
At Quintiq we want to ensure that our customers work with the best consultants in the world. And we want to make sure that WE work with the best people in the world! We want to hire people that learn fast, people we can learn from (!) and most importantly people our customers can learn from. In other words, we only employ the best consultants in the field.

We want colleagues that can do the job

Our recruiting process is known to be comprehensive and it always includes a practical test where you are asked to complete a task similar to those you’ll be expected to undertake in your first job at Quintiq. Previously, we have encountered people who performed very well in interviews, and maybe even very well in typical recruiting tests, but who had a hard time doing the real work that was required of them. This is not good for our customers, it’s not good for Quintiq and it’s certainly not good for you if you end up in a job you don’t like or don’t excel at. We have therefore developed practical, hands-on tests which aim to find out if the job is really going to work out for everyone.

We want colleagues that fit our culture

After finding out if you can do the job, we also want to make sure that we hire people we want to work with. It is important that the consultants that join Quintiq are people that we want to spend half our waking hours with and people our customers will enjoy working with - both professionally and personally. So, we ask a lot of questions to make sure that our new colleagues fit into the Quintiq culture. We want you to love your job.

We want people who love their job

At Quintiq we do our best to find colleagues who have the right attitude. We mean this in the very serious way. We provide a lot of training courses, mentor programs and career plans for our colleagues. However, at the end of the day we believe that attitude is a choice. We can’t force you to feel motivated and passionate – that has to come from you. We would much rather find the right employees, provide them with a great environment and learning tools and then get out of their way. We believe our job as an organization is to assist you in setting your goals, help remove obstacles that you may encounter on your way and let you reach your full potential.

If you can do the job, if you like our culture and if you have the right attitude, there should be no reason not to love your job…
In 2006 Quintiq wanted to increase its presence in Asia Pacific. As always, my first step was to send an email to all our colleagues asking who would want to take up the role of Director for the Global Development Center we wanted to create. When I had a shortlist of 10 interested candidates, I asked each of them which location they’d prefer. With many choices available, such as India, Singapore and China, I was surprised that 7 out of 10 suggested Malaysia.

When I investigated their choices I found out that Gartner recommended Malaysia as the third best offshoring country in the world, immediately after the obvious no. 1 and 2: India and China. As I looked into the details (climate, education, business opportunities, infrastructure) Malaysia sounded more and more attractive.

So, two weeks later we stepped on a KLM flight to Malaysia to spend a week in Kuala Lumpur to figure out what to do. I had never been to South East Asia before and did not know what to expect. Malaysia blew me away. The hospitality and friendliness of people, the drive and professionalism of the candidates we spoke to, the fast-growing economy, the natural beauty of the country, the proficiency in English of virtually all people we spoke to. Within the week we were completely sold on Malaysia. Soon after, we had rented our first office, interviewed 14 candidates and offered seven people a job. All seven accepted, as they saw the great opportunities in our software and company. Incidentally, two of those first seven are now deputy directors of the GDC, showing that in a fast growing company there are many opportunities for advancement. Others have used the GDC as a springboard to the rest of the world. Nowadays, I see colleagues who originate in Malaysia in all of our offices, from the USA to Europe and Australia.

Looking back six years after founding the GDC, I am extremely happy with our choice and look forward to my next trip to our office in Malaysia.

A couple of years ago, I was invited by Malaysian business radio station, BFM, to talk about Quintiq’s decision to set up shop in Malaysia. You can listen to that interview at BFM.my
One of the first things my mentor told me was: “Quintiq has a great bunch of people to work with, but you have to get to know their user manuals.” After a year of working at Quintiq, I think I have made a start on figuring out the user manuals. So if you were to start working here, what kind of people would be your colleagues?

There is the optimistic guy, who often underestimates tasks but is always up to a challenge and willing to put in all the effort needed to deliver on his promises. There is the pessimistic girl, who highlights why things are not possible, but who you can always go to if you have in-depth questions about Quintiq software. There is the funny guy, who has no problem with sending a soccer ball soaring over your desk, but who can also make customers laugh, even in more difficult times in the project. There is the stubborn girl, who can really give people a hard time in discussions but will make sure that all decisions are made deliberately and documented well. There is the chaotic guy, who does not always inform the rest of the team what he is doing, but is willing to get up in the middle of the night to make sure a customer system didn’t run into trouble. And these are just a few examples…

While figuring out all these user manuals, I also had to find out what my user manual was and how I could fit in with the rest of the team. As a girl who gets along with everyone, but is sometimes a bit too nice, it wasn’t always easy to get a grip on the very intelligent but headstrong people I worked with. But now that I have worked out most of the user manuals around me, it has become much easier to know when to be nice, and when to be just as headstrong as the rest.

Although each and every user manual is different, there is one thing that almost all Quintiq employees have in common: passion. Whether it is the drive to build a great model for solving planning puzzles, make a great project plan, create new financial processes or get in that sales deal that will open up a new market for Quintiq. This great variety of passionate people is definitely one of the things that makes working for Quintiq really great. I would definitely recommend take the opportunity to come and figure out the user manuals for yourself!


On a lovely Saturday, Quintiq’s metals and manufacturing team flocked to a place closer to the forest of tranquility, far away from the boisterous city, in the midst of Bentong, Pahang. Our team cars made their way there using numerous paths, some of which were non-existent on GPS. After wading through hills, tall grasses, muddy paths, rivers and jungles, we finally reached Suria Hill resort, our comfy home for the night, and the location for our team-building exercises.



Without much ado, we started with the opening ceremony. After the opening speech by team manager Poh Yiau and cake cutting by CEO (Chief Event Organizer) Ann, we were introduced to the family members and friends of our colleagues who were at the event. Afterwards, we formed four smaller teams and started work on our t-shirt designs. We were amazed to see our teammates designing shirts of market quality, maybe better! After a couple of hours the 4 team shirts were done: Metallica for the grey team, 4ever Star for the red team, 200% FTR for the yellow, and Baby Blue for the blue team. Check out the designs:



After a short break, we played “The Pipeline” hosted by Nicholas and Siew. The game was about passing marbles across half-cut straw. Just like how we do work in Quintiq, we need to focus on our work (concentrate), and do things first time right (FTR). If a player drops the marble on the floor, the marble has to be passed back down the pipeline to the person 2nd on your right. Baby blue outperformed the rest in the speed of passing marbles, making them “Pipeline” champs!



We then played “Find your Number”, hosted by me and Aldo. Players had to touch the numbers on a mat on the floor using any body part. The trick is to be stable, and don’t fall down! The group with best formation wins. Baby Blue had very easy combinations in their number grids. Almost all of the Baby Blue members were just standing on the numbers, no yogic contortionism necessary. The same was true for Metallica. So, we deciced to award the prize to both Baby Blue, and Metallica. After all, we just wanted to have fun!



For all of these activities, we were in the multipurpose hall. We made good use of it, but we wanted to get some fresh air, so we took ourselves outdoors for the next activity! Our next game was “Tie a Knot”, hosted by Kok Hoong and Tai Long. In this game, we tried to form a star shape using a long loop of raffia string in a blind fold. We had to be careful not to bump into people or step on each other when moving in the blind fold. What a lot of fun! 4EverStar had nice star! They won!



After dinner it was time for some drama! Baby Blue performed a marriage proposal romantic drama, while Metallica performed a bus accident. The best actor award went to Chai Soon Kiong, and the best actress award went to Ong Jan Er and Lee Soh Yee! Why two best actresses? Oh, because they were mother and daughter in the show. After a day of fun, it was time to settle in the night. But first the organizing committee announced that Baby Blue was the overall champion team for the event!





Our night away was fun filled, full of excitement, and best of all, our family and friends got the chance to mingle with each other as if they were part of Quintiq, and they really enjoyed the awesomeness of the event.
It was just another ordinary working day when Derred came over to my desk and said: "Since the Thomas Cup and Olympics are coming up, why don't we follow the trend and organize a badminton competition?" That's how the Quintiq Badminton Tournament came into being. Without any hesitation, we got started. We formed a committee which included the two of us, Hsien Kung and Muru. After a round-table discussion of the details of competition, the email invitation was sent to all our colleagues in Malaysia. To our surprise, we received a really good response: 48 colleagues signed up for the month-long event, including someone from almost every department in Quintiq’s global development centre. We had directors, team managers, accountants, technical specialists, and more.

The main objective of the competition was to get to know our colleagues, but we still wanted everything to be fair. So, participants were divided into four groups, consisting of male and female players from different departments, ranging from colleagues who had just started to play badminton (without their own racquet or shoes) to regular badminton players with all the gear. This was to make sure that every team had an equal chance to win.

It didn't take long to finalize the team formations. The committee then informed the players that the 2 teams to make it to the final would receive attractive prizes. So, of course, 48 people were then aiming for the FINAL! Even those teammates who didn’t know each well were getting in to the team spirit. We soon started hearing people talking about strategy and formation.

To our surprise again, our colleagues were actually treating the competition quite seriously. There were teams who trained before or during the competition, even those who paid for extra training session. For instance, Kelven, Jeffrey and Hsien Kung woke up early in the morning on Sundays for some warm-up training, It was funny to see them training alongside small kids, who were the only ones training and playing in the badminton court at that time. Those were the days, haha... :)

Anyway, the extra exercise was good for our health. Even Foong Yie trained right after she got back from our office in the Netherlands. There were other players who booked a court and trained after work. That's the spirit that we were hoping to see! Never has Quintiq badminton been so exciting! We could see some training going on even during our regular badminton sessions, which was beneficial to less experienced players, and helped with the growing chemistry between partners.

Without further delay, the games finally started. There were many, many exciting matches, and memorable moments. We were really glad that there were some volunteer referees who helped out during the games. Supporters were all around the courts, cheering on their team of choice. And players were supporting each other, regardless of what team they were on. The applause was given generously, for encouragement as well as for nice shots.


From left to right: Abe serving while Poh Yiau is 100% focused; The finals: Kelven & Jeffrey vs Jan Yang & Stanley, with Kelven smashing!; Female fighters: Mei Ying, Elizebeth, Pei Rou & Shing Siew

To win the tournament required preparation, fighting spirit, teamwork and, of course, a bit of luck. Due to the arrangement of the seeding system, we enjoyed some really exciting matches… I can still remember the match between Jiin Kang & Nicholas vs Supi & Dicky, where the scores grew in a pattern as such: 1-1, 3-3, 6-6, 21-23.. for three sets! There were also some breathtaking crucial matches, determining whether the whole team would be entering final, or even becoming the champion.

We spotted some really interesting behavior along the way… At half-time, the “coaches” were “coaching” their players, as if this was an Olympic competition. And the team members were motivating each other, shouting and chanting. It wasn’t only the game play, but also the strategy that determined whether a team reached the final.

After going through all the special moments together, winning or losing was no longer important. But, it was still a competition, so we observed a sharp contrast in the faces of those who entered the final round or lost.

The tournament took more than 2 months to complete due to injury, sickness and business trips. The champion team actually consisted of players from the software knowledge center, the helpdesk, the java team, metals, logistics and workforce. What a diverse team! It was a daunting feat to organize such an exciting competition as this. We encountered a lot of challenges. And most importantly we all bonded. Our competition even attracted other players from other courts. Players from two other groups, one made up of players from another company, even invited us to play a friendly match with them, and we won one!


Here is the winning team receiving their prize: awesome new rackets!
From left to right: Stanley, Derred, Abe, Kelven, Joon Nan, Supianto, Shing Siew, Bonnie, Pei Rou

We are looking forward to the second badminton tournament next year, and definitely hoping for more people to join in, even from other BUs. Last but not least, we’ve got some great memories and we all know each other much better. Thanks to everyone who made this a successful event!
One of the unexpected benefits of working as a supplier to large manufacturers is visiting the factories and experiencing the enormous size and productivity on show. Working as a consultant for the metal and manufacturing business unit of Quintiq, I get to do a lot of these visits. I never fail to be awestruck by these amazing places.

I remember my first visit to a metal factory like it was yesterday. I had been working for Quintiq barely two months, and the project I was working on had just moved into a new phase. This phase traditionally starts by giving some basic training to the users of the Quintiq system. The colleague I was working with had just become a dad, so I was going solo. It was up to me to visit my first factory and give my first training.

Using a Google maps printout to find my way, I drove to the factory site. The printout proved pretty much useless; a facility that size would require quite some effort to miss. I arrived at the big main entrance, gave my name, got my visitor’s pass, and more importantly a instructions and a map showing me how to drive to the building I needed to be at. As luck would have it, the building was the furthest away from the main gate.

Driving on a factory site is remarkably different than driving on public road. First of all you never have right of way. The roads are filled with big equipment, unguarded train crossings and randomly placed stockpiles of inventory. Secondly there are distractions everywhere. Machines you’ve talked or read about, material that is partly finished, and so on.

Upon arriving at the building that housed the planners, I got out of the car to discover another surprise. For the duration of the project the project team would be seated on the factory floor. What followed was a short walk through the factory to a cabin in the middle of a stock collection point. I didn’t know where to look with all this activity going on around me. Luckily the testing room was well isolated to drown out the sounds of forklifts racing, metal dropping and machines running.

Over the next months I visited the factory and the factory floor many times. The sights and sounds, however, never lost their appeal. At that factory and the many others I’ve visited since, experiencing the noise, the activity and the overwhelming busy-ness of a production environment is something I consider one of the upsides of the job.

Find out more about what it's like to work for Quintiq when you attend the Quintiq Graduate Recruitment Day.
A visit to Malaysia would be incomplete without a stop by the historical city of Malacca, the keeper of the Malay Archipelago's rich heritage and culture. Continuing from Port Dickson, it was a blast to the past as we travelled 60 km down scenic winding roads, passing rubber and oil palm plantations, villages with wooden houses, cows, goats and chicken.

We reached just in time for dinner, authentic Nyonya cuisine served in a homey restaurant, Nyonya Makko. This was followed by their famous cendol - rumoured to be the best in the country, thanks to the secret homemade recipe. Unfortunately, none of us took any photos – we were probably too hungry! :)

At 10.30PM, more sightseeing ensued! We gallivanted around Jonker Street, enjoying the sights and sounds of the night market, tasting snacks and buying various knickknacks. Some of us went on the Malacca River Cruise, and Alona found a nice spot at the bow of the boat, with a great view!




The next morning, like typical tourists, we walked to the legendary A'Famosa fort (which was built in 1511), and hiked up St. Paul's Hill to visit the ruins of the church, called “Our Lady of the Hill”.



It was such perfect weather, with a cool breeze flowing through the ruins, us girls couldn’t resist taking photos (of ourselves, of course!). We even convinced the guys to climb up that ladder - to which a protesting Sean said, "I bet the creator of that ladder would never have imagined it'll be used for this purpose 6 centuries later..."



Strolling along Jalan Tukang Emas (Goldsmith Street), we had a chance to experience age-old places of worship - the Chinese Cheng Hoon Teng temple (built in the 1600s), Kampung Kling mosque (1748) and Sri Poyyatha Vinayar Moorthi Temple (1781), the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia as well as the oldest functioning one in the Malay archipelago - all of which existed on the same street!



Walking under the blazing hot sun, Lyn was glad to spot an old ice-cream seller on a traditional ice-cream cycle – we each bought double-scoop cones, and enjoyed every bit of it!



To end the trip, we got a bird’s eye view of Malacca city from 110 metres up in the sky, on one of the city’s latest tourist attractions, the Menara Taming Sari revolving tower.




It was a fun weekend, which has definitely provided the OMT with a myriad of internal jokes to last for months to come! :)
With the rapid expansion of the Online Marketing Team, it’s important that we take the time to get to know each other outside of the usual meetings and emails. After all, there’s only so much you can talk about during lunch hour and the odd coffee break. So what better way for the whole team to bond than on a weekend trip to Port Dickson & Malacca!

Okay, to be fair, we did go through an extensive selection process to decide between a 12-hour day trip and an overnight trip. No prizes for guessing which one got the most votes :). So, starting out fairly early on Saturday morning, we went for a traditional Indian breakfast before the 1.5 hour scenic drive to Port Dickson (commonly known to Malaysians as PD).



After stopping for lunch in PD, we made our way to Eagle Ranch Resort, a 32-acre recreational resort & park that provides a range of exhilarating outdoor & indoor activities. We opted for archery, horse riding and the rope course challenge. A picture tells a thousand words – here’s a few!



Archery is a graceful sport, but it’s not as easy as it looks (unless you’re a descendant of Middle Earth elves). It took some practice to get a bulls-eye and only some of us managed to get that close but it was good fun.



Next on the list were horse riding and the rope course challenge. Only a few of us opted for horse riding (the girls) but it was worth it. Those horses were an absolute delight! The momentary panic only lasted a few moments (yes, sitting atop a magnificent beast can be quite unnerving) but after that it was a rather enjoyable ride.



The rope course challenge lives up to its name. The challenge the guys did involved climbing up a 30-foot pole, walking across a 22-foot platform of wooden planks with a safety rope securely harnessed to you, and the best part – the safety rope is controlled by your team mates on the ground. It’s of course a challenge to combat your fear of heights as well as test your team communication. True enough, the guys did an excellent job!





Phew! After a couple of hours sweating in the sun, we were just about ready to head to Thistle Port Dickson. This beachside hotel has a bar that overlooks the beach and it was just what we needed before heading to Malacca. Some of us cooled off in the sea while the non-heat lovers camped in a cosy cabana and played these fantasy games cards the Resh brought along.



Next up: Malacca!
Before I knew it, our 3 months were up and the whole lot of us flew to Japan for the 2nd part of our program. I’ll skip the part on Tokyo as this is my 2nd time here and the trip pretty much consists of seminars as well as meeting up with Fujitsu employees. However I’ll share what I believe is the most eventful experience throughout this whole program, which is the visit to Miyagi prefecture, the prefecture that was hit the worst by the tsunami that took place in March last year.

Miyagi lies to the north of Fukushima, about 2 hours by bullet train from the Tokyo train station. Upon arrival, we were taken on a bus to tour around the city of Ishinomaki, formerly known as a thriving fishing port. The name Ishinomaki was synonymous with ‘fresh sashimi’ and represents a friendly fishing community culture instilled proudly by the Japanese. What I saw though was a town that was leveled to the ground, with mountains of debris, graveyards of cars ‘killed’ by seawater, devastated houses and buildings turned upside down that were too big to move. It was like stepping into a horror story, only this time I was right in front of the aftermath and the antagonist was Mother Nature.

However, I have never come across a community that could come together so closely in the face of adversity. I have never come across another group of people which complains so little and works so hard, struggling even when they have to start from zero. In regards to sacrifice, they bring the meaning to a whole new level, sacrificing not only for people they care about but also for people they have never met. It is a different experience listening to heartwarming stories from the news and social media as opposed to listening to it directly from the people who survived such a catastrophe. Even with limited resources, they have such high spirits to work together as a community so that everybody could have the opportunity to come out of this incident at least to a survivable level.

The one memory that was etched at the back of my head took place on dinner night at a small restaurant in the heart of Ishinomaki. It is a seafood restaurant run by a family of 5; a husband and wife, their 2 daughters to help around with serving the customers and a curious little boy by the name of Keito. In a contest of hospitality, the Japanese tops the Americans slightly (disclaimer: this is my opinion) - eating in this restaurant gave me a sense of belonging, like I was part of a family, despite the language barrier. They were so enthusiastic that you would’ve never thought a tsunami flooded this area just over a year ago. I cannot even begin to fathom what it would feel like to go through what they did. It took them 10 months for repairs in order to be able to open up the restaurant again and on top of that, the restaurant owner lost his mother in the midst of the tsunami. There were times when he lost his mind, not knowing how to possibly move on under such circumstances. However his wife shared a quote that I’ll never forget for as long as I live, “As long as our family survives, we will continue to learn how to go on living.” Simple words, yet the struggles and tenacity behind her voice give it a whole new depth of meaning. And the smile of little Keito will remind me of a family with immense conviction to get through another day in their lives, believing in a better future ahead.

Before I conclude, I’d like to apologize. I was asked to write an article about my 4 month long vacation, about how I enjoyed myself living the life of a beach boy as I attempt to tackle the waves and bask in the sun. I tried to recall those moments and barely came out with anything. My best memories were the abstract experiences that couldn’t be quantified nor framed upon a picture. I packed my bags and headed out hoping for a chance of reflection, hoping to get some questions answered. While I did get answers, the answers only serve to open up more questions, and I’m left with more different paths then when I started.

On the last day in Japan, my 3 previous mentioned friends and another Singaporean gathered in a room for a chance to recollect our experiences throughout the whole program and discuss our takeaways. We discussed our next steps, our side projects, our opportunities, our perspectives and the changes we see in one another. We argued on our point of views in regards to current events and discussed on possible economic repercussions. There’s hardly a single thing that all of us synonymously agree on except for one; while we really didn’t want the night to end, we are all eager to go back and see what opportunities would life throw at us.

I cannot honestly say that I come out of this experience a different person. I guess I’m still pretty much the same except for the 2 kgs I’ve lost (food in Hawaii is too damn expensive!). If there’s one thing I’ve realized is the fact that I have a broader perspective when looking at things. In regards to work as a QS/AE, I tend to not only ask ‘what’ questions, but also ‘why’. I look at a problem and not only think of how to solve it from a technical point of view, but also understand why such a business decision was made, how it relates to cost and the company’s strategic plans, what are the expected repercussions financially and operationally. This is not to say I’ve not previously asked these questions, but I seem to be able to ask them with more clarity and specificity, with a better understanding of what answers I can expect to receive and more importantly empathize with the people making these decisions. More importantly I believe that with a foundation in business studies and perspective, I’m able to cultivate my skills to slowly bridge the gap between technical and business.

I guess a big thank you is due to the people who have given me this opportunity by accepting my request for a sabbatical. Sook Lin and Oliver, they had to arrange resources and schedules prior to my departure. Derred, Hui Chin and Bernhard, of the Rhenus project team, they picked up my slack when I was away. Finally, the Quintiq Global Development directors, for approving my long leave.

So, to conclude this article on a more light hearted tone, I’ve included a list of notes for those of you who are interested to visit either Hawaii or Japan.

  • Waikiki is overrated, a majority of the people there are Japanese tourists

  • The ever famous restaurant ‘Eggs & Things’ with a long line of customers are not worth it. Jarrod and Rawlins here serve better breakfast sets

  • If it’s raining in Hawaii, just continue with what you’re doing. It will be gone after 5 minutes

  • Bring sunscreen

  • Bring lots of sunscreen

  • Rent a car, right hand drive isn’t as hard as it may seem.

  • If in doubt, show the ‘Shaka’. Nobody hates the ‘Shaka’.

  • If you like diving, go for the wreck dives. You get to see pearl harbor wreckages of destroyers and war planes

  • Climb the ‘Heads’. They are actually small mountains or volcanic craters with breath taking views once you hit the summit. Pack sneakers for this.

  • In Japan avoid the rush hours

  • Rush hours are typically from 6-9 in the morning

  • Rush hours at night starts at 10.30 pm. Yes, I’m not kidding.

  • Visit Harajuku only on weekends between 2 pm – 6 pm.

  • Any dessert shop in Tokyo is awesome; I’ve yet to come across one that doesn’t impress.

  • Japanese are typically friendly. They are even friendlier if you meet them in a bar after a few drinks.

  • Study the train and subway maps; it is very easy to get lost taking the wrong train.


If you want more crazy stories, I’m always open to offers for coffee. :D
I stink. With a total combined 16 hours flight and 12 hours transit, my whole body itches, my breath smells like a swamp pit and my hair is as oily as the Mexican gulf back in 2010. It was only 3 months ago when I remembered telling Sook Lin, my team manager, and Oliver, HR, that I was planning to take a 4-month sabbatical, sending their faces into a contorted expressions as I piled on unnecessary stress into their plates with my ‘selfish desire for adventure’. I bet it would put a cheeky smile on their faces knowing that somehow, the forces of nature, or rather poor flight arrangements, made my first step into Hawaii a temporary travesty.

Fortunately for me, the generally “chilled out” attitude of Hawaiians as depicted in films isn’t just a stereotype. Hawaiians indeed have a nicer outlook on life; attempting to warm up to anyone they come across by tossing the ‘Shaka’ (a hand sign where the 3 middle fingers are enclosed while your thumb and pinky finger remain outstretched), a symbol for the ‘Aloha Spirit’ that represents every other positive expression such as ‘Have a nice day’ and ‘Mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you)’. After settling in to my really beautiful temporary lodgings and satisfying myself with a long warm shower, the awareness of my situation begins to take clarity like clouds clearing after a long rainy day.
I’m in unfamiliar territory, about to go on a course in which I have no clue (cross cultural business, FYI), with no familiar faces within at least a 1000 mile radius, relying only on my own survival instincts (which is nothing much to begin with) and some random people I will meet, for a whole 3 months.

I can only grin with excitement. However, the grin is short lived, as I come to realize the insanely exorbitant prices of Hawaiian groceries.

The first month and a half there could easily be summed up with one word - hectic. I speed through case studies with Wikipedia and dictionary.com as my reference companions, as I attempt to cover as much unfamiliar ground in the field of business. Terms such as ‘tacit knowledge’, ‘ADR’, ‘Autonomy’, ‘Procurement’, ‘ROI’, ‘ROE’, ‘ROA’, ‘Capitalism’, ‘Socialism’, ‘Purchasing Power Parity’, and a whole lot more transitioned from the realms of the unknown to foundational knowledge used in discussions. Cases are discussed, often times leading up to constructive arguments based on different perspectives that stems from the class’s diverse backgrounds. As much as I was intrigued by the new-found knowledge such as game theory economics, Confucius’ view on individuality and community, as well as Socrates’ teachings on pragmatism, I was even more fascinated by my new environment and what it has to offer. Weekends were filled with activities such as visits to Pearl Harbor and surfing classes. It was exhausting, yet 2-fold more gratifying.

While the rest of my almost 2-month stay consisted of less classes and activities, it was the most profound. My initial hopes of having some time off for self reflection came as classes take a back seat with the more relaxed schedule later in the course. Furthermore, my bank account was thinning at an alarming rate and I had to re-consider the benefits of throwing more cash into supporting the American economy versus my chance of surviving on a diet of instant noodles for the rest of my stay.

Jokes aside, I was beginning to wonder what made this trip worthwhile, what was it that justified my putting my career on hold for 4 months to travel half way across the world and what did I gain? Am I happy with where I am? What is my next step and how do I get there? It was a time for reflections and I can honestly say reflections are better made sitting on the beach, enjoying the beautiful view Hawaii has to offer while getting a tan. At this point of time in the course, I had already fostered strong relationships with some of my peers; relationships that I knew would resonate for years to come.

I got to know a Cambodian girl, who did her post graduate studies in public policy at Carnegie Mellon. We would enjoy cheesecake while arguing about our differing philosophical ideals and ethical perspectives. I also enjoyed hearing about her experience working in the non-profit sector for corporations such as the UN and World Bank, how she hates the bureaucracy which clashes with and hinders her passion to help her country grow, and what it was like to be born 4 years after the Khmer Rouge was ousted, growing up in a country that had to restart from scratch.

I also got to know an Indonesian Managing Consultant from A.T Kearney. Towards the end of the course, we rented a car and road tripped across the whole island of Hawaii, stopping by at each scenic beach we came across and enjoying the view while sharing our aspirations of pursuing graduate studies. We talked about getting into Harvard like Boston was in our backyard, and laughed at how ridiculous we sounded. We also agreed that as crazy as it may sound, it was a great direction to run to and see where we end up along the way. We shared our passion, his in Venture Capital and Corporate Strategic implementations, and mine in Technology and Volunteer work. We talked about future careers, how we could open up doors and the possibility of us collaborating with others in the future. He was optimistic while I was realistic, and this created a good contrast or synergy, if you will, for discussions. It was a funny sight, two males, one Oriental and the other Polynesian, sitting by the beach deeply engrossed in our topics. I sometimes wonder if passers-by perceived us as an odd ‘couple’.

One final honorable mention was another peer from the Philippines, who was four years younger than me, the youngest of the lot. A marketing executive from the communications industry, we shared the same interest in volunteer work. We discussed the opportunities in both our countries (or lack thereof in mine) and what were the differing factors that contributed to the current situation. Despite being so young, he was eager to contribute his own perspective and hungry for knowledge and opportunity.

The combined experience we share certainly helped me look at life from a different perspective. I was not only able to reflect from the position I stood, but also from their positions looking at me. It is refreshing when someone tells you that ‘you lack the capacity for compassion and sympathy’, something you simply need to hear without the sugar coating. We openly commented on each other’s aspirations and dreams, spotting loopholes, considering what-if worst case scenarios; things that you wouldn’t want to hear but you simply have to. We gave support from a realistic stance, not blind affirmations.

Before we knew it, our 3 months in Hawaii was up… Next, I went to Japan, and then home. Read about the rest of my trip in part two.
What are the top-three questions people ask when I represent Quintiq at recruitment events and conduct job interviews? It would have to be these:

1. What will my typical day look like when I join Quintiq as a consultant?

2. What are the things I’ll work on in my first year?

3. What is the career path for a Quintiq consultant?

These are all excellent questions. But, ironically, it is these that make me sweat the most. It is hard to explain in general terms, even more so in catchy phrases, the freedom that working at Quintiq offers its employees. Here are the answers I typically give:

1. Every day at Quintiq has its own unique set of interesting challenges and no day is the same.

2. We will try to get you working on a customer project as soon as possible. We believe strongly in learning on the job. What this project will be or where it will be located we will know only just before your start on it.

3. Your career path is completely up to you to determine and impossible to predict.

Most people agree that having the freedom to choose their own career path and to learn something new every day is a great thing. However, it simply doesn't offer the security and certainty that most job searchers are looking for.

The typical workaround I chose in these situations is to resort to examples. In these examples I like to talk about Quintiq employees that are in Greece on Monday to discuss the usage of system that has been used live for years, only to fly to Italy the next day and help with finalizing the last weeks of a project there. I talk about people like myself who have a role within the organization that didn't exist before that person decided the organization needed it. I talk about people who have been working in the same role for the last ten years, not because there are no other opportunities, but because they’re completely happy with what they are doing. At that point I typically run out of time.

As a solution to this problem we are now inviting a select group of high potential graduates to our office every quarter. We call this the Quintiq Graduate Day. During the day the graduates are taken to meet as many people as possible, they get information about Quintiq’s vision and software and are challenged to solve the kind of problems Quintiq employees encounter on a daily basis. Each of these activities should not only answer any questions you might have about working at Quintiq, but also show you that Quintiq is simply the best company to work for.

To find out more about the Quintiq Graduate Day, visit www.QuintiqCareers.com/events.html
One of the reasons why Quintiq is a great company to work for is its flexible structure and endless possibilities for growth based on personal interests and strengths. A lot of my colleagues switch between customer-facing consulting and technical specialist roles or move around the world to other offices, but I have had the luck to shape a new position in the company for myself based on what I do best and what gives me most pleasure at work.

I am now the global Optimization Coach, helping with practically all of our optimization implementations world-wide and shaping the future of our Optimization Vision. Four years ago when I was starting at Quintiq, I didn't even suspect that optimization would become "my thing".

After doing the Quintiq consultant training I was tempted to play with the optimization toolbox available in our software and soon I got assigned to my first project. I was supposed to create an optimizer for animal feed batch loading. So there I was, applying just-discovered mathematical programming techniques and pretty much learning on the job to put it all together. I still can’t believe how it happened (answer: because of great support from other consultants), but the optimizer worked, the customer was happy, and for me it was sheer fun!

After this project the next ones came, and I had the opportunity to expand my algorithms skills. I quickly became familiar with all the optimization puzzles in the Metals and Manufacturing unit I was working in. I am the kind of person who always needs to find new challenges, but just when I was starting to look around for new stimulus for my mind, they found me: there was this optimization project in danger in Workforce, the business unit across the office floor, and they thought I could help.

I remember spending a couple of nights working on this crew diagramming puzzle: it was a new industry, a long, ongoing project and a difficult optimization problem to be straightened out as soon as possible. But I didn’t mind working late, because I felt that success was close – and indeed we soon managed to bring great savings to the rail customer.

Since that moment, my talent in optimization became more and more well-known throughout the company, and the borders of my business unit weren’t a limit to picking up a challenge for a customer in the US, working on an optimizer applying new technologies for the Australian office, and putting my feet down in the third area of optimization we do in Quintiq – logistics.

It was clear that what I do is really useful for the company and is worth formalizing. We often like to do things in this sequence: first let things work out naturally, and then put it on paper when it turns out to be a good idea. There was no Optimization Coach role before, and I don’t know if there would be now if I hadn’t proven the need for it by just fulfilling it.

As the Optimization Coach, I became the real go-to guy for optimization. I continue solving difficult optimization puzzles or helping others to do so. On top of that I started improving the documentation and learning material, implementation processes and cooperation with our R&D Algorithms Team. I attend optimization research conferences to broaden our outlook on state of the art in optimization; I get a lot of further ideas for me and the optimization team I am building now.

All of this allows me to work on what I like best and I never get bored. I am still surprised about how well everything turned out for me, as I really couldn’t have imagined this career when I joined Quintiq.

If you are like me and you want to be challenged by and passionate about your work, make sure that you find a company like Quintiq that will grant this wish!
At Quintiq we love solving puzzles. Not just planning puzzles, but typically other puzzles as well. About a year ago, when I visited the Global Development Center in Malaysia, I spotted many Rubik's Cubes lying around, and found out that our team was having a puzzle solving competition. It made me think back to 1980 when the Rubik's Cube was first introduced. My friend Menno (he’s Hungarian) brought me one from Hungary (where it was invented) and I had a great time during the 6 days it cost me to figure it out. In the following year I kept playing with it to make patterns, to get faster at it, and was hooked on the Cube. So, when I saw the Rubik's Cubes at the GDC I made sure I gave it a few tries as well, just for old time’s sake.


Image: theilr

Many of our colleagues love some kind of puzzle. For some it is something like the Rubik's Cube, for others a thinking game or strategy games, Sudoku or anything else. For me, besides the Cube, it always was math puzzles. Let me given an example of the kind of math puzzle I like:

"You and your partner go to a cocktail party where there are 20 other couples. As is customary at cocktail parties, you try to say hi to everyone there. Now, everyone will therefore greet some people who they already know, while they will also meet a few new people and get introduced to them. As you are very inquisitive you decide to ask everyone on the party (thus, you ask 41 people) how many new people they have met on the party, and as it turns out everyone gives you a different answer! The question is now: how many new people did you meet?"

The funny thing about these kinds of puzzles is that you don't need a math degree, or any knowledge of advanced math. All you need to do is spending some time puzzling to figure it out! If you think you’ve found the answer, leave a comment at www.facebook.com/QuintiqCareers or tweet us at @QuintiqCareers.

UPDATE


We know you're dying to find out... here's the answer from Victor:

There are 42 people, 21 couples, at the party. Thus, you, your partner and 20 other couples. Given that everyone knows their partner, anyone can meet at most 40 new people. As you asked everyone (41 people) how many people they met and you got all different answers, the 41 different answers that you got, were 0, 1, 2, 3, ...., 40. So, the good news is that we know exactly what all the answers were. Now we need to figure out how that helps us to know how many new people you met yourself.

Now, let's look at the one person A who met 40 new people. That means, that she will have met everyone new, and conversely, everyone else will have met at least this 1 new person. The question now is, who is then the person who will have met no one new? The only candidate for that is the partner of A. So, the answers "0" and "40" were given by one particular couple. Clearly, from their answers, you personally did not know A (as she met everyone new) and you did know her partner, so in this couple you met 1 new person.

Now, let's eliminate the couple A and partner from the whole party and adjust all numbers. Then, everyone else has met one new person less (A). So, the picture now looks like we have only 20 couples left, who originally gave as answers all numbers from 1 to 39, and who should subtract 1 from all their answers (because A and partner have been eliminated). So, we now have a situation where you have 20 couples, the answers they gave were from 0 to 38 (all different) and you remember that you met 1 person of the couple A and partner.

You can now apply exactly the same reasoning to person B who met 38 new people among the restricted group of 20 couples. His partner must be the person who met no one new (in this restricted group), so you met one of them (B) and already knew the other (his partner). We can now eliminate him and his partner from the group, being left with 19 couples, who all had met one of couple B and his partner, and therefore their answers which were 1 to 37, now drop down to 0 to 36.

When you keep repeating this, you will end up eliminating the 20 couples one by one, each time realizing that you had already met one of each couple. Finally, you end up with just you and your partner. You already know your partner, of course, so the number of new people that you met is 20, one for each couple. Oh, and by the way, that is the same answer your partner gave :-)
I recently watched the video [33:19 is the start of this section] during which Andrew Godwin revealed that Django had a problem with the email validation script which made it vulnerable to a DDoS attack.

Now imagine you are asked how to validate an email address. Where would you start, what questions would you ask, what pitfalls might you try to avoid, and what assumptions would you make?

Just like at school, the rationale of how you arrive at the answer is at least as important as the actual answer. For while you may find answers to this problem on the Internet, there are many tasks within Quintiq projects where the answer has not been shared across the web. So, you should be able to describe your methodology even if you don't try to code it. I hope that this will lead to fruitful discussion about problem solving, not simply the merits of one specific technique or another.

If this all sounds too simple, you could read something like this, which may make you realize that this is either more challenging than it first appears, or that you just found out how to reduce the spam you get to Gmail.

Get the discussion going by commenting on this post on Facebook, or tweeting to @QuintiqDarroch, hashtag #QuintiqQuiz. Enjoy!
Quintiq’s unofficial slogan “solving the daily puzzle” is always resonating in my head, like a song I heard before going to bed. But having this slogan in my brain does not make me a smarter person unless I can think out of the pint. Why pint? Read on to find out.

Mother’s Day… My mom has done a great job of taking care of me my whole life, so besides the bucket of carnation and warm hugs to show my appreciation, I wanted to give my mommy and family a sweet experience of the taste buds. So, off I went to buy a pint of ice cream. I chose a mixture of rainbow and chocolate chip along with rice sugar. Rainbow for variety, and chocolate chip for the kids (their all-time favorite). I told the ice cream seller that I wanted to take away, thus, she put three small pieces of dry ice on the pint and put the pint upside down in the paper bag.

The dry ice kept the pint cool until I got home and put it in the freezer. At the moment of shutting the freezer door, one question came to my mind. “How do I serve the ice cream to my family members?” I glanced back to see the rack where the cups, plates, spoons, and other crockery sit. Hey! There wasn’t enough to serve all the family members with ice cream. I told myself, let’s do a headcount. There were 18 kids of the third generation, 15 adults of the second generation, and my granny and nanny of the first generation. 35!

So while having dinner, I used the other half of my brain thinking about the ice cream problem. I knew that some time after dinner, we’d be having an ice cream party. But how?

The first solution that came into my head was to let the moms have the ice cream first. Then, the mommies can share the ice cream with their kids. But that just didn’t sound right. It wouldn’t work, and I didn’t like it (and I didn’t think the kids would like it either), because I wanted fair distribution of ice cream.

So, the second solution is this: I’d inform a few of the kids that, hey, we have ice cream today. And the kids would come in batches. But my intuition told me that the kids would tell the other kids, and all the kids would come, and what about mommies? That’s not fair either.

Meanwhile, my mom walked past me, and I was struggling over whether to keep ice cream as a surprise for her, or to share my problem with her. Mums know best, so I decided to ask for her help. That’s Quintiq culture – if you need help, if you’re stuck, “ask”. I said to my mom, “Mom, I have some ice cream for everybody in the house, but we have limited spoons, plates, and cups. Mom, tell me what to do? How do I serve this ice cream?”

I have to say her answer made me proud of my wise mom. With some colloquial flavor, she replied, “haiyah, serve the ice cream when cutting cake, why not?” Wow, she gave an optimal solution in split seconds! I felt my face muscles soften and turn into a smile. Thanks for solving the puzzle for me, mom!

So at last, we had our cake cutting ceremony. The mommies in my family sat round table. Cousins, uncles, aunts took out all their androids, iPhones, DSLR, Nikon, DVCam, etc. Granny said it was comparable to a press conference. And due to the overwhelming number of “reporters” we had to delay the lighting of the candles. After finally lighting the candles, we sang ‘World’s Only Best Mom’ and ‘Listen to Mommy’, both in Mandarin. Then, it was time to cut the cake; I took the pint of ice cream from the fridge, scooped the pint with one spoon, and shaved off the scoop onto each slice of cake using another spoon. Ice-cream-topped Mother’s Day cake!

I guess sometimes I am better at solving complex problems in Quintiq than in handling real-life problems of the domestic kind.

I can’t end my story there… there are many mothers among our colleagues in Qunitiq, and therefore I take this opportunity to wish all mommies Happy Belated Mother’s Day 2012!
Getting a job at Quintiq is not as easy as showing up one day and finding a free desk. It has always been the company policy to hire the right people instead of the ones that look good on paper. And right does not necessarily mean the people with the right education or right experience for a particular job opening, although that does help. It’s much more a question of mindset, how you present yourself, and what you want to achieve in the future than what you have done in the past.

That is why the application process at Quintiq has a bit more depth than elsewhere. And that is why, as part of this process, you will have a phone conversation with Mr. Quibble.

Mr. Quibble is our in-house version of a grumpy and dissatisfied customer. He will be pretty demanding, not happy at all and will vent his frustration on you. And you will probably agree with everyone else in the company who has spoken to Mr. Quibble - which is, basically, everyone: he’s not much fun to talk to! (Well, up to the point where you actually meet the colleague that played him, who turns out to be sitting opposite you at lunch and with whom you get along just great.)

You might think: But if he’s such a tough and difficult guy, why do I have to meet him? And the answer is simple: because, at some point, you will meet him in real life. I know, because I met mine a few days ago, and it sucks! Not being able to make a customer happy because of something I did, or rather did not do well enough, really eats at me and makes me irritable.

Luckily I have great colleagues, who saw my predicament, took me for a cup of coffee (Did I mention we have great colleagues and great coffee at the office?) and told me about their own real-life Mr. Quibble. They didn’t even have to know the specifics of why I was unhappy, but they did know the feeling. Sometimes a little sympathy and empathy is all you need to get you back on track and focused on getting out of the mess you are in instead of dwelling on the past and being frustrated. I know it helped me to act and fix the situation and I now have a better relationship with that client than before.

So, when you meet your Mr. Quibble, be assured that you meet him for a reason. And that, if you play your cards right, he really can be quite a nice guy after all.
We have probably all seen one of those movies where at some stage someone asks a question, and then they get the answer that they are on a "need-to-know basis" and "they don't need to know". It is a rather complicated way of telling someone that something is a secret, that they cannot be trusted with the information, and that therefore we are not telling you.

Strangely enough, many companies are run that way. Partly, that is the result of all sorts of insider-trading laws for public companies where knowledge about financial results that are better or worse than expected can be abused to trade in stocks for personal gain. However, there are many more private companies than public companies and for some reason management of private companies often prefer to keep information secret and don't share it with their employees. I have always wondered why, and strongly believe that not sharing as much information as you can is a big mistake, for which reason Quintiq is exactly the opposite: we try to share everything about the company as openly as possible.

For instance, every quarter, we have our "Quorum" which is a meeting presented mostly by me as CEO. In our HQ in Den Bosch I do so in person, while in the days after the HQ-Quorum I present the same meeting over webex to our Asia Pacific team followed by an in-person presentation in North America. Thus, all our 450+ colleagues can take part in the presentation where we talk about our financial results in great detail (how many licenses have we sold, how is consultancy doing, maintenance income, costs, profitability for the year, expectations for the remainder of the year) and we even show our exact cash position in a daily graph so that everyone can see how solid our bank account is. We do this in times when the business is good (like 2006-2008 and 2010-today) and when the business is looking bad (like 2009). Also, we present new products that we are developing, new systems we are implementing, fun results we have achieved, and more.

So far, in almost 15 years of Quintiq, I have only seen advantages of being so open. One key advantage is that there is no speculation or rumors. For instance, in 2009 we were in a position where we were concerned about our license sales for the year (which dropped significantly) but we were seeing a significant growth in our consultancy income to compensate for it. Also, we saw that our cash position throughout the whole year was better than expected (better than in 2008). Of course, during the Great Recession in almost any company, anywhere in the world, people were concerned about losing their jobs. Therefore, the same was true for Quintiq employees and if we had not communicated clearly how we were doing financially, as well as our strategy going forward, many people would probably have felt very insecure for most of the year. By communicating clearly where we stood, the whole company was aligned in what we needed to do, and by working together we ended the year without having lost a single job. We even made a modest profit by the end of the year. Immediately after, we continued our 40% annual growth.

At the end of the day, a company is just the sum of all the people that work there. The best way to make sure that people feel happy, connected, motivated and loyal to the company is to share as much information as you can, and to answer any questions that people may have about anything that concerns them.

In my mind the sentence "need-to-know basis" should be interpreted as: "We are going to tell you everything, because as a valued member of the company, you need to know everything".
What would happen if Quintiq decided to follow suit with University of Florida and exclude entry to all candidates from a Computer Science background and decided to hire athletes instead?

Would our algorithms get any faster because of the increased top speed of all these athletes?
Would health & nutrition play a much bigger part in the analysis of a business?
Would our customer support start offering life coaching sessions?
Would our dress code require trainers as standard?
Would location of customer vehicles be tracked using the drivers' Nike+?

To Quintiq, these all seem like illogical choices to make. For many roles, people with a background in computer science can make a real difference. While the reality of top athletes is that they have worked really hard in their chosen discipline, we find that having a wider range of skills is beneficial. So while our CEO is a keen runner, your split times alone won't get you in the door.

There are many ways to contribute to the teams within Quintiq, but a passion for sport is great way to relax with your future colleagues. If you're not looking for Tech Jobs there are lots of choices for you too: Browse by Expertise.

You can find out more about the University of Florida's soft spot for sporty types here: University of Florida Eliminates Computer Science Department, Increases Athletic Budgets. Hmm. | Forbes.com
My first day at Quintiq is still clear in my memory. I met with the HR personnel who briefed me and my fellow Quintiq newbies on what to expect from orientation week. We were given a checklist of introductory meetings to attend and a list of trainings we needed to complete by the end of the orientation. Next, we met with Kelven from Technical Services who gave us our laptops. Now, I don’t know about you, but getting my laptop on the first day of work has never happened to me before. I booted up my machine and there was an email from Victor Allis, the CEO of the company, waiting for me. It was indeed a nice touch to read a personal email from Victor welcoming me to the company. Next, I noticed another email introducing me to everyone in Quintiq. At this point, I was so impressed by the attention to detail and how organized my new company was that I couldn’t help smiling to myself.

The next thing was the walk-about – we shook hands with each and every colleague in the office. I shook over hundred hands that day, and honestly I couldn’t remember any of their faces or names, but what I remembered most were their warm smiles and sincere greetings, “Nice to meet you! Welcome to Quintiq!” I also noticed that the average age of the colleagues was mid to late twenties, with a dress code of tee-shirts and jeans - I felt overdressed in my OL (office lady) blouse, skirt and heels.

My first 2 weeks in Online Marketing were seriously brutal – we had to write a business proposal on how to improve on lead generation for Quintiq. That meant having to understand what Quintiq’s business is about and recommend changes to make it better. So it was a big brain dump from colleagues in the Netherlands and a series of discussions with my team mates to try to make sense of it all. To add to that, I was trying desperately to finish up my master’s thesis at night. On average, I got about 5 hours’ sleep. In the end I did manage to complete my business proposal and my thesis, but, given a choice, I probably wouldn’t choose to do it again - I love sleep.

I remember sharing a lift with a colleague one morning. He asked me, “How are things with you?” “I’m pretty busy since I’ve got lots of new things to learn, but I guess not as busy as you guys,” I replied. He smiled and looked at me, “Trust me, working in Quintiq means you will soon be really busy too.” And boy, he was absolutely right! I’ve been working for Quintiq for almost 2 years now, and time has just breezed past. Personally, the busyness is not just about the demands of the work, but about creating value that benefits your colleagues and the company. This means improving efficiency, exploring new ideas and doing away with stupid rules. Here in Quintiq, people don't have the attitude that just because you are new or fresh your ideas are not as good as someone who is more senior. I've found out that people are willing to listen, support you and congratulate you when you succeed.

I regularly find new reasons to love this company and feel proud to be part of it. It’s not just about how smart big decisions were made, it is also the small little gestures that matter too. That to me is what makes this place a great place to work, that’s Quintiq culture.
Working at Quintiq’s Global Development Center in Kuala Lumpur, I get the opportunity to join in various R&R activities. One such activity is basketball, which happens every Tuesday night at 6.30pm. Me and the rest of the players thought it would be a good idea to write a blog entry on this topic, to give everyone an idea of what goes on inside and outside the court... and, of course, to recruit new players.

How did we get started? Well, one of the guys found this health center behind Jaya One Mall. It’s basically in the middle of PJ, about a 15 minute drive from the office, or about 25 if there's heavy traffic. After walking up three flights of stairs, you arrive at 2 badminton courts, 2 squash courts, a small but decently equipped gym and a full-sized basketball court, where the magic happens! There's also 3 shower stalls in the changing room - the water pressure isn’t great, but we like it there.

On one particular day there were 7 players at the start, so one guy had to sit it out. Don't worry, as even with sit-outs, by the end of the 2 hours everyone will be exhausted. Well, almost everyone ;) I was the odd man out, nowhere near as capable as the rest. Just one session with them and you'll see that all of them (except poor me) have at least some b-ball experience - that is to say that none of them are new to this. Telltale signs: workout sneakers, b-ball shorts (they are so oversized, making them easy to spot!). They had me paired up against Khor,- I'm 5'6", he's around 5'11"! What am I supposed to do, lol. Maybe I can sneak past him by sliding under his legs :S

On some nights we have 10 or more people, enough to play a full court. But these young punks (the average age is 28 or so) go at it for only one or two games, which comes out to about 45 minutes, then they wanna switch to half court! Grrr... Khor is the only other one who asks for full-court play. We ask, ask, and ask, and they tell me and Khor to play a full court game - by ourselves, lol.

Here's Liang looking very dynamic but far from the action at a recent game:



Presenting the all star line up:

The Roster

Team Logistics
Farhan & Martin - these two like to use their sheer weight to muscle their way to the hoop!
Guek - this guy is one of the better runners here and a good shooter
Alex - the boy can REALLY jump! Even Khor can't block his shots
Me - into the 4th week in my basketball career, lol

Team Metals
Liangsanity - Previously playing for University Putra Malaysia, Liang is the most capable player among us.
Ali - likes to play a little mini game where he looks in one direction then passes in another direction
Khornage – um, he is the tallest of us all. Enuff said!

Team Traitor
Sirn Loong (a.k.a Traitor) – okay, he’s got some skills: awaits passes mid air
Wai Meng - this guy likes to play interference! He'll see me coming for his team mate and he'll find a spot to stand firm, blocking my run. Grrr...

Team Indonesia!
Julius, Kervin & Yosia - these guys need to come more. I haven't seen enough to comment on their play style!

Team Online Marketing
Sean - who's pretty good at waiting for passes and scoring from the 3-point line

Also, ALL these guys can perform nice layups. Just don't expect them to go for more than 2 games without a break :D

So, what happens after the match? When we all finally get showered and dressed, it’s time to eat!

Mamak 101
When it comes to eating at your mamak, there are a few fundamentals that you must always be aware of:

1. When ordering speak very clearly and make sure the macha (the sweaty hairy waiter) repeats your order to you.
2. Never ever order sotong or prawn, unless your wallet is a bottomless pit of money.

Alex was 'lucky' to discover a new fundamental:

3. Never order 'nasi bryani, tambah nasi tambah kambing'. Unless of course like in fundamental #2, your wallet is a bottomless pit of money. "23 ringgit" says the cashier. Back at the table we all have a good laugh as Khor reconstructs the scene, with Alex laughing out loud in response to the price, giving the cashier a pat on the back, "hahaha RM23! Good one!". No joke though, you best enjoy that RM23 mamak meal!

Drop by for a game sometime. We need more bodies to keep the full court games going!!! Or keep in mind that we'll be having a regular mamak meet up every Tuesday,8:45pm at Bumbung SS2 :)

All my life, I have disliked what I have come to call "stupid rules". Rules that just don't make any sense and should be scrapped as soon as possible. A great example happened to me in 1995 while working at a small consultancy company named Bolesian in the Netherlands. One day, one of the two directors of that company, Jan, realized that people would show up at work at very different times and also go home at different times. For some reason, he suddenly believed that was a bad thing and therefore sent an email to the whole company indicating that from now on, everyone was expected to be at work by 8:30am and not leave before 5pm. He felt that this would enhance our collaboration and would be good for the company. The first few days that the new rule was in effect he would stand at the door around 8:30 to see who would show up late and ask them whether they had not heard of the new rule? The second day I came in at 9:15pm and Jan was standing at the door. He asked me why I was late. I had hoped for that moment and replied as follows:

"Well, I have a 3-year-old daughter who goes to day care. The day care center opens officially at 8:30 although sometimes we can get in a bit earlier. It is customary to spend a few minutes there to get my daughter settled in and then I drive to work, which takes typically about 45 minutes, depending on traffic. So, on Tuesdays and Thursdays the earliest I can be here is around 9:15. Now, because my wife picks my daughter up, I typically work late as well, so I easily get my work done. The alternatives that I can think of would be that I drop my 3-year old on the doorstep of the day care center, hoping that she will be okay. Or that I ask my wife to take care of my daughter every day of the week. Or I could find a different job. After looking at all the alternatives, I have decided that maybe I should just ignore the "in by 8:30 rule". What do you think, Jan?" Jan needed a few minutes to process this, did not put up an argument and the rule very quickly became obsolete.

Now, the reason I call these rules "stupid" is that before thinking of such a rule, management should have thought of these kinds of situations. Lots of people have children, live far away, should avoid traffic, or whatever other reason they may have of not being able to be at the office at an exact time. Also, people should always focus on what they are trying to achieve: collaboration. If that is the goal, make sure that it is clear to everyone that collaboration is important, make sure that people know how to do that, and then leave it to them to figure out when and where.

At Quintiq, we don't have fixed start and end times. We leave that to every colleague to decide. Sometimes you may work with someone in a very different time zone and have an early morning call, which you’d rather take from home. Then, you may show up at the office late. That is fine. Also, you may have worked late the evening before and you want to come a bit later. Fine, too! Or, you have terrible traffic that you like to avoid by coming very early and leaving early, or coming late and leaving late. All good! I strongly believe in flexibility for both employer and employee. Thus, if you live in the USA and work with Malaysia, then sometimes you will have to take early or late calls as there is a 12-hour time difference. That is where we expect you to be flexible. And whenever there isn't a specific meeting that has to happen, we can be flexible so that you can choose your own start and end times.

When I meet new employees I typically tell them about this example of a stupid rule. I then encourage them to let me know whenever they find any stupid rules in Quintiq. If we can all agree that it is stupid, I am happy to abolish it on the spot. Fortunately, I have not had many occasions where people pointed such rules out, so hopefully the few rules that we have, actually make sense to everybody!
Being professional at work does not mean we have to be perfect human beings, capable of sailing through meetings and tasks without a few blunders here and there. I don’t mean massive never-to-be-done blunders that can result in you getting fired – those are still best avoided!

A classic example would be me, during my first few months in Quintiq. My job as a Web Author gives me full responsibility for maintaining www.Quintiq.com. I fix broken links and publish content, ensure content gets translated across all languages on the website, and continuously look for ways to improve our web pages. (I could go on and on, but you get the picture.)

There came a time when another colleague and I were doing some tests with the text formatting on one of our pages. My colleague, who just happens to have a droll sense of humour, entered some dummy text, “Yani’s handbag”, and had it bolded on the page.

Anyway, we weren’t planning on publishing the text to the live site, of course. Using a simple preview mode, we could see how the text looked on the page without publishing it. With that, our test was done and we got our results (the text formatting worked). Now, I was supposed to remove that dummy text from the page but something must have distracted me. For the life of me, I can’t recall what it was. Life went on as usual...

A few days later, I received an email from our Marketing Communications Manager and the subject of that email was... *drumroll*... “Yani’s handbag”! For a while, I was puzzled, thinking, why on earth would this person from the United States office send me an email about my handbag of all things. Obviously, I didn’t make the connection until I read the email, which was something along these lines:

“Dear Yani,
Could you please remove this* from the website?
Thanks.”


*Refers to an attachment from a confused consultant within the company who happened to see a “Yani’s handbag” displayed in its full glory on the website.

Yes, you’re right. One of the many people who had access to the content management system had evidently published that dummy text, not knowing it was there in the first place. Our Marketing Communications Manager was nice enough not to give me the 3rd degree but it’s hard to describe how embarrassed I was - to quote Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, “Oh, the horror!”

My colleague who entered the text in the first place found this so hilarious. He couldn’t stop laughing, and seeing him laugh was another matter entirely. His whole face turned so red that he could easily be spotted a mile away. (Hint: He’s British).

Jokes aside, it’s great that Quintiq is less about blame culture and more about the let’s-work-together-to-solve-this culture, with the underlying philosophy that you learn from your mistakes and will refrain from repeating. So, like all blunders, mistakes and mishaps, “Yani’s handbag” soon blew over, but not without the Online Marketing Team having a good laugh at my expense!
In the early years of Quintiq I visited a copper factory which needed our help in optimizing their operations. One of the most interesting processes that we needed to optimize was that of the slitting machines, where a wide coil (640 mm) would be cut down into thin strips of copper of varying sizes. Those thin strips (sometimes just 20mm wide) were then used by their customers to make those little copper contacts that you have in your cellphone and in many other electronic goods. As copper is an expensive metal (about $8000/ton) our customer wanted to make sure they would use as much of the coils as they could, leaving as little scrap metal as possible.

To understand the details of their planning puzzle, we sat down with the production manager, an operator and the planner, and asked many questions about the slitting process. We learned, for instance, that the edge of the coil would have little cuts in it (a side effect of rolling it to a very thin gauge), so that we needed to trim 10mm off on both sides, leaving a net width of 620mm to work with. We also learned that they would typically have several orders of the same type of metal with varying widths. Sometimes the puzzle would be very simple with a customer wanting 2 coils of 310mm (which would mean cutting a coil of 620 in two nice equal pieces), but sometimes it would be difficult to make a good combination as they would need to make 1 coil of 180 and 1 coil of 340, in which case you could only use 520mm out of the 620mm and thus about 1/6th of the whole coil would be scrapped (and remelted) at a cost of thousands of dollars.

It got really interesting when the customer told us about other special rules. For instance, if you had orders for 33mm and 35mm you could not combine them. That was a pity, in my mind, as 18*33=594 and 17*35=595 meaning that we would lose 26mm and 25mm or about 4% in scrap. If we could combine 5*33 and 10*35 we would use the full 620mm. They then told us the story that in the past they made these combinations, but as the operators could not distinguish between 33mm and 35mm when they took the coils of the slitting machine and put them on the pallet to be shipped, they could easily put the wrong coils on the wrong pallet. So, they had sent the wrong coils to a customer in Korea, who was not happy, and there had been a very high cost in resolving this issue. Since then they had had the "5mm difference rule", stating that coils could not be combined unless they were at least 5mm apart in width as that should be easy for the operator to identify.

Another rule stated that coils should be scheduled on the slitters in order of thinnest coil to thickest coil. When I asked why, they could not tell me. It was one of those rules everyone knew about but nobody knew why. When I insisted that I needed to know the reason, otherwise I would be inclined not to implement it, they started asking around and finally they found one of the old operators who could explain that in the past they would run many different coils with exactly the same knives, set at the same position, as they had very few customers and fixed widths. As knives would get dull over time, and they would get dull faster when slitting thick coils, they would first do the thin coils to avoid them going dull too fast. The moment they explained it to me, they realized that that rule no longer was useful as they now changed setups (and thus knives!) between every single coil. They then realized, "Ah, we can ignore this rule!"

It just goes to show that in many organizations, there are rules with origins that are hidden by the fog of time and may have been long obsolete.

Once we understood all the rules we created an optimizer that took as input all the orders they had available and provided the solution of how to combine orders. Also, we showed clearly on 5 examples selected by their planner that the algorithm came up with better solutions than manual scheduling: actually in each of the five cases the optimizer found a better solution. The person responsible for manual scheduling was quickly converted to believing in the power of the optimizer and happily sent the optimized schedules to the shop floor.

One night, however, the shift operator decided to ignore the optimizer. They had to create at least 100 coils of 40mm and 45mm each. The optimizer had created two different combinations that they needed to run. One was 2*40mm+12*45mm, to be run 6 times, and one was 11*40mm+4*45mm to be run 8 times. The people on the shop floor thought that that was stupid. What they always did was just take one combination (say, 11*40mm+4*45mm) and then run that until they had enough coils of 40mm, and then would make a setup of just 45mm to make up the difference. They needed to run the first combination 10 times (to get 110 coils of 40mm and 40 of 45mm) and then they set up 13*45mm (585mm wide), and ran that 5 times to get another 65 coils. They opted for this combination, their usual solution, rather than that suggested by the optimizer.

When the scheduler heard about it, he demanded that the operations director come to see him. The operations director started out by explaining why the algorithm clearly got it wrong, and that it was not smart to make two combinations like that as they would normally never do that! This stopped when the planner started doing the math on the whiteboard. The shop floor had created 110 coils of 40 mm and 105 coils of 45 mm, thus 15 coils too many. Also they had wasted 35mm of scrap on each of the last 5 runs. The operations director looked at it and agreed. He hadn’t realized how bad the solution was. Then the planner calculated on the white board what the optimizer had suggested: 12 coils of 40mm and 72 coils of 45mm from the first run, and 88 coils of 40mm and 32 coils of 45mm from the second run. A total of 100 + 104 coils, thus only 4 coils too many. Also, there was no scrap generated at all! They realized that the difference was worth several thousand dollars in cost savings. The operations director muttered: "So, we’ve always done it the wrong way.” The planner looked at him and said, "From now on, you should follow exactly what the Quintiq system proposes, as you cannot beat the mathematics of the optimizer."

By the end of the year, our customer had saved more than half a million dollars, just on the slitting machines. That is what algorithms and optimizers can do once we apply them to real business problems.
I started my career as an architect - think bricks and concrete, not software – and manager of construction projects. When the economic crisis struck my old company I was one of the people laid off. I took this as a sign that it was time for a change of scenery and went in search of greener pastures. Quintiq offered me a great new challenge: dedicated, intelligent people to work with, and very diverse and stimulating projects which have made the time fly by.

The most significant change for me however was a change of pace. Where I was used to decisions taking weeks and actions sometimes months, I am now working within timeframes of days and sometimes hours. All of a sudden you see results a lot quicker, can act and react faster and have people keep up with you in this. It seems like I can get a lot more done in a shorter time and I am really enjoying it

At the moment for example, we are finishing up the model for one of the big European overland trucking companies. This is a busy time with a lot of last-minute work being done internally. At the same time we’re preparing for the testing phase that will happen in collaboration with the customer at the site of the implantation. Emails and calls are flying left and right and everyone seems to be talking at once. To have everyone working in an efficient manner, meet the deadline and at the same time keep the customer involved and happy is sometimes quite a challenge. But then, that is exactly where I “get my kicks”.

So, thank you Quintiq, for taking me in, making me feel at home and challenging me to push the envelope!

Follow me on twitter @pm_oliver to find out more about who I am and what I do.
As Vice President of Product Development I often have conversations with new colleagues who just joined Quintiq and would like to know exactly what product development is doing. They often have the impression, formed in previous jobs, that product development teams sit in ivory towers and every now and then throw something new out of the window to the people waiting below.

Well... that may be the case in many companies, but it’s not how we do product development at Quintiq. Our product development teams actually work in the same space as the project teams that are using their solutions. That way they can get instant first-hand feedback and learn how to improve the products they are creating. Moreover they can immediately answer the project team’s questions about the product.

It very often happens that a project consultant is available for a short period of time between projects, and at that point they actually contribute to product development. Given that both projects and products are written in the Quintiq Logic Language, it is very easy for them to integrate lessons learnt from their projects back into the product.

Next to the teams working on the projects, pre-sales teams are also a very important customer of the product development department. Our teams do help the selling consultants with how to best demo the capabilities of our products. The selling consultant can immediately give feedback on how customers react to certain features in the software and how we can improve our products. Very often and due to the power of the Quintiq Logic Language, suggestions for improvement can be incorporated within a couple of days and sometimes even overnight.

Therefore, when you join Quintiq, no matter what your role, you immediately become part of the product development force as well!
Hello there. My name’s Kervin, and I’m currently working as a Quintiq Specialist in Quintiq’s Software Knowledge Center (known as the SKC). I’d like to tell you the story of how I ended up working for Quintiq.

One and a half years ago I bumped into a friend who suggested I apply for a job with Quintiq. Since I was looking for a good job, I accepted the offer with enthusiasm.

I still look back on those early days with fondness, and I’ll always be grateful to that friend.

The first time I stepped into Quintiq, I was greeted by a pleasant surprise! The ever smiling receptionist, Reva, called me by name. Imagine opening the door to new unknown company from far far away in the Netherlands and you already feel at home. It shows how much Quintiq appreciates its employees.

Then I met Bas, our friendly global development center director. We had a chat about my studies and my interests. After that, Bas told me about what Quintiq does and why is it such an interesting place to work. On one of the slides, there was a picture of a Rubik’s cube. Trying to impress my interviewee, I pointed it out and said, “Ah yes, I like puzzles. For example, I can solve the Rubik’s cube in under 2 minutes”. He replied, “Oh really? Well that’s nice. Hold on to your seat for a second”. Then he went out of the room, and asked the people working nearby, “Excuse me, does anyone have a Rubik’s cube?” My heart was racing! I had solved a Rubik’s in under 2 minutes, but it had been months since I had touched one!

Next thing I know, the Rubik’s is sitting heavily in my cold hands. Bas was looking at his watch. He said, “You can start anytime you want.” Well, here goes nothing. I took a few seconds just to look at the cube, turning it left and right, trying to remember how to actually start solving it. Somehow, the first layer went fine. On the second layer, the cube started to feel more familiar, like an old friend. But here comes the third layer where most of the moves are memorized. Being sure that the earlier layers had taken almost 2 minutes already, I rushed, missed some moves, and got lost…

Noticing that I was feeling nervous, Bas smiled. He calmed me down, asked me to drink some water and take a breath. After taking some time to relax, I was ready for a second try. First, second, and third layers without a single mistake! It was splendid and we were happy with the result!

I’m not sure what my actual time was. But it taught me that Quintiq values people who enjoy puzzles and challenges. We also value people who are willing to learn from their mistakes. We all make mistakes sometimes, but by getting back up after falling down, we grow stronger. Quintiq helps me to get back up. We always give second chances, and encourage our people to discover and make the most of their potential.
As the lead of a small, young team, I often get questions from curious colleagues about what the Online Marketing Team actually does. Many people have the misconception that we make cold calls to strangers to sell products, or put up booths at exhibition halls, because that fits their understanding of what marketing people do.

I smile when I get this sort of question because I find it amusing to see their faces go through a gamut of expressions from confused and surprised to a little bit in awe when I explain what we do. Here’s my elevator pitch: ”Our end goal is to help sell Quintiq Software. And we do this through the power of the Internet and understanding of user behavior. We take care of the user experience of visitors from the moment they begin their search on search engines, to when they leave our websites. We care about what they see and do, and what they experience even after they leave. We are able to do so because we employ clever tools that allow us to understand what works and what doesn’t. And no, we have never spoken to any customers on the phone, nor have we met with any. But we do have a pretty good picture of who they are, what they want and why. We use the intelligence gathered to design and improve our websites, so much so that our work impacts Quintiq’s bottom line.”

Essentially, my team mates and I are regular people who are just very passionate about making stuff functional and beautiful. Established in July 2010, the team quickly grew to 9 people. Along the way we started to get noticed for our work. We design, build, maintain, operate and provide consultancy on anything to do with online stuff and we occasionally lend a hand in other areas within Quintiq too. This includes designing an interface for the Test Team, creating offline materials for Sales and Marketing, writing and editing articles for R&D, usability testing for Product Development, etc. This is possible due to the diverse skill sets that exist within the team.

I think our biggest endorsement came from a simple mention in Victor’s blog on how a prospect found Quintiq through Google and eventually Quintiq got invited to come and give a presentation and demo. We know people find us every day because we monitor lead generation performance every week with our dashboards; this gives us a clear sense of how we contribute to the growth of the company – right down to the dollar.

Our latest pride and joy is this new careers website, launched on Feb 15th. We are still diligently working behind the scenes to make it better and more engaging. Lots of work to do! Stay tuned.

Think you have something to offer to the online marketing team? Check out the vacancies now: Quintiq Vacancies in Malaysia

Many years ago I owned a speaking chess computer which would make funny remarks whenever you made a particularly good or bad move. The funniest bad-move comment it would make was: "Are you a salesman? Only a salesman would make a dumb move like that!" Clearly, sales people were not held in high regard by this chess computer.

There are many salespeople in the world who reinforce the image of the smooth talking, sleek salesguy in the Italian suit, always the loudest person in the room, only interested in his commission at the end of the month. If you don't like that image, you are not alone. Typically, customers feel the same way.

What customers really look for are "trusted advisors". People who understand their business, understand their challenges, and are willing to help them overcome those challenges by listening to them and then offering solutions that really work. The skills required are closer to those of a doctor making a diagnosis than a salesman closing a deal – you’ve got to listen, ask a lot of questions, and call on your years of experience, before coming up with a solution to the problem.

What I have found is that within Quintiq, every person who interacts with a customer is, in a way, a bit of a "salesperson", often without realizing it. The good news is you can just be yourself – you don’t have to wear an overpriced suit, or sell your soul for a second-hand car! Let me illustrate that with two stories:

Suits You, Sara
In the USA recently we were making a bid for a customer project together with one of our partners. Our partner had come with 5 consultants/salespeople; we had just one person in the team, which we felt was a good balance :-). Our presales consultant, Sara, was running most of the show with the partner observing. The night before the presentation, the partner consultants started talking about the dress code for the meeting and one of the female consultants found out to her horror that she and Sara were planning to wear the same color suit. For some reasons which still escapes me, this was "not done" in her eyes. When she continued to make a point of that, Sara looked her in the eye and said: "Listen, I don't care about dress codes; I’m here to do a demo". Of course, the next day, the presentation went great, the customer loved the demonstration and was impressed by Sara, who knew exactly what she was talking about. Oh, and no one mentioned the color of anyone’s suit.

Choosing Charan
Another time, I had to present a demo of our Company Planner industry solution to a customer in the USA. I initiated a turnkey project (a fast, two-to-three-day project executed in our global development center in Malaysia) to load the customer data into our system. Charan, a consultant in the GDC, was assigned to the project. He did a great job setting up the demo and preparing the explanation of the demo so that I could learn how to answer every one of our customer’s 25 questions.

When reading through all the work he had done, I realized that it was going to take a lot of effort for me to learn all that Charan already knew, and I realized that there would be no one better qualified to do the demo than Charan! Of course, he had never met the customer, he doesn’t speak with an American accent, and he would be 12 time zones away. However, he was the expert. So, I asked Charan whether he would be willing to do the demo (with me to help out in the discussion) and he happily agreed even though it turned out to be scheduled at 4am his time. We had a great session, and Charan did a stellar job. Despite the late hour, I could tell that Charan actually enjoyed doing this, as what is more fun than talking with someone about something that you are an expert in?

Do you think that the customer ever asked what color suit Charan was wearing, or whether he was in sales? Of course not. They were just very happy to talk with someone who clearly was an expert in his field and could answer every single one of their questions.

What we should realize is that every single person who interacts with a customer in some way plays a role in our sales process. Not by being "salesy" but by being an expert at what they do and by just being who they are. We have experts in all sorts of areas throughout Quintiq. Not all of them will interact with customers regularly, but when they do, they almost always make me smile as they show that customer interaction is just about being good at what you do.
When people ask me why I do things the way I do in my role as CEO of Quintiq, I often have a story to tell. That’s because, like most CEOs, I was an employee before I was an employer: I want my employees to benefit from the lessons I learned while working for others.

For example, while working at a university as an assistant professor, I realized that job titles can be misleading, lengthy job descriptions can be restrictive but are often ignored, and positive evaluations don’t necessarily have an equally positive impact on salary or areas of responsibility. (My job title didn’t reflect the time and effort I put in, the job description was pages and pages long and didn’t relate to the actual work I did, and I was disappointed to discover that getting a great evaluation from my students didn’t also mean getting a great pay raise from the department.)

So, at Quintiq most new employees start out with a fairly vague job title, which often includes the word Consultant.

Wikipedia defines consultant as A consultant (from Latin: consultare "to discuss") is a professional who provides professional or expert advice. The part I like about this are the words professional and expert. That is what all our employees are: they are professionals and they become experts in what they do. Also, the further you grow in your role, the more you will not only do things yourself, you will also train, coach and support others who are less experienced. That is where the "discuss" part fits.

I also like the vagueness of the term consultant, because it allows our employees to go in any of many different directions. Some of our colleagues are experts in creating the most beautiful user interfaces. Others are great in creating complex logic. Some are algorithm experts who configure the optimizers that optimize our customers’ businesses. Some appreciate the functionality of our software and enjoy interacting with customers, training them how to use our software, helping customers to understand their planning puzzles better.

When we hire you, we don’t know what direction you’d like to take until you’ve spent some time in the job – you probably won’t know at first either. That’s fine, because we really don't want to "box you in" to a certain preference. Maybe right now you think you like complex logic and next year you want to get more into optimizers. Maybe you’d like to get involved in the functional side of a project when the opportunity presents itself. All of these options are available within Quintiq, and fortunately some people really like to stay very technical (we need those experts!) and other like to work on algorithms (we need those experts, too!) and others like to develop more in a functional direction (again, we also need those experts!).

A brief and open-ended job description and a slightly fuzzy title (Consultant) give you the freedom to grow into your role, whatever it turns out to be. It’s up to you what direction you’d like to take, and this can and often does change over time.

And of course, if you’re doing a great job, your salary and seniority will reflect this. We reward excellence.

I have found that this method works so much better than the way the university treated job titles, job descriptions and yearly rewards. Maybe that is why I left university after two years. I like to think that Quintiq’s approach to these factors partly explains why my colleagues at Quintiq typically like their jobs and stay for many, many years.
Before joining Quintiq, while I was still going through the recruitment process, I came across a couple of podcasts of the big bosses (Bas, Director of the Malaysian offices, and Victor, CEO) talking on a Malaysian business radio station. Up until that point, I’d only spoken to a recruiter, so I was pleased to discover two real voices and names behind Quintiq. Bas was talking about the expansion plans for the global development center in Kuala Lumpur, and the career path for Quintiq Consultants; Victor was discussing his background in mathematics and artificial intelligence and how that relates to Quintiq. Taking the time to listen to these two podcasts really helped me feel prepared for the interview – I had a good idea of what the company was about, and a sense of the company culture. If you’re preparing for an interview, or you’re interested in applying for a job with Quintiq, I suggest you listen to them, too:

Victor on BFM
Bas on BFM

Phew… after three months of blood, sweat and HTML, www.QuintiqCareers.com is live! It’s been a big project for the online marketing team, and it’s not over yet, but we’re glad that we can finally share our hard work with potential Quintiq employees.

We work for Quintiq, so it was easy for us to conceptualize a website that expressed why Quintiq is a great place to work. The hard part was turning that vision into reality. First, we had lots of meetings… between which we stared at our monitors and scratched our heads. Then, our web designer Poo Geok came up with some mock-ups – of course, those look quite different to the site you’re browsing now.

Here’s Poo Geok sitting at her desk, still beavering away just a few days before launch:   And I started writing… writing about the recruitment process, about the working environment, about the Quintiq Freedoms… lots and lots of writing. You can see I’ve been working hard – look at my desk! :
 

Sean crunched some code, Poo Geok and Tae fretted over fonts, @QuintiqDarroch generated an SEO report to beat all SEO reports. Web author @YaniQuintiq was there (with her never-ending supply of chocolate) to give a fresh perspective on things, and PPC specialists Vincent and Audrey were working on a PPC campaign for the site, all under the watchful eye of team manager Siew Mee. Here we all are working hard in our corner of the office:





But, of course, it’s not just about the website – we also had to create the twitter account @quintiqcareers, and the facebook account www.facebook.com/quintiqcareers, both of which we now manage. Like I said, it’s been hard work but we’re really glad we now have a cool new site to show for it.

As well as Quintiq Careers, we’ve got lots of other big projects coming up in the next few months. For that, we’re going to need some new teammates, including a super-talented designer who’ll work with Tae and Poo Geok, and another analyst like Sean, and more… if you’re looking for a job you’ll love, check out the vacancies in our team:

Search for vacancies.

Welcome to www.QuintiqCareers.com, and good luck with your job search.
The Software Knowledge Center (SKC), based in the Global Development Center, Malaysia, has been around since 2007. At the time of writing, there are seventeen of us including our team manager, Pei Rou.

Working in the SKC isn’t as glamorous or action packed as working as a consultant on a project team. We slog away without the rewards and the glory of delivering a top notch solution to a happy customer. We are a team of software specialists, certified testers, developers, and even certified requirement analysts. We are motivated in contributing to the following areas, even when there’s no hand-delivered luxury hamper to reward us for the ingenuity of the work:
  • To ensure the quality of the software by carrying out testing throughout the software development life cycle
  • To provide first-class software support to Quintiq users
  • To develop applications to facilitate internal business processes

In the long term, we hope to have the opportunity to work in collaboration with R&D to define new versions of the software. This outcome depends on us becoming as familiar with the Quintiq software as are our friends in R&D. We’re not there yet, but we’re well on the way.

Building Bridges

Until recently, improving our working relationship with R&D was one of our main objectives. It was a struggle at first because we’re thousands of miles apart in different time zones; they are based in the Netherlands, and we’re based in Malaysia. In November 2011 we took a big step towards improving relations between the two teams when seven members of the SKC visited Quintiq headquarters in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, for one week.

Here we are working hard in the Den Bosch office:

Software Knowledge Center team at work


We think we can speak for R&D in saying that this week had a massive positive impact on the way we work and interact with each other. We didn’t just put names to faces; we discovered the unique personalities behind those names. We learned that Ramon is impishly mischievous; we watched him dangling Patrick’s ringing phone over a glass of water. Alexandro’s Mexican accent is really entertaining :D Catalina goes out of her way to be helpful; she helped us organize a bike ride, and was an excellent Den Bosch tour guide. Patrick can ride a bike single handed, while easily carrying another one. Wil is taller than tall: we loved to watch him and Pei Rou stride along the corridors together, looking like Gandalf and Frodo. The guys from R&D learned a lot about us too: Titan’s crazy and permanent grin is nothing to be scared of; Roy often laughs long and loud for no obvious reason; Chris may look and sound like he’s still in school but he’s actually 50 years old with a family of ten. More than that, we were able to share our mutual passion for software testing & development. A few beers and a nice dinner also helped to build bridges.

Software Knowledge Center team night out


The team enjoying a few beers... and then a few more.

Since then, communication between the SKC and R&D is massively improved. We understand the challenges and pressures that the other is facing, and have come to an agreement that collaboration is really important. We’re now exchanging frequent video calls and phone calls whenever clarification is needed, rather than using cold emails and chat windows. Flying to each other’s offices to work together no longer seems like a crazy notion. Last but not least, we’re hoping to nurture the collaboration even more in 2012 and to learn from each other, growing as a team.

If you’re a perfectionist with bundles of creativity, you want to shape the future of planning & scheduling software, and the SKC sounds like the kind of team you’d love to work with, you’re in luck! We’re hiring. Check out the latest vacancies:

Search for vacancies.

Thanks for reading! We’d better get back to work.

Pei Rou, Wen Peng and Kervin.
Back in 1988, when I was in my twenties, I interviewed for a job as a programmer at Advanced Management Systems Ltd. in Auckland, New Zealand. They had some strange proprietary language which allowed them to create very efficient programs on a 80386-based PC. This enabled dozens of users to multitask - it’s hard to imagine nowadays, but a program that supported more than one or two users at a time was a big deal in the late ‘80s.

As well as the usual interview, I was asked to take a test. They planned to show me a few sample programs, explain how those programs worked, and then quiz me to find out if I really got it. Once the computer booted up, I looked at the screen and realized it wasn’t going to be difficult, so I suggested a slightly different test. How about I explain to them what I saw, and they could tell me whether I got it right?

I talked about the sample programs for about five minutes, after which the tester stood up and walked out of the room. He soon returned with the CEO, who smiled and said, "You’re hired". They seemed surprised that I could so easily read and understand their somewhat odd programming language. What people sometimes don't realize is that when we learn how to program, it really isn't so much about the specific characteristics of Java, C++ or whatever other language we use. It is about logical and abstract thinking, understanding of object-oriented principles, and the ability to translate a technical problem into a good working solution. Getting to grips with the subtleties of a language will take a bit of time, but the real programming skills are independent of the specific language.

Two Decades Later…

Quintiq’s recruitment process is designed to prioritize those skills over the speed at which you can code in a particular language. Why? Technology has changed massively since 1988, but the fact that a great programmer must be smart and logical remains the same.

Like Advanced Management Systems Ltd., we use our own proprietary language, called Quill. It’s an object-oriented modeling language that has some overlap with Delphi, Java and C++, but it’s enormously more powerful. To discover how much more powerful, we once had a contest to see how fast we could recreate a system that was written in Delphi in 80 man-days. Using Quill we were done in just 4 days – that’s 20 times faster! That’s because the software is more like a 5GL than a 3GL and allows our software engineers (we call them consultants or Quintiq Specialists) to spend all their time thinking about solutions instead of just having to do a lot of typing.

Because Quintiq consultants are constantly doing "smart stuff", they are able to refine those core skills so much faster than in many other organizations. The boring details, the details that don’t require much brain power, are taken care of by our proprietary software. The "smart stuff" is working in a smaller group to create much bigger systems (which is fun, as you feel a greater sense of ownership of that system). The "smart stuff" is learning how to do optimization algorithms. It is working in an international project team with colleagues around the world (and sometimes traveling if you like to). It is learning to understand, identify, and solve the business challenges of many different organizations.

The net effect is that if you ever go back to programming in Delphi, Java or C++, you may need a few weeks to get back into it. But, in your time with Quintiq, you’ll have learned so much more about how to build great systems that you’ll be a far more attractive candidate to any other organization.

The more likely outcome, however, is that you’ll forge a great career at Quintiq (which may include moving into a functional role, a leadership role, becoming an expert, or working overseas). We have an attrition rate among our consultants of less than 5% per year, so we’re confident that they’ve all found good reason to stick with Quintiq. Clearly, when you start at Quintiq, you shouldn't worry about working with a proprietary language. You should worry that you’ll never want to leave… :-)

If you think you fit the bill, and Quintiq sounds like the kind of place you'd love to work, check out our current vacancies for programmers.