Debby de Gelder is all about driving business, creating efficient operations, and prioritizing human capital. That’s her job, but lucky for her, those are also her passions. At Visma|Raet, a leading European supplier of business-critical software to companies, organizations, and the public sector, she focuses on continuously improving customer and employee experiences and achieving customers’ human resource goals and strategic business objectives.
Debby brings a generalist perspective with the ability to acquire in-depth knowledge around specific businesses and technologies quickly. It’s this combination that makes her value modern approaches to work—lean, agile, and collaborative environments—a lover of innovation, including robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and a champion of diverse and inclusive teams.
Why did you choose RPA/Intelligent Automation as your career path?
I didn’t choose RPA as my career path. I chose it as a solution to a business challenge. We had a lot of manual work, and I was looking to create more efficiency. On the one hand, we were optimizing our systems. But we also wanted to focus on innovations, not just optimizations. This led me to look differently at the optimization side and search for an alternative solution. That turned out to be robotic process automation (RPA).
What enabled your success in this field?
You have to dare to jump and make a start. We could make thousands of analyses but at the end of the day, it’s best to just experience it. Make the leap and work by feel. You know when it works, and from there it all just flows. When you have made the start, you can go over to make a good analysis and start creating a backlog that you have to prioritize.
How do you see the market developing in the next few years?
There will be more Artificial Intelligence combined with Robotic Process Automation. RPA will have a leading role and I anticipate that in the coming years more administrative workers will start working with RPA themselves. This will help them develop new and increasingly relevant skill sets and businesses will become more efficient.
What do you love about your job?
My job is not just focused on RPA or Artificial Intelligence. I love that I get to work closely with employees to bring tangible improvements to customers and organizations every day. Always looking with the team for tools and methodologies that can support us in becoming better. I enjoy working with the people that identify and explore the tools we need, the ones that adopt the new tools and the ones that really start working with the new tools. It is all in different phases, but it makes people develop and it brings benefits to businesses. This really counts for RPA as well.
What is your biggest professional challenge?
The biggest challenge is finding and maintaining the right balance between being efficient, being innovative, and being customer-centric. It’s an interesting balance that’s not always easy and is never the same for each customer.
How has being a woman impacted your professional journey?
My professional journey has not been impacted, but you have to be able to make your own choices and always look for the right balance personally and from the business side. Of course that is not possible for everyone. In my opinion, this business gives you a lot of chances, but you need to have the skills and the desire to take them. You must not be overwhelmed if you make a wrong choice; look in the mirror and reflect on it, then step up again and make a different choice. The most important part, always be willing to work with a team. Especially in the software industry, you need different people with different competences at the same time to be together successful.
What is your advice for young women who are interested in or entering the RPA space?
Just do it! It’s not as technical as some people think. Look at the overall solution and not at the specific tool; consider what kind of problems you can solve with RPA and how you can contribute positively to business operations.
How can we inspire women to pursue tech careers and in RPA specifically?
Make it functional! On a daily basis, we solve business problems with RPA. Stepping into RPA is making sure you’ve built up a competence that endures for many years.
Technology is still male dominated. Since RPA is fairly new, do you see it differently or evolving more quickly to include more women?
I think that times are changing. Many young girls already use technology in their daily lives and have more knowledge about technical tools and applications than older men do. So yes, it will change. And women will be more easily attracted to this industry, but we must also make it more accessible for them to get started, grow, and thrive.
Only 5% of today’s tech leadership positions are held by women. How do you think more women in leadership roles will change the tech landscape?
I’m not sure women will fundamentally change the tech landscape more or differently than men. What matters is that the best performance comes from diverse people and that also applies to leadership in tech companies. So, the most profound change will come from how we do business.
We are proud to showcase women leaders in RPA from diverse backgrounds. Check out our growing series of Women in RPA profiles here.