International Week: planning forward together

Every year at the end of August, Delft is bursting with TOPdesk staff from no fewer than 11 countries. It’s the time of our International Week: a week when international colleagues come together for workshops and presentations, to discuss the future and get to know each other better. How was TOPdesk International Week approached in 2021? After all, COVID was still a significant factor back then. Executive Team member Everdien Kolk took us through the plans!

This interview was published on the 3th of August, 2021.

International Week is a fixture on the TOPdesk calendar every year. Why is it so important to us, and how are we going to make it as cool as possible in 2021?

“Why do we have an international week every year? For years, it’s been the ideal occasion for two purposes: to have everyone understand where we’re going as TOPdesk, and more importantly, to make everyone feel they’re an important part of the journey. We’re one big organization with offices in no fewer than 11 countries. Every branch – and every employee – plays a significant role in our organization.”
“Last year, for example, we introduced the villains: three comic book characters who clearly illustrated our biggest challenges at that time. Straight after that edition of International Week, the villains were already being tackled in different ways. This year, just like last year, the setting of International Week will again be predominantly your screen. But that 2020 virtual gathering still resulted in plenty of initiatives. This year, though, there will be a bit more focus on getting to know your colleagues, because in “normal” years that happens more easily between sessions – and at the closing summer party.”

But it’ll just be a lot of sitting at your computer again this year, won’t it?

“Yes, it will. But we’ll be doing things in the smartest way possible. For example, whereas in 2018 you could hang out on a giant boat with all of us from Thursday morning to Thursday evening, we are now going for a programme that has certain elements each day. And we’re taking into account all the different time zones. Day 1 will revolve around Wolter’s keynote (CEO of TOPdesk). Another day will be devoted to guilds (collaborations within TOPdesk). And we’re still thinking about a meeting place that simulates as far as possible large halls where you can catch up between sessions.”

We’ve heard on the grapevine that Wolter’s keynote will have a live audience this year. What’s the plan?

“If the measures allow, Wolter will be back on stage in front of an audience. Preferably as large an audience as possible, but we’ll be keeping to the safe side of the measures. Branches will also come together as much as possible at that time, and there will be continuous interaction with all the different countries. In that way, we can still create that ‘we are TOPdesk’ feeling, regardless of where in the world you are.”
“In the keynote, Wolter will briefly discuss the changes that started last year: fighting the 3 villains and making the guilds more effective. Then he will talk about all the different initiatives and victories of the past year. Finally, he’ll explain once again why we’re actually doing it all. Spoiler: 1 million – hopefully happy – operators (people who process tickets in TOPdesk). We hope this will give everyone – including colleagues who are just starting out – a good idea of where we stand as TOPdesk, and where we want to go together.”

What do you miss most about a physical International Week? Or, to give it a more positive twist: what has stayed with you the most from all those previous International Weeks?

“Spontaneous conversations with people I don’t normally talk to! When you work remotely, almost all the contact you have is functional. I really miss the water cooler chat. Those conversations are not only enjoyable, but often give you useful insights or bring you up to speed on something you didn’t know.”
“I actually see International Week as a giant international water cooler gathering. Between the keynotes and workshops you meet lots of people that you only speak to at times like that. And because for the most part you can put together your own programme, at those workshops you meet exactly those people who are just as passionate about a topic or challenge as you are. Once again: fun and useful.”

But the summer party… It’s definitely not yet going to be jumping around in Super Mario suits like it was in 2019, is it?

“No. Sadly, not yet. But every branch has been given the task of organizing something that complies with their local measures. It will still be the ideal closing of our International Week, and beautiful new stories will still come from it, as always!”

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