Wouter Vink is the Director of Delivery for our Solutions Division based out of our office in Cape Town, South Africa. He has a degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of The Hague and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Cape Town. In this Q&A, Wouter talked to us about his journey to Dimagi and gave us an insight into the workings of the Solutions Delivery team. Have a read!
Please tell us a little about your background and journey to Dimagi.
I am originally from Holland but have lived in South Africa for the last ten years. Before I joined an impact-driven Agritech startup, my early career was in the conventional corporate world. At GreenFingers Mobile, I worked on a product and offering very similar to what we do with CommCare at Dimagi. But the startup world was not for me. I needed a bit more structure. In that search, I found Dimagi. It’s been a great journey so far, and I feel very lucky to this day that I got the opportunity to join Dimagi.
Dimagi is sometimes said to have a startup culture. Coming from a startup, what differences did you find when you joined Dimagi?
At GreenFingers Mobile, I was the fourth employee. I wore many different hats, from marketing to recruitment to project implementation. At Dimagi, I can focus on areas I enjoy, like project management. While I still have to wear multiple hats, it is to a lesser extent. So Dimagi, for me, is kind of at a sweet spot, where it is small enough so you can form meaningful connections with your colleagues, but there are structures in place so you don’t have to define everything from scratch.
Please tell us a little about the Solutions Delivery team.
The Solutions Delivery team is like the consulting arm at Dimagi. We work with clients to implement our software CommCare when they do not have the knowledge base or capacity to develop the applications themselves. Our Delivery team works with the partner through scoping and technical design, application development, testing, implementation, and training. It is a lot of fun as you get to engage with many different partners and projects. When you are done with one project, you move on to the next and start from scratch!
What unique challenges do you face in your role, and how do you overcome them?
One of the challenges, which at the same time is an exciting opportunity for me at a personal level, is to match the people with the projects. Solutions Delivery has about 40-50 projects ongoing at a time and about 50 staff. I am the resourcing manager for our division, and it’s my task to find the right people for a project. This can be challenging because you’re trying to balance demand and supply. It is a bit of a balancing act as you have to consider requirements from the project side, like timezone or language requirements, and also need to consider the skill sets and personal preferences of our team.
Another challenge is ensuring team cohesion, especially with people working remotely. As much as that is feasible, we try to keep our teams together across projects and have the people managers and those who report to them work on the same projects.
You have a team that is geographically spread out. How do you continue to engage and collaborate remotely?
We try to build an understanding of what other people are working on. We have division-wide meetings and then separate team meetings for members in a particular region. We also have capacity-building sessions for those interested in growing their knowledge in a specific area, like project management or technical aspects of CommCare. On project teams, we pair people up to travel together when possible. Team members in the same country or region come together a few times a year for face-to-face interaction.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in the Solutions Delivery team?
To be successful on the Delivery team, communication skills are critical. Almost everyone on the team works on 2-3 projects simultaneously, so communicating with your team members and partners to get questions answered and keep the tasks moving forward is essential. For the same reason, task management is also crucial to structure your work and manage tasks across projects. This can be challenging for someone who has not encountered that at previous jobs.
If you enjoy taking on vague requirements, problem-solving, and developing the best technical solution that is impactful for the organization and users, you will be successful at Dimagi. There are many opportunities for growth at Dimagi, especially if you convey your desire for professional and personal development.
What drew you to a career in international development?
During my MBA, as I took courses about different aspects of a business, I realized that companies usually have a very short-term profit-driven approach. They also don’t account for any social impact because that is generally not profitable, and it requires a business model that considers risks 20 or 30 years down the line. It was not a path I wanted to follow. When I joined Dimagi, I realized that the company is employee-owned, that impact comes first, and that while profit is important it is not the main driver.
What excites you most about the future of Dimagi and the Solutions team?
We used to work with smaller budgets and smaller projects. Now we work with USAID-funded 5-year consortium projects or government-led projects. This has helped us get entry into a country, region, or sector where we pursue setting up systems that can be grown to a national scale while building knowledge and ownership at a local level. It is challenging and complicated because there are so many factors that can influence this process, but it is also very exciting and makes me want to continue to work in this field.
Want to learn more about the culture at Dimagi? Interested in applying for an open position? Visit our Careers Page.