“I’ve come a long way to being open about who I am, so if I can help others, why not?”
Accenture’s inclusive culture was a magnet for Sven. A vocal advocate of tolerance, he has a gift for uniting and organizing diverse people around a common goal, while a dry sense of humor and family of goats in his garden help to keep him firmly grounded.
Meet Sven Vandyck, Proposal Development Manager & LGBT Network Lead at Accenture Belgium & Luxembourg
‘Having worked for several years in and for the public sector in a wide variety of roles, I was looking for a new challenge in government consulting. I liked Accenture’s way of working and approaching clients. Most importantly, the company has a great reputation for being actively inclusive. That convinced me! From Day 1, I felt I could be open about myself. Three weeks into the job, all new joiners were invited to present themselves at our Health & Public Service community event. I created a mosaic of photos to capture my story and interests. They included a photo of my wedding day: “That’s me and my husband the day we got married.” No one batted an eyelid and there were no questions or comments, just acceptance. That’s how it should be in every company.’
" To work with governments, you need to understand and respect their culture"
‘After one year in consulting, I was approached for a new role in proposal and sales management for government projects. There was a match. My studies in Political Science and Law, plus many years of experience working on both sides of the public service table, made me a good candidate. To work with governments, you need to understand and respect their culture.’
‘When a government department or European institution invites an external company to partner on a project, there is a strict procedure to follow. I’m the person who guides the submission process at Accenture, which means taking care of the administrative stuff and supporting the sale, if and when we are awarded the contract. Over the years, I have also become involved in other initiatives related to my core role.’
" Remaining structured, calm and collected is essential. Bringing a bit of dry humor to the situation also helps! "
‘In order to do my kind of job, you need great communication skills and a solid ability to work with many different kinds of people. They can be people with different expertise (technology, strategy, operational delivery…) as well as senior and junior colleagues, because they are all involved in creating a great offer. My role begins with listening to all the stakeholders, identifying what they have in common, then getting them aligned so that we can submit the best proposal possible, responding exactly to what the client is asking. Strict rules apply to the tendering process in the public service sphere. If these rules are not respected to the letter, there is a high risk of disqualification. So, I control every tiny detail, which I enjoy!’
‘Working under pressure to meet a deadline can bring out the best and worst in everyone. My secret is to always be myself. When the clock is ticking and there are only three hours to go before the deadline, adrenalin is high. Remaining structured, calm and collected is essential. Bringing a bit of dry humor to the situation also helps! If people see that you are being authentic, they will appreciate you more and the result of the team effort will be better.’
"Truth be told, I would like to see LGBT as a non-topic"
‘In 2012, our Belgium & Luxembourg practice joined other Accenture practices around the world by launching an LGBT Network & Allies. I joined the company two years later and immediately got involved. I saw people around me who were still in the closet. I wanted to be a role model, to lead by example. It’s easy to sit back and feel comfortable in your bubble. I’ve come a long way to being open about who I am, so if I can help others, why not?’
‘People sometimes ask why we need such a network. Truth be told, I would like to see LGBT as a non-topic. Belgium has made great strides compared to other countries: anti-discrimination laws, gay marriage, adoption by same-sex couples... The legislation is there but society is not following. Respect for the values of inclusion and diversity are under threat and intolerance is growing. If I see an injustice, I will always intervene, regardless of who the victim is. Inclusion applies to everyone. The new generation is more open about expressing themselves, but we are not at equality yet. As Accenture’s Group Chief Executive (Products) and member of our Global Management Committee Sander van ‘t Noordende said in Davos this year: “We have got to the acceptance phase; now let’s move to the inclusion phase.”’
" If you think you don’t have an issue, you have an issue! "
‘I often hear companies say, “We don’t have an issue (with LGBT, equality, racism…)”. I believe that if you think you don’t have an issue, you have an issue! Everyone should feel able to be authentic and themselves at their place of work, and in the case of Accenture, also when working onsite at our clients. I’ve seen many people coming out of the closet at Accenture and the company embraces that. Of course, it’s not obligatory. Some people can cope with not sharing. For others who want to share, coming out at work can still be hard. Our LGBT Network & Allies are here to support them. We started with 20 members and today we are more than 200 (a great mix of straight Allies and gay people). Nowadays, people approach me to ask if they can join and we are more active and visible than ever.'
‘We are also having an impact externally. Accenture is now recognized as a pioneer of LGBT company networks. Building on this, in 2015, I founded Open@Work, a joint initiative of Accenture, kliq vzw and BNP Paribas Fortis. Our aim is to build bridges between equivalent networks at other companies. Open@Work events are hosted by our members, which now also include AXA Bank, ING Belgium, BELDEFRAC (Belgian Defence Rainbow Community), .beproud! (Federal Government) and Trainbow Belgium (NMBS/SNCB). These events combine short updates on LGBT workplace trends by inspiring speakers and informal networking. Awareness has snowballed and we are now directly approached by companies interested in launching similar networks. I’m extremely proud of all the things we have accomplished over the past years and especially of Accenture Belgium receiving the 2017 Pink Brand Award in the LGBTQ Friendly Company Category. This was a great milestone.’
" On summer evenings, we take a bottle of champagne down my (very long) garden and sit on the grass watching the animals "
‘Structure, discipline and resilience are essential in my daily work. You also need to enjoy the buzz of delivering to a deadline! Outside work I enjoy every opportunity to be unstructured. As a child I had lots of animals and this has continued into adult life. I started out with geese (too aggressive) and now I have goats, chickens and a dog. When I’m working from home, I always pay a lunchtime visit to the goats. They completely relax me. I currently have a Fabiola, Albert and Claire in honor of the Belgian royal family. They are funny, curious and friendly animals, always happy to see you. On summer evenings, we take a bottle of champagne down my (very long) garden and sit on the grass watching the animals.’
‘People need so much (materially) before they can say they are happy. With animals, it’s the opposite. My dog is never happier than when I play ball with her. Having animals in my life is probably the closest I come to having a work/life balance formula. At challenging moments in my role, my formula is to put everything to one side, go for a walk, enjoy doing something simple like visiting the goats and then I can get back to work more energized than before.’
‘Working with different people and cultures has made me more open and interested in how different cultures perceive things. Working for an inclusive company and seeing what is happening in the world on the topic of inclusiveness, I’m inspired to speak up and do something to help others. I hope tomorrow I will be living in a less violent and more inclusive world.’
Sven Vandyck (1981)
Studied: Political Sciences and Law
Started working at Accenture: 2014
Relationship status: Married
Loves: Animals, champagne, sports, cooking, helping people…
Gets annoyed by: People who don’t listen or respect others
Favorite food & drink: The vol-au-vent made by my mother using my grandmother’s recipe is still the best and champagne (I used to be a grape ambassador)
On my nightstand: Alarm clock, lamp and that’s about it. I no longer have my phone beside the bed because it’s important to switch off from social media…
Listens to: Last Sunday I was walking in the forest and enjoyed listening to two birds in a completely peaceful environment
Would like to sit next to in the plane: The pope
Life-changing event(s): The day I came out to my parents, two of the most important people in my life. My mother has since become a fierce defender of gay rights
The best lesson life has taught me: True friendship is something rare in life
What I learned last week: You need to pay attention to the signals your body gives you
Most beautiful place on earth: I’ll be able to tell you when I come back from my road trip in the north of Norway
Hobbies/passions: Volunteering, walking in nature with my dog, cooking for and entertaining my friends…
What nobody knows about me: I once seriously considered becoming a Salesian of Don Bosco
Life motto: You can’t live by one motto