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Sioux Source Magazine UK

Daphne de Jong is a rising star in the world of big US tech companies. On her CV are sounding names, employers such as Amazon Prime Air, Google’s Waymo, SpaceX and Rivian. She was included in Forbes 30 under 30 five years ago, is a board member at United Nations Women, an alpinist and in the race to become an astronaut at the European Space Agency. Erik van Rijswijk, co-founder and COO of Sioux Technologies, talked to her about pushing boundaries, passion, and the secret to creating real value.

Erik: ‘You recently started working as a product manager at Rivian. Why the move from SpaceX to this company?’
Daphne: ‘Rivian wants to conquer the world with electric trucks and SUVs. The technology and products are wonderful. It’s a great challenge to help put the company on the map. The lines of communication are short, the atmosphere is positive. Rivian feels like a family business. I really enjoy creating the climate of a friends’ club as well.’
‘Is that new to you?’
‘I have gained quite a lot of experience in innovation and management at trendsetting companies. The cultures of these companies have a great impact on the inspiration of their people, especially the young employees. It is also striking how strongly they influence each other in their development. The world in Silicon Valley and Seattle is very special.’
‘What did you get out of it for yourself?’
‘I learned to lead and work creatively in multi-integrated teams. Finding new ways together to achieve an innovative future; that drives and inspires me.’
‘What are your lessons learned so far?’
‘Added Value does not equal output. Everything is about people; the value we create for ourselves and others. That is never included as a deliverable. For instance, the value of collaboration and sociability is never calculated.’

Fun & Value
Daphne: ‘Sioux Technologies has grown into an international high-tech systems house. What is the secret behind your success?’
Erik: ‘From the start, Hans Duisters and I had a clear understanding of what Sioux stands for: creating real value. For us, this has nothing to do with writing as many hours as possible or chasing double digits, but rather with warmth, staying true to yourself, being authentic.’
‘How does that work in reality?’
‘It starts with our employees. We offer them a culture in which people and genuine interest are central, with personal growth, challenging and varied work and a generous personal development budget. We give everyone space to do their own projects, organize meetings on technology trends and organize social events for them and their families. So, the focus is on creating Fun & Value; delivering a winning performance together in a fun way.’

People multiplied by quality
Daphne: ‘The idea behind that is?’
Erik: ‘If our people have fun and can grow, both in their competences, careers and personally, this is a great asset for them. It also allows Sioux to help customers ever better. Moreover, the world is bigger than Sioux; we also want to mean something for the world around us.’
‘That seems a soft approach, how does that translate into growth?’
‘Added value is people multiplied by quality, and that multiplied by culture squared. So, the acceleration of your business and performance comes from your culture. You don’t just create and maintain that. You have to work for it, keep looking around, don’t see people as a number, engage in constant conversation. That is certainly not soft. Babies need pampering but champions need to be challenged. You will recognize that...’’

Celebrate enough
Daphne: ‘What are important lessons you learned within Sioux?’
Erik: ‘Don’t look for clones of yourself. You get further with people who are complementary. Give trust and respect. Great challenges excite. You may fall down sometimes, but always celebrate enough what you have achieved; everyone needs that.’
‘What are your ambitions, where is Sioux going?’
‘We continue to develop ourselves further in Europe. In China, a full-scale Sioux is now growing across all our capabilities. A launch in the United States is also on our wish list. Meanwhile, we are investing heavily in new specialisms, for example photonics, and in deepening existing competences such as artificial intelligence.’
‘What does this growth and expansion mean for Sioux’s culture as a crucial ingredient of your value creation?’
‘I sometimes wonder how we can hold on to it, for example when I see someone walking down the corridor I don’t know. But we keep doing what works -having fun together, growing and taking on challenges.’
‘Passion is the biggest motivator.’

Walk the talk
Erik: ‘Speaking of passion. You fight for women’s rights at UN Women and are involved in various development initiatives, for example in the field of microcredit. Where do you get the time and energy for this?’
Daphne: ‘Messing around is my worst nightmare. I can’t do things halfway. When you work 12 to 16 hours a day, it has to be interesting and important. I also want to leave something behind. However, it doesn’t always have to be big. At Google, 10,000 plastic water bottles went into the bin every day. Now, on my initiative, there are refillers everywhere. Small things help. Everyone can do something.’
‘But you want to push boundaries. You climbed Mount Everest, got dropped in the Alaskan wilderness to find your way back by foot... What really drives you?’
‘I always do it together with friends. We solve real problems. We "walk the talk": push ourselves to the limit and then go the extra mile. Achieving the goal is not what matters. It is about learning to achieve the goal together. That’s also how you get to know each other through and through, which is super satisfying.’

Do not fear
Erik: ‘And what’s next for Daphne; you’re almost through the selection process for ESA astronaut. Is that the next step for you?’
Daphne: ‘There are plenty of problems to solve on our own planet. I am now working for the first time for a boss who does not want to go to space. It’s nice to have the right priorities. A space trip like that is special, but not going would not feel like a personal loss.’
‘If you are very good at what you do and enjoy it, you never have to fear loss. Hans and I also started with nothing except the idea that we wanted to be different and the belief that we could do it. For me, Sioux represents 25 years of solving a lot of problems, but also having a lot of fun together. In the end, that’s what counts.’

Read the Sioux Source Magazine online