Patrick Boonstra

Recruitment Innovation, Danone, T-Mobile

1. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that

Two names jump to mind. Mrs Ada Dragt; the sweetest lady you’ve ever met who taught myself and my sisters how to properly read & write. I can still visualise the first book we used (with a princess born in a rose).

Secondly Luc Blomme: he was my maths and computer science teacher, as well as an (unofficial) coach of many kids at school. He taught me some extremely advanced maths, especially in group theory, as well as practical stuff like blind typing. Skills and theories I actually still use daily. He challenged me quite a bit, but also gave me trust.I had some pretty good teachers at school, but for those teachers who I felt that didn’t set clear or just boundaries I now know I made their lives a living hell. I was constantly challenging them and trying them out. If my boys inherited this trait from me I apologize to their teachers now, although I’m sure it’ll never be personal.

2. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?

Age 35 was a lifechanging year. Professionally I was out of a job for six months: i was too senior to just try out, but not senior enough (or at least I wasn’t able to convince anyone, let alone myself) to land a senior gig. Eventhough I had a good network and reputation which resulted in loads of interesting talks, none of them turned into something new for over 6 months. Absolutely frustrating.

This coincided with my separation: after 20 years with my high school sweetheart we’d just grown apart. We separated, quite friendly at first, but it quickly turned into a very very nasty divorce where I was fully attacked in my being as a father, which is in the very core of my existence. This lasted for over 2 years with lots of court cases, mediation and a lot bickering back and forth between expensive lawyers.

I still don’t understand the reasoning behind all of this (which is still a massive life lesson: some things can’t be understood), but it turned out more than ok. After a court ruling where the boys were assigned to live with me full time, we afterwards managed to somehow find a new form of ‘co-existence’ where the boys are now with myself and their mother 50-50. What’s most important is that the boys and myself are happy, independent and confident guys. It’s also grown the relationship with the rest of my family so much stronger: I’ve been able to share and discuss the most difficult personal and practical issues with them: even though we didn’t always agree on every detail we all gained so many insights into each other and our own values.

Ironically the day we decided to separate was also the day I landed my new project at Luba, which turned out to be my dream project and is at the basis of many more since.

That year was the start of re-evaluating myself as a professional, as a friend, as a partner and lover, as a father, and grow into a man.

3. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

Nerd genre: either Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy, or ‘the curious incident of the dog at nighttime’. As an engineer I love the scientific, nerdy, matter of fact humour.

‘self help’: I recently finished HumanKind (Rutger Bregman, a Dutch historian/philosopher, who’s already been named one of the greatest minds of our times). He analyses loads of famous research which most people have come to believe and forms the basis of most of our laws and society where people are believed to be corrupt and sadistic in the wrong context). He analyses loads of well known research which is famous and most people have come to believe to form the basis of most of our laws and society where people are corrupt and lead to sadistic behaviour; he completely unravels and debunks this ‘research’. He proves most people are actually pretty decent by nature and will most likely do ‘the right’ thing. A comforting thought for me.

Novels: I love the lawyer-crime books and have read just about all of the John Grishams, but can also go a bit more romantic with John Green (the fault in our stars) or Paulo Coelho (the Alchemist).

4. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

I was raised as a complete optimist. You should never complain, there is always a positive side to ANY situation, and you can always do something about it. While this has brought me a long way and is still true for most of my life views, it’s also held me back to acknowledging. I’d be too optimistic about anything and anyone to the point of overestimation.

I’ve learn’t the hard way that life isn’t all lovey dovey or fluffy, shit things happen, not everybody is nice to you. But hey; that makes life interesting. It’s also ok when things don’t go your way, and you don’t feel fantastic for a while.

I’ve learn’t to embrace the feeling of uncomfortableness and even the pain sometimes. It’s ok if you don’t know what to do about it, and it’s even ok if some people act like complete dicks to you.

It’s totally not cool at the moment, but it’ll pass.

5. If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?

It’ll be to keep challenging me towards an ambitious goal. Give me leadership and direction, and then give me the mandate and freedom to do it my way (and have my back on the way).

6. Imagine: if we were to go to people who don't think very highly of you, what do you think they would say about you?

I can hardly imagine anyone to not like me, what’s not to like about me? Oh wait – they’d probably say I’m arrogant.

7. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?

While I think they’ve evolved quite a bit, in essence they’ve remained the same. I think my beliefs are neither really left nor right winged: I believe in a caring society where we’re nice to each other but support the truly needy, but I also strongly believe in owning up on your actions and taking full responsibility for your own income, healthcare and educating your own kids. In general I believe in a minimalistic government, but unfortunately we need them to take off the extreme edges of human behaviour. So far I’ve voted, always on the same party, and always on a woman. In this COVID times I am interested in seeing how different countries take measures and how people react; once you understand a little about the culture and background I believe the (difference in) measures make sense, mostly. I don’t believe I’d want to be a politician though.

8. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

My nickname is the Braaimeester; I’m a complete meat lover. (My tinder profile once said ‘you had me at bacon’). Although I’m far from giving up meat yet, i’m slowly learning the strain meat production is putting on the earth. Some replacements taste almost half decent.

I can actually imagine a future where we’d look back in awe of our own stupidity to eat meat.

9. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?

I’m playing around with my new Philips HUE lights. I’ve replaced almost all of my lightbulbs and can now talk (via my sonos speaker) to my house to ‘turn on the Dragon egg lamp’, or set the mood in my Bedroom to Soho or Desert-sunrise. I’m still in doubt if I’ll buy the Slide to automatically open the curtains.

10. What is your most prized possession? What’s the story behind it?

That would have to be my current house / apartment. It’s the first big thing which is completely my own, my independence but also my home for me and the kids, it’s a place where friends can always drop in for a braai and crash, it’s my pension and financial security, and as I’m now doing construction work and re-decorating i’m even trying to put in a little bit of my style. Work in progress.

11. If you were a giant mega Monster what city would you rampage first? Why?

hahahahaha. While I wouldn’t want to rampage this beautiful city, I would go to Rotterdam to show the world this vibrant, versatile and resilient city. A city which has rebuilt and reinvented itself many times, the birthplace of Dance, once the biggest port of the world, a city with the most beautiful architecture, mixing traditional Dutch with new styles. The people are focused with a no-nonsense attitude, yet the end result is bold and energetic.  I struggled a bit to get to know the city at first, but i’m slowly getting it.

12. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

It would probably be a fairly big place for lots of people to meet, but feeling intimate with different corners and extremely comfortable hangouts, buzzing all day. It would serve breakfast, while people were working or just a having a coffee with their mom. After lunch music would slowly pick up a little, sometimes a live band or DJ. Dinner would be vibrant; with a limited but very tasty choice, lot’s of good local food to share. After dinner things will pick up, turning into a (theme) party later, which could either go full on Dance party on the main dance floor, but could just as easily turn into a Jazz club or chilled down Reggae party around the fire pit. You’d never know what you’d get, but people would let themselves be surprised and you’ll always meet a new crazy friend. Hotels, Ubers or rent-a-bob services always at hand, since we do want you to come home safely (eventually).

13. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

If you hire me, you also hire my network. I’ve learned to put it on my resume now (sometimes indirectly). Even if I don’t know something in depth myself, I’ll always know a couple of people who know people, who work somewhere and who are willing to give me proper input and the real story. This also ensures that I probably know the underlying important gossip about what’s really going on.

14. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

My manager assigned me to put together the decision making powerpoint to the Board to confirm €250 million budget for a project. Every time I presented a concept to him he told me to dumb it down. He told me ‘the higher up the tree, the simpler you should make it.’

Simplification always comes back in my projects. People hate complicated stuff, we all love simple, easy things which are self explaining. If you can’t explain it to your mum in 2 minutes, you don’t know what you’re doing.

Or as Bill Boorman once complimented Gordon and myself on organising TruAmsterdam: It’s pretty hard work to make it look easy.

“the higher up the tree, the simpler you should make it”

15. Who is the best co-workers or collaborator you’ve ever worked with?

I’ve never stuck around long enough at most companies to deeply attach to colleagues.

I did find my ‘work family’ in you guys (Brainfooders), and especially in the Tru- and Sosu- community. Through 12 years of TruLondons, TruAmsterdams, TruBudapests, TruLeeds, Sosu Estonia, Sosu Tel aviv, Unleash Paris (just to name a few memorable ones) I’ve made true friends and got to know a bunch of people with extreme passion for their profession and extreme willingness to share. I’m pretty sure I know someone in just about every major city in Europe I could call for recruitment info right now or even could crash overnight on the couch.

16. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?

Being too professional, or too passionate would probably lead to bad teamwork as you’d be hard to reach a compromise, but I love people who are so extreme in their expertise or beliefs. Sometimes compromise just doesn’t cut it, and you have to stand your own ground.

“Sometimes compromise just doesn’t cut it”

17. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?

I would love for the cv to be replaced by something better. I’ve experimented and piloted with many alternatives; games, neuro-research, video interviews, etc. There have been some success cases, but somehow we’re still unable to scale, convince the hiring manager or reach lasting results and in the end we always turn back to the cv. So far the good old resume is still the least shitty way of selection. Please, please prove me otherwise soon.

18. What changes to our industry would you like to see post-Covid19? What changes do you think we will see?

Remote work has quickly become the default. Remote teamwork, remote leadership, and especially remote coaching (of juniors or subject experts) will be the next challenge, which I think we’re still far from tackling. I’m surprised how few companies address this in their employer branding, jobtexts or more basic have actually thought about how to properly secure this into their daily work. Most hiring is just slightly postponed and we’re still acting as if we’re going back to ‘normal’ office life soon.

19. What’s the one question that we should’ve asked you, but wasn’t on this list?

The list of 10 jobs I had, except for one which is a lie?

1) Barman
2) Paperboy
3) Banquet server
4) IT Architect
5) Showdancer
6) Flower shop employee
7) Marketeer
8) Recruiter
9) Carpenter
10) Courier

Take a guess.

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

My best friend, a recruitment industry veteran of over 25 years, the most creative recruiter I’ve ever come across, who loves to stir things up: Martijn Smit.

Thank you to Patrick Boonstra for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Connect with Patrick on LinkedIn

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