At MMID, every designer works within one of the following five Fields of Expertise: Functionality and Systems, Producibility and Assembly, Electronics and Software, Look and Feel, and User eXperience. Designers from different fields work together to create valuable projects, which need to be managed. In this series of interviews, we speak with MMID employees to give a peek into our work and culture. For this week’s peek, we interviewed Steven Nijenhuis, our Cluster Manager in Providence.
Hi Steven! Glad to have you here. Can you tell us something about your career so far?
Hello, and yes of course. In 2008 I graduated from The Hague University of Applied Science in Industrial Product Design. My graduation project was for the company Lencon, where I started working immediately after my studies. This was a secondment agency that allowed me to look behind the scenes at many different companies. Eventually, I ended up designing a stairlift for Thyssenkrupp. MMID was involved in another project for this company, and I discovered that their work ethos lined up exactly with mine. Even though the labor market was not favorable at the time I decided to send an open application to MMID, and the fit turned out to be great.
I started as a producibility designer at MMID and eventually moved on to being a content owner. The biggest part of my time went to designing for Bruno; a stairlift company. In 2016 MMID implemented a new company structure because of the locations we had started abroad. Each location became ‘clustered’ with another to create multi-locational teams. Back then, I traveled to the United States a lot resulting in me being approached to become the official Cluster Manager of our Providence location. This was an opportunity I wanted to take, and in 2019 I moved to the United States. Apart from being a Cluster Manager I still manage projects and I work as a Content Owner.
What do you tell someone when they ask you what kind of work you do?
I tell them I work at a Product Development Agency. People always ask what kind of products we make. My wife has a good quote for this; ‘Designing products ranging from paperclips to sofas’. It’s a very versatile job, but the description depends on the person I’m talking to.
As a cluster manager, I am the final person responsible for my clients, the projects, and the teams. I always joke that I’m cleaning up other people’s mess, but my role is of course to empower people to become the best version of themselves. It is my responsibility to make sure everyone in my cluster is happy and that they can develop themselves how they want. I also manage the connection between Providence and Delft. For the past few years, I could not travel between the two locations because of the pandemic, but I hope I can do that more often now because personal connection is important for a team.
How was it to not be able to meet your team and work together in person?
Well, MMID was already pretty great at working remotely because we had different locations all around the world. We just closed up the office the day the mandate was announced and started working from home. We already had the infrastructure in place. It was still quite a surreal moment, though. Of course, we also had to learn, and COVID made us better at working together digitally. However, nothing trumps sitting next to each other with a glass of wine after work.
What do you like most about your job?
I love seeing people be happy with a tangible result. It’s nice to observe that you created something that people enjoy with your team.
What project are you most proud of?
I am quite proud of my first project for Bruno in the United States. It was called the straight-up project and entailed the design of a stairlift. I am also quite proud of a milk frother we designed for Friesland Campina. The recurring theme in projects that I’m proud of is that they are all used pleasantly. This is what true value creation is in my belief. There is no worth in a product if no one wants to use it. I remember Marcel Magermans (CEO of MMID) presenting about the company ten years ago, and the design philosophy of MMID just fit mine perfectly. That’s why I’m still here and don’t want to go anywhere else.
What do you do outside of work?
Recently I have become a father, so mainly changing diapers. In the past, I played badminton at a national level and did some kitesurfing. However, it’s hard to find the time to pursue those things with my current job. In the United States, I started playing golf. The sport is way more popular in America than it is in the Netherlands, and players tend to take it less seriously. What I love about golf are the technical skills and the challenge against yourself. I’m a fanatic when it comes to sports, so it’s great to go up against myself and better my scores. It makes for a good challenge.
If you had to describe MMID in three words, what would they be?
Ambitious, Relaxed, and fun.
All of our team members are very ambitious. Everyone wants to improve themselves and wants to create the best products out there. MMID is not the biggest design agency, but we strive to be the best. Both internally and in our products.
Relaxed because everyone is a team player and we know how to work together without trouble. We are attuned to one another, we have the right attitude, and we know when to be professional.
Fun because of the company culture and ambiance in the office. We laugh together and we have fun doing our jobs. The combination of these three words brings us very far as a team and in our client relations!