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Michael van der Breggen was fresh out of college when leadership at Deloitte tapped on him to go from being a junior sales and distribution consultant to a lead in a highly visible implementation program. His initial response?
“I was like, ‘Are you absolutely crazy?’” the Netherland native reflects. “The person I was replacing had been doing that work for thirteen years, and I had been there just shy of three months.”
While being thrusted into a leadership role like that created stressful nights, it also helped shape him into the leader he is today at Invacare Corporation, where he serves as senior vice president and chief information and technology officer.
“I learned early on that I was very good at specific things. In order to be successful, I needed to empower people to do what they are the experts in and don’t think you can micromanage everything because you don’t understand everything,” he explains. “Most senior people think they understand it all because their ego won’t allow anything else and makes them believe they’re the sharpest. I realize I’m not. We have experts for a reason; let the experts be the experts,” he recommends.
“If you do that, you empower people to make decisions, and because you’re empowering them, it implies a certain level of trust, which is one of the most important things for me,” he adds.
Van der Breggen went on to develop and deliver IT strategies and to manage consulting and service practices for the likes of Atos International, GyanSys, and Cognizant Technology Solutions. In the latter company, he would travel around 150,000 miles a year to help oversee the successful delivery of a large global transformation that spanned multiple geographies.
By that time, Van der Breggen—who started his career with plans to take on jobs that allowed him to travel the world—had two young kids. The frequent travel was starting to take a toll, he says. “People don’t realize how taxing traveling is, and I had been doing it for more than twenty years,” he says. “I was gone a lot, and I didn’t want to be that type of dad.”
The Hires Are Inside the House
As a leader who’s focused on building a strong IT team, Michael van der Breggen starts his search for the right people within the organization.
“I’m old fashioned. I believe loyalty should be rewarded and that it’s important to promote from within. There’s a reason people have been in the organization for a long time. They have a lot of resident knowledge and a commitment to our mission.”
That’s why, when he was let go from the company amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to spend six months at home. During that time, leaders from Invacare asked him to join the team, an offer he gladly accepted. They offered him a chance not only to work remotely so he could spend more time with family, but also to work for a company that makes a difference.
“It’s special because of the products we make,” he explains. “We help people that have specific mobility needs by providing life-changing solutions to enable them to live life to the fullest. It’s meaningful when you’re working in a company that actually provides products that changes lives or makes their lives easier.”
Since coming to the company in 2020, Van der Breggen has had the opportunity to rebuild the whole IT organization by bringing it in-house after years of outsourcing. He’s also focused on implementing Microsoft Dynamics, virtualizing applications, cyber protection and building a new team structure. For him, an important part of that latter effort is creating a new culture in IT.
“In the past, the IT team was seen as an extension of the business team, and I would rather people view us as partners to the business,” he says. “We need to manage our own workload to ensure we’re delivering and having successes. If you leave it up to the business unit who screams the loudest, you’re going to neglect something else. Or, if you keep taking on too much, you’re going to be busy with a lot of things but won’t be able to deliver any of them successfully.”
Van der Breggen sets the tone for that new culture with his transparent leadership style. He doesn’t sugarcoat things and is a straightforward leader, a trait he attributes to his Dutch roots. He also places integrity at the center of his philosophy.
“Do everything you do with integrity,” he says. “Yes, we can embellish on successes, cut corners here and there, but integrity is one of the only values you should never relinquish or squander. If there’s an issue let me know; don’t blindside me,” Van der Breggen recommends.
“I think that helps your team feel empowered, and when they are, I don’t need to make every decision,” he continues. “Then, it becomes OK to fail. I rather have people fail than to sit by and do nothing, assuming they fail with the right intentions. When people feel that they’re trusted and that it’s OK to fail, it’s amazing what they can do.”
Converge‘s global approach delivers advanced analytics, application modernization, cloud platforms, cybersecurity, digital infrastructure, and digital workplace offerings to clients across all industries, including numerous healthcare organizations. Converge supports these solutions with advisory, implementation, and managed services expertise across all major technologies in the marketplace. This multifaceted approach enables Converge to address the unique business and technology requirements for all of our clients. Our goal is to provide a trusted partner that brings together world-class solutions and services to help reduce costs, increase efficiency, and create competitive advantages.