Anchormen Interview: Bringing Meaningful Change

Let’s get ready for Amsterdam Tech Job Fair! In before you book your ticket and print your resume, check out another interview we’ve got coming for you. Today you’ll get to meet Anchormen who are looking for people as passionate about transforming the data as they are. Do you have what it takes? See below!

Who are the creators of your brand? What do they do in life, what are they passionate about?
Anchormen is the brainchild of Erik Smit and Martin Schepers, two cousins from the north of the Netherlands. As true technophiles and self-proclaimed geeks, they were always fascinated with pushing the limits of technology. They both studied Computer Science in Groningen and realized that they shared the same goal – to be a part of the technological revolution that was happening around them.

As the company grew, their roles changed multiple times to fit the needs of Anchormen. Martin is nowadays acting managing director that has under his wing and supervision the (technical) development of the solutions. He is also very passionate about Nike sneakers as evident from his impressive collection which you can see on his Instagram account Zneekes.
Erik, on the other hand, transitioned towards the finance and staff departments of which he is currently a manager. Although he doesn’t own as many Nike shoes as Martin, you’ll see a pair of sneakers on his feet almost every day as well, and he loves to sail his boat along the Amsterdam canals.
What’s the story behind the creation of your company? What inspired you to start your business?
Back in 2000 when the internet was booming, Anchormen started out in Groningen with the purpose of building modern, tailormade websites and web applications. The company saw healthy growth, both in employees and clients, and in 2008 Rutger Wetzels joined the team to open a second office in Amsterdam. Although business was good, something was missing. Nobody really predicted the exponential growth rate of the internet. The amount of digital data being created annually was surpassing every forecast. And most people were starting to feel unsettled. Everyone knew that this meant change, but nobody could really understand what it meant.

Working with our clients, we noticed that most companies weren’t capable of adequately dealing with their ever-increasing data challenges. So, in 2013, the company shifted focus from web applications to Big Data consultancy and this is when we found our true purpose – to help companies activate their data. Within just a few years a Data Science & A.I. business unit was brought into the fold and our traineeship, the High Potential Program started as well.

This also meant that new people with out-of-the-box ideas were needed in order to make our vision come true. We are always looking for fresh talent in the areas of data science, data engineering, software engineering, and consultancy. Our focus is on providing cutting-edge solutions to our clients and sharing knowledge through our various events, tech talks, and meetups.

What’s your current view on the market you work in? What makes you feel like your brand stands out?
The challenge is to develop the field of data science & A.I. in such a way that it achieves its full potential. The biggest companies out there should be driving this change but ironically, they are the ones having the most difficulties because of their size and dependence on outdated models and work in silos. But we are already seeing a change in people’s hearts.

Most realize the importance of data and are making strides towards transformation. This also raises interesting questions, such as how do we train a workforce of professionals that can take advantage of data? There are of course some industries which are predisposed to making the shift first and others which are slowed down because of various interdependencies.

With all of that being said, the industry looks favorable for everyone. There are many companies taking an active role in driving this change and we are one of them. But what makes Anchormen different is our unique approach and underlying values. We feel that the right balance of knowledge, common sense and vision holds the key to cracking data challenges.

We aim to bring meaningful change, but we always start small, working closely with the

client. Our lean ‘Grow Live’ approach revolves around flexibility and short sprints with extensive client feedback moments. This serves both parties because it allows us to test results quickly, improve efficiently, and bring value every step of the way. It enables priorities to be continuously adjusted and new insights to be incorporated.

What’s the thing that you appreciate/value/cherish more about what you do as a brand?

Sharing knowledge. We, at Anchormen, have always believed that change must come from within. That’s why we are committed to growing and giving back to the community. That, for us, has meant educating everyone with an appetite for data. We are involved in numerous events, trainings, bootcamps, meetups, and are sponsors of data communities across the Netherlands. And we are always amazed by the sheer dedication and passion that people show in their work and their love for cracking data challenges. We hope to carry on inspiring people and are truly grateful to the Dutch data community for allowing us to continue doing what we are doing and supporting us every step of the way.

Do you have a special story of something unique you did for a client? Something unusual you did as a team, something memorable you’d like to share?
One of the ways in which we measure our success is in how much value we managed to bring to our clients. Here are two short use cases that we are very proud of:

Strukton Rail, Predictive Maintenance

Strukton Rail provides cross-border solutions in the fields of rail infrastructure, railway vehicles, and mobility systems. Their goal is to achieve optimal availability, reliability, and safety of the Dutch railway system. With that in mind, we started working together on a project to achieve that goal.
A lot of intricate work goes into developing a railway system and the infrastructure surrounding it. The goal of the joint project was to develop a model that can effectively predict rail track failure, so that maintenance can be planned which doesn’t affect daily traffic. As reactive maintenance costs resources and more importantly a lot of time, a proactive approach needed to be applied in order to avoid vehicle delays.

The solution we developed employs big data and A.I for predictive maintenance, based on current, temperature, and pressure. Moreover, the advanced video analysis and smart algorithms put in place allow Strukton to detect rail track anomalies. All of this permits the company to identify possible railway failure 7 days in advance; thus, maintenance can be scheduled in a way that doesn’t affect planned traffic.

MAG45, MRO Solutions

MAG45, part of the Solar Group, is an integrated supply service provider for industrial applications in the machine equipment OEM’s, pharmaceutical, and FMCG markets. They facilitate a large part of the purchase process of their clients; meaning that they purchase more than 1,5 million different items from several thousand suppliers. Working with so many suppliers means that MAG45 sits on enormous amounts of data. Unfortunately, all of it is unorganized in the database as it doesn’t use one uniform structure; every supplier uses its own format. This means searching through the data to match it is a very grueling task. Moreover, the sales cycle becomes longer as the speed by which new projects are picked up depends on how fast existing ones can be finished.

We built for them a big data platform that can store all the current (and new) data, and matched it, thus making it retrievable in a precise and automated manner. Currently, the platform holds more than 8 million items! In the end, the onboarding time of new customers was greatly reduced from 1 year to only 3 months. This is the power of big data done right!

What’s your company culture like? What is that you want to represent?

Anchormen is a technology-driven, engaging and inspiring employer, who values innovation, quality, reliability and fun. We also encourage self-development, so our employees can reach their full potential. We do not believe in micro-management, but we give our people the freedom to perform optimally.
Innovation is at the heart of the Anchormen mentality. Our people are truly passionate about finding new, and creative ways to solve problems. We offer great opportunities to young talents and take time to inspire curious minds. But we are also looking for people that can own their initiative; you are responsible for your success.

We are proud of our open work atmosphere. We encourage an entrepreneurial mindset and personal drive.

Although we have grown quite quickly in recent years, we do not have a cumbersome corporate culture. We always value innovation, quality, reliability and fun, which makes us a group of enthusiastic specialists who would like to share their knowledge, especially during our quarterly Innovation Days, tech talks, and various events. We also organize annual company outings, Christmas events, game nights and Friday afternoon drinks.

What is your team like? How do you work?

The Anchormen team consists of architects, consultants, engineers, data scientists, and staff. Professionals that each have their own expertise, but also share a passion; finding new ways to solve (big) data problems.
We use the cross-functional teams structure – smaller teams of people with different knowledge and expertise that work together on projects. This has allowed us to escape the silo structure of departments and to continuously be on top of our game. In our experience, this method of working allows us to gain better insight, be faster to brainstorm more innovative ideas, and to foster team spirit and communication.

What kind of people are you looking for? Who’s the best match for your team?
We are looking for people that have the Anchormen gene. This for us means four main things: curiosity, proactiveness, confidence, and pragmatism.

Our client base is constantly growing and this means we are always looking for data scientists, data engineers, machine learning engineers, tech leads, data platform consultants and many more!

What benefits and perks do you offer your employees? What’s the biggest plus of working for you?

The biggest plus working for us is the variety of work, the interesting projects, and our colleagues. But what is more, Anchormen always takes care of its employees. Working with us means that you can expect a certain level of comfort. We want everyone to come with a smile to work, because of that you can expect that all of your professional needs will be met.

On top of that, we frequently organize events which everyone can join, have fun team outings, send employees to conferences, provide budget for personal training and development.

We also organize quarterly Innovation days, frequent tech talks, Friday afternoon drinks and free lunch on some days. Our goal is to create an environment that encourages growth and innovation, but also fun!

What are your goals and plans for the future? What’s your biggest ambition?

Our ambition is to continue our growth in projects, in-house skills and fun! Ultimately, we want to become the leading specialist in production-grade AI solutions. Currently, our focus is on our three main solutions – Smart Industry, Customer Insights, and MRO.
There you have it – was it enough to learn more about Anchormen? Remember – you can meet them in person at Amsterdam Tech Job Fair – book your ticket right now. You can also visit their website, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!