Meet Julia: Enjoying her vertical farming job
Julia Erftemeijer has set the bar high for herself both at work and in her private life. In two years' time, Julia has advanced from Sales Engineer to Sales Consultant Vertical Farming at Artechno. Do you want to know what drives Julia and what her goals are in her new job? You can read it here.
Sporty and social
Julia was born and raised in Vlaardingen. With two brothers, Jasper and Floris, it was always a lively, busy home. Conviviality is still a characteristic of Julia's life, and she finds it, among other things, at her sports club. "I love sports, mainly field hockey, and I've done that for so long that it feels like I've spent my whole life at the field hockey club. There I also have a close group of friends that I meet up with regularly and go to parties with."
From top sport to a top job
Until six months ago, Julia played field hockey at a high level but can no longer combine it with her work. "Sometimes I work overtime, have dinner with a client or even have to go to fairs or clients in Canada or America. Next to that, no selection of field hockey fits; it's too much to combine. And when I do something, I go all in. Artechno is where my passion lies; that's why I decided to quit field hockey."
Surprisingly enough, quitting field hockey has given Julia's social life more depth. "At first, I would meet my friends three times a week at field hockey; nowadays, we only meet once a week but more closely. I notice that our friendship quality has improved; I find that very special. I really make an effort to maintain friendships; to me, that is important."
Excelling: pitfall and strength
The desire to excel is not something Julia has only in sports. "I put that pressure on myself. On the one hand, that's my pitfall because it makes it harder for me to combine things, but it's also my strength. I give it my all, whether on the hockey field or on the job."
That high standard also brings challenges. "There are so many things I like and want to do well; because of that, I have to keep many balls up in the air." Julia has a boyfriend, her job, and extensive social life and recently bought a new house that needs a lot of refurbishing.
"At times, it's difficult to maintain the balance and prioritize based on, 'What's good for me?'"
Learning to Perform
To find the answer to that question, Julia needs to know herself well, and she has come a long way in doing so. Julia has been working on her personal development since she was a teenager.
"I'm tremendously passionate about and interested in self-development. In the past, if I wasn't very good at something, I was always motivated to learn to become better at it."
Because Julia was always told that she could learn anything, she always wanted to improve herself.
"I was never that aware of it until I became more involved with self-development. And when I recognized that trait in myself, I was able to put a positive spin on it."
Performing and developing alone doesn't always bring equal satisfaction, so at the end of her studies in Technical Business Administration, Julia made a major change in her life. "Instead of looking at what I could develop into, I looked at what I liked and was good at. I looked at my talents instead of my points of development. From that perspective, I started looking for a job."
For this too, Julia takes the bull by the horns. She participates in personality tests and gets to work with career experts. "At the core, I already knew a lot about myself, but I was excited to explore that further." From those tests eventually came a list of Julia's talents, as well as information on what kind of organization and position would be a good fit for her.
In first place: flip-thinking skills
The tests show that Julia is creative, analytical, and quick to think of new solutions.
"That's why I enjoy my job so much. If a problem arises, I automatically think in terms of solutions. The combination of creativity and an analytical view ensures that I quickly have the overview and can come up with unique and innovative solutions."
Another valuable insight from the surveys is the correct match in terms of organization size.
"What came up was that a smaller organization is a good fit for me. That's because I'm ambitious and want to add value quickly, even as a starter, and I would never have thought of that myself."
Real-life vertical farm
Based on the points from the tests, Julia makes a list of companies that will suit her. Artechno is also on that list. During her internship at Logiqs, she already came to know about vertical farming.
"I found that super interesting, but I thought it was still in the startup phase." There is a vacancy for a Sales Engineer open at Artechno, and Julia goes in for an interview.
"After the interview, Art gave me a tour of the site. There out of the blue, I saw a vertical farm that was completely working. I was blown away that it already existed and thought, 'this is it, this is what I should do, this is what I like.'"
The day after the interview with Art, Julia signs her contract.
A better world
One thing that appeals to Julia about vertical farming is its contribution to a better world.
"My interest and passion forvertical farming stem from the belief that this concept will change the world in terms of food and agriculture. Vertical farming helps to make the production of fresh food on a large scale more sustainable and more efficient. Vertical farming can ensure that there is more fresh food on the shelves. It is also an efficient and sustainable way of growing food and reduces co2 emissions caused by transport."
It brings another significant benefit. "Our clients benefit from the consistent production and good quality of the crops. That's a double win."
Flip thinking on the work floor
In November 2020, Julia started as a Sales Engineer at Artechno. A position that fits her like a glove.
"I was given a building layout and asked how a vertical farm would fit in there. So I could immediately start puzzling and see how the flow would fit into the building. In the meantime, you also have to think about the practical details, such as whether employees will still be able to visit the toilet once the farm is in place."
Passion, ambition, and adding value
From day one, Julia has enjoyed her time at Artechno tremendously. "The job meets all my expectations. In my first week, I was already allowed to analyze and restructure the sales process. That gave me the opportunity to add value right away."
"The team also makes working here so much fun. Everyone is passionate, young, and ambitious. We have the same interests and are all innovators. No one here is like, this is how we did it 10 years ago, so this is how we'll do it today."
Hence, Julia feels like a fish in the water at Artechno. "It's also just super convivial. The people are down-to-earth and have that wonderful Westland bluntness."
Julia notices that at Artechno, age differences are disappearing. "The older crowd is just as open to change as the newcomers. When I, just two weeks after graduating from college, had an idea, I got a positive response and was allowed to present it. The next day we tackled it my way. That is so motivating!"
"We do everything together as a team. We enjoy our moments and celebrate successes. Everyone is motivated to go all out for our clients."
Love for client contact
Julia loves the technology behind vertical farming but prefers not to sit behind a laptop all day.
"That's why, as a Sales Engineer, I enjoyed listening to the client's needs and translating them into a technical solution for our product. And vice versa, translating the engineers' and programmers' input into a clear picture for the client."
Evaluation leads to innovation
Nowadays, Julia can focus more on client contact. The sales department has created a new position, Sales Consultant Vertical farming, which Julia has taken on.
The team evaluates monthly how the sales process is doing to keep the process as efficient as possible. In time, it becomes apparent that a new position is needed. "As a Sales Engineer, you can no longer sit at the table to close a deal."
Out of the comfort zone
Client contact is deepening in her new position, but Julia is also being assigned other tasks.
"At first, I was a little hesitant about the commercial aspect of my new job. When I thought of sales, I thought of cold calling people and envisioned a T-Mobile salesperson selling a subscription to someone who has absolutely no desire to buy into that service."
"On the other hand, I think Vertical Farms can offer a lot to the world. When it fits in with what the client is looking for, I can use my passion and commercial skills to show why a particular solution is perfect for the client’s needs.
"The client then gets more value from our products; we really help someone out. We truly add value, which allows the client to make money with our product. Sometimes I am secretly jealous that I don't have the product myself."
In that sales process, Julia is brutally honest. "I abide by two principles towards the clients: I want the very best for the client, and I am honest. If a solution doesn’t work, we’ll find another solution, and if that doesn't work, I will tell them honestly, even if it means losing the deal."
Ultimately, this approach results in happy clients and long-term relationships. "That's what we want and how we envisage the product we offer. Consequently, we create a win-win situation."
Wearing two hats
As a Sales Engineer, Julia had to know everything about the product, how the technology works, and how to calculate a business case for a client. Julia takes some of that work with her into her new position. As a Sales Consultant, she has a broader range of tasks.
"These days, I manage the complete client contact when a new potential client comes to us, but also for someone who has been a client with us for ten years. In other words, if a client already has our vertical farming system, but also if someone has yet to get the best solution. I will search for the best solution for the client."
From conversation to detail
With a potential client, the first stage of the conversation is to see if Artechno's solution is right for them and if the client is a match for Artechno. "If it's a match, we start calculating. Then, for example, I set out the main outlines, and the Sales Engineer works out the solution in detail."
Julia takes the lead, but she's not the only one who talks to the clients. "We don't work from isolated islands, and everyone is in touch with each other and with our clients."
Product out of passion
Julia has been working at Artechno for two years now and is still blazing with enthusiasm about the product.
"Our product is made from passion, not from having a good idea and aiming to make money from it. We genuinely want the best for the client, so they will get good products from the vertical farm and enjoy a profitable business."
As in her personal life, Julia's biggest challenge in her work is finding balance. "I love my job so much that I have to be careful not to work 60 hours a week," she says.
No news is good news
Julia's primary focus as Sales Consultant Vertical Farming are the three new clients where Artechno will establish vertical farms in the coming months.
"I want to help them as much as possible so that by September, they have a great product in place. As a Sales Consultant, I guide the client through the process, keep them informed, and coach them so they can get started immediately after the farm is in place. And of course, I keep in touch, though no news is good news."
Julia is all about satisfied customers and good customer relations. "That we can toast to the great results. Of course, there will be setbacks, but we're just going to work hard on those together."
Everything in its place
Julia is clearly in her place. "What I like most in my new job is the creative touch and finding solutions together with the client. I get energized when I'm in a client meeting, and the client is super excited, and we can switch quickly, and a great solution pops up."
Looking to the future
"In the coming years, I will expand the Sales Consultant Vertical Farming role. There will be new clients and new products. Also, I will reach out more and go visit the clients."
Julia has also set goals for herself. "I want to professionalize myself. I'm young, very driven, and professional, but I think I can develop further. Among other things, enhance my English and improve my skills for the final selling stage. That's my two-year plan; that's as far as I want to look for now. Well, maybe become CEO one day ..."
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