Remco Jorna (CTO, Amsterdam)
Remco is a big fan of software, puzzles, creative writing and life under the sea. When he’s not solving complex technical puzzles, he’s learning about the human mind, dabbling in poetry, or swimming with sharks – literally.
What’s your favorite thing to do?
Scuba diving definitely falls into that category. I learned how to do it in the Maldives, where I took my first dive. That was an incredible experience, swimming around with hammerhead sharks below me. I ended up getting into diving relatively recently actually. I had always suspected that ear trouble might prevent me from doing so. One day a doctor just said, give it a try and if it doesn’t work out – nothing lost. So I did. Since then, I’ve dived everywhere, including around the Caribbean, Cuba, and Europe. In 2011, I took some months out, staying in Bonaire to become a PADI Certified Rescue Diver. That meant diving a few times a day, which was great. Whether I see sharks in Belize, or Manta Rays in the Maldives, it’s amazing, and very humbling to inhabit that underwater world, even for a time.
Aside from that I like running, not competitively, just for fun. The human sciences are another interest of mine. I read a lot on psychology and have done a few courses. People are complex and fascinating, it’s interesting to learn about them.
How would you describe yourself?
Not surprisingly, I’m a bit of a techie – always have been. I remember playing around with computer languages when I was around twelve years old. I like puzzles, whether work-related or not. I’ve done things like building my own radio and computers before, but it’s the software side of things I really enjoy. For example, I’ve built a number of mobile apps and put them on the app store.
I also like creative writing and words in general. Poetry books are of interest of course, but I also enjoy things like the music of UK band, The Cure. There’s nice poetry in their lyrics. I dabble in writing myself from time to time, it’s quite relaxing.
I’m a movie buff too. The Godfather is a favorite of mine. Actually, that famous scene where The Godfather reacts angrily to a request for money at his daughter’s party has a funny reference for me. In one of my previous roles, I was always the person turning up with a request. Just as people were moving between meetings, I would show up to ask about something. My colleague and I used to laugh about it. It might sound a little intrusive, but it actually worked in people’s favor. I could learn from a quick, informal conversation what someone needed at that point in time. It gave me such insight and great ability to diffuse situations before they escalated. Just by doorstepping people, I saved a lot of work.
What did you do before FintechOS?
In university I researched on-demand printing, later ending up in a volume printing company, where I did process automation. I moved on to Ernst & Young, where as a System Engineer, I used tech to improve organizational processes. That involved a lot of lean processing, automating things to reduce duplication of effort.
Eventually, I ended up in an American company who was building virtual insurance companies, moving to London to set up their UK office. It was a great success and all was going really well. Then September 11 happened, an event that ended our business. Jobless life in an expensive city like London was not very sustainable, so that sparked a hasty return to the Netherlands. I worked for some other companies before landing in Achmea, a big Dutch company where I learned a lot about agile working.
By now, I had moved much closer to the sales function, but was missing the connection to implementation. I craved the challenge of creating a common architecture across different regions and solving all the related puzzles. That was a busy and dynamic time. I was travelling a lot, so much so that KLM Platinum status was earned very quickly! It was on one of these trips for a Romanian-based project that I got to know FintechOS via Co-Founder, Teo. During a long conversation, where we enjoyed some beers together, I really began to see this guy as someone I desired to work with.
Any advice on handling new challenges?
New challenges can be tough, and unexpected too. At any point in your career, or life in general, crises can occur. Try not to dwell on things that went wrong. Stay positive, have an agile mindset, and move on. Then you can channel your energy into taking the right actions for yourself and most importantly, the people around you.
If, for example, you were to jump into working for a fast growing company like FintechOS, I would say talk to a lot of people. Build those connections and keep asking questions. Challenge the status quo as much as possible. That’s the beauty of being in a scaleup – you can. Connect to what’s going on around you, but also be prepared to accept a certain amount of frustration. Some things are still a work in progress, but then again, you get to be in the driving seat.
If you had another job for the day, what would it be?
I think it would have to be the job of Prime Minister – only for a day though! That’s such a tough position, where I suspect it’s impossible to make everyone happy – on any topic. I’d be so curious though to see what issues cross their desk. It would be nice to get that insight. If the job was for a longer term, then I’d like to do something like field work with the UN. Maybe building useful infrastructure, like putting water wells down where people need them.
Any philosophy you would like to share?
Yes – “always try to be lazy”. That’s my go-to mantra. It sounds counterintuitive, the word “lazy” is even in there, but it comes from an industrial mindset. I think you should always try to focus on what makes an impact. Actively reduce time spent on activities that don’t add any value and automate where possible. Make your time count, there’s only so much of it.
What are your thoughts on taking risks?
Moving to FintechOS was definitely a big risk for me. I was in a large, established company at the time so jumping to a smaller start-up came with a lot of unknowns. Having joined as CTO, I’ve been putting things in place to help us grow. Whereas before, processes had already been set up for me, here I get to build them. That’s a nice added dimension to the job. Risks can pay off and I see that too. I always wondered if I might find a place to use everything I’ve learned in one single role – at FintechOS, I’ve found it.