Who's behind the steering wheel: meet Keshia and Mathi

Nothing defines a company like the people who run it, so what better way to get to know Optis than to talk to its managing partners? Keshia Niemegeerts & Mathias Mariman might be running the show today, but six years ago they both started at Optis as junior level developers! This simple fact should already tell you quite a bit, but if you really want to get to know Optis, our interview should paint a pretty clear picture.

How it started

Our two protagonists started almost simultaneously at Optis about six years ago, while coming from very different backgrounds. Mathi: “I guess I had the more traditional track since I started at Optis as an intern during my IT studies. And after that I just kind of stuck around *laughs*’ 

Meanwhile, Keshia had a slightly longer track before arriving at Optis: “My studies were more focused on electronics than IT. I quickly realized that this wasn’t really my thing, so after a brief period as technical sales I decided I was more interested in IT than electronics, so I wanted to make the switch. My first IT job was at a banking software company, but you can imagine I wasn’t really working with the latest technology, I even wrote COBOL at some point!”

Eventually, Keshia decided it was time to make another change, which is when she met Wim & Tom, who were managing partner sat Optis at the time. And that’s how Keshia ended up starting here, about one month after Mathi, both as junior developers at the time.

We think it’s important that our people know exactly how our company is running, which is why we always share our results with them.

From co-workers to managing partners

As junior development consultants, both spent the next few years working for different clients and for a while even working together on an internal application. Mathi: “Though we were often stationed at different clients, Optis has always been a close-knit group, so we definitely built up a good relationship over those years.”

Eventually, it was Keshia’s hunger for new challenges that set things in motion: “My first idea was to start an Optis branch in Ghent. I wanted to work with my own team, and this seemed like the perfect idea without having to wait for Tom & Wim to retire,” Keshia laughs, “luckily, both Wim & Tom were looking for someone to take over their Optis duties while they focused more on our company cluster. Even though I wasn’t initially on the short list of candidates, my eagerness convinced them I would be the perfect match!”

Initially, Keshia ran Optis with two senior Optis developers, but the non-technical managerial duties eventually shifted organically to Keshia as each were also combining their roles with part-time consultancy.“That's how we ended up about two years ago when it was decided that I was going to do management full time.”

This is also when Mathi started rising up to the occasion: “My role as managing partner grew organically from a desire to support Keshia in building the company where I myself would like to work. I really was glad to use my technical skills to help with stuff like recruiting and project estimations, but since January I’ve officially been instated as managing partner!”

Keshia: “Since then we’ve been kind of an inseparable team. We even talk about ourselves as a tandem, because we always consult each other when making important decisions.”

Building Utopia

Like any good superhero franchise, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the origin stories, but only because it ties in so well with how Keshia & Mathi run Optis as a company. As Keshia summarized perfectly: “For better or worse, my mission is to run Optis like a company where I would love to work as a consultant. My approach doesn’t suit everyone though, because I have always been someone that wants to learn new skills and move ahead, which is something I look for in my team as well.”

Learning was, and is, an important part of both MP’s philosophy. We discussed how they encourage their employees to further their skills, ranging from education budgets for each employee to internal knowledge sharing & coaching sessions.

What really sets both partners apart though is how they are willing to highlight the less marketing friendly aspects of their approach: “As consultant, your most important sources of learning are your client projects. Though our people obviously have a say in the matter, sometimes that does mean convincing someone that they should step out of their comfort zone and take on a project with a bit more challenge.”

Both also stressed the importance of openness: “We think it’s important that our people know exactly how our company is running, which is why we always share our results with them. They always know exactly why we are taking certain decisions and know that they can always talk to us directly. Sometimes this means we have to swallow some passionate criticism, but that’s exactly how we would want our voices to be heard as well.”

Our mission is to run Optis like a company where we would love to work as consultants.

Moving forward

It’s refreshing to hear how ‘people-centric’ Keshia & Mathi are approaching their business, which even translates to the newly founded Optis Factory, which aims to offer end-to-end software development in addition to their consultancy services.

Keshia: “Honestly, we’re not really looking at Optis Factory as a new source of revenue, but rather as a new way to help our clients and our employees at the same time. We started Optis Factory mainly to provide our clients with a managed project development solution as an alternative to reinforcing their own development team with one of our experts.

We identified this need for some time, but we only took the step because some of our senior consultants were indicating they would like to take on leading roles in longterm projects. Simultaneously, this is also the perfect environment for our junior hires to gain experience under guidance from seasoned professionals."

Nothing defines a company like the people who run it, so what better way to get to know Optis than to talk to its managing partners? Keshia Niemegeerts & Mathias Mariman might be running the show today, but six years ago they both started at Optis as junior level developers! This simple fact should already tell you quite a bit, but if you really want to get to know Optis, our interview should paint a pretty clear picture.

How it started

Our two protagonists started almost simultaneously at Optis about six years ago, while coming from very different backgrounds. Mathi: “I guess I had the more traditional track since I started at Optis as an intern during my IT studies. And after that I just kind of stuck around *laughs*’ 

Meanwhile, Keshia had a slightly longer track before arriving at Optis: “My studies were more focused on electronics than IT. I quickly realized that this wasn’t really my thing, so after a brief period as technical sales I decided I was more interested in IT than electronics, so I wanted to make the switch. My first IT job was at a banking software company, but you can imagine I wasn’t really working with the latest technology, I even wrote COBOL at some point!”

Eventually, Keshia decided it was time to make another change, which is when she met Wim & Tom, who were managing partner sat Optis at the time. And that’s how Keshia ended up starting here, about one month after Mathi, both as junior developers at the time.

We think it’s important that our people know exactly how our company is running, which is why we always share our results with them.

From co-workers to managing partners

As junior development consultants, both spent the next few years working for different clients and for a while even working together on an internal application. Mathi: “Though we were often stationed at different clients, Optis has always been a close-knit group, so we definitely built up a good relationship over those years.”

Eventually, it was Keshia’s hunger for new challenges that set things in motion: “My first idea was to start an Optis branch in Ghent. I wanted to work with my own team, and this seemed like the perfect idea without having to wait for Tom & Wim to retire,” Keshia laughs, “luckily, both Wim & Tom were looking for someone to take over their Optis duties while they focused more on our company cluster. Even though I wasn’t initially on the short list of candidates, my eagerness convinced them I would be the perfect match!”

Initially, Keshia ran Optis with two senior Optis developers, but the non-technical managerial duties eventually shifted organically to Keshia as each were also combining their roles with part-time consultancy.“That's how we ended up about two years ago when it was decided that I was going to do management full time.”

This is also when Mathi started rising up to the occasion: “My role as managing partner grew organically from a desire to support Keshia in building the company where I myself would like to work. I really was glad to use my technical skills to help with stuff like recruiting and project estimations, but since January I’ve officially been instated as managing partner!”

Keshia: “Since then we’ve been kind of an inseparable team. We even talk about ourselves as a tandem, because we always consult each other when making important decisions.”

Our mission is to run Optis like a company where we would love to work as consultants.

Building Utopia

Like any good superhero franchise, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the origin stories, but only because it ties in so well with how Keshia & Mathi run Optis as a company. As Keshia summarized perfectly: “For better or worse, my mission is to run Optis like a company where I would love to work as a consultant. My approach doesn’t suit everyone though, because I have always been someone that wants to learn new skills and move ahead, which is something I look for in my team as well.”

Learning was, and is, an important part of both MP’s philosophy. We discussed how they encourage their employees to further their skills, ranging from education budgets for each employee to internal knowledge sharing & coaching sessions.

What really sets both partners apart though is how they are willing to highlight the less marketing friendly aspects of their approach: “As consultant, your most important sources of learning are your client projects. Though our people obviously have a say in the matter, sometimes that does mean convincing someone that they should step out of their comfort zone and take on a project with a bit more challenge.”

Both also stressed the importance of openness: “We think it’s important that our people know exactly how our company is running, which is why we always share our results with them. They always know exactly why we are taking certain decisions and know that they can always talk to us directly. Sometimes this means we have to swallow some passionate criticism, but that’s exactly how we would want our voices to be heard as well.”

Moving forward

It’s refreshing to hear how ‘people-centric’ Keshia & Mathi are approaching their business, which even translates to the newly founded Optis Factory, which aims to offer end-to-end software development in addition to their consultancy services.

Keshia: “Honestly, we’re not really looking at Optis Factory as a new source of revenue, but rather as a new way to help our clients and our employees at the same time. We started Optis Factory mainly to provide our clients with a managed project development solution as an alternative to reinforcing their own development team with one of our experts.

We identified this need for some time, but we only took the step because some of our senior consultants were indicating they would like to take on leading roles in longterm projects. Simultaneously, this is also the perfect environment for our junior hires to gain experience under guidance from seasoned professionals."

If Mathi & Keshia’s philosophy sounds like the company you would like to work for, don’t hesitate to contact either of them directly.

Mathias Mariman

April 6, 2022

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