Stefanie is a C4T veteran; she joined the company when C4T was still officially a consulting firm with a small team of developers working behind the scenes on the first generation of CAS. There were only 10 employees at that time and she was hired as a temporary Junior Customs Consultant. Although she majored in Transportation & Logistics as part of her Applied Economic Sciences education, her education didn’t cover a lot of material on customs. “Not only was customs not really covered in university, it’s not an area that people naturally think about. When I was first hired as a customs consultant, all my friends thought I was working for the government and inspecting containers in the port. It didn’t occur to them that companies need to import and export goods and that there are opportunities for optimisations. Even after explaining it to them, they still pictured me working at the Port of Antwerp!”
New to the field, Stefanie shadowed C4T’s directors, learning about classifications, authorisations, and the Union Customs Code (UCC), which had just entered into force in Europe. She had an immediate affinity for customs and was eager to provide more value to customers. “It’s super interesting! You can play around with it, you can optimise things. I wanted to become an expert in this niche market.” In late 2017, in parallel with her full-time consulting role, Stefanie began evening courses at KdG in Antwerp for a post-graduate degree in Cross-functional Customs Management. At the same time, the shift of C4T’s core focus to CAS was already taking place. “The training was very relevant but I remember wondering at the beginning of my studies whether it made sense to pursue it since we were transitioning to an IT company.” Shortly after she began her studies, Stefanie switched from consulting to a Service Desk role, supporting the small CAS customer base. Pulling from her on-the-job experience, she wrote a paper for her degree titled “Defining the decisive criteria for turning legal requirements into an automated customs solution,” which we still distribute to new hires to give them an overview of our market and value proposition.
C4T has been on a rapid growth trajectory ever since its transition to a SaaS provider and Stefanie’s career path has given her experience with many facets of the business. After transferring Service Desk knowledge to a new lead, she began wearing many hats, ranging from business analysis to software testing. As she was completing her degree, C4T landed its biggest customer to that date, a Fortune 500 company, and Stefanie took over as project manager for that account. This also drove her to pursue further training in project management at EHSAL Management School in Brussels. “It was very practical, hands-on training. We learned theory and then put it into practice with project simulations.”
The addition of this new customer propelled CAS development to an agile model and formed the mould for what is now C4T’s Onboarding team. “I still remember that we would have daily stand-ups with all of us—everybody in the office. There was a really close collaboration between Service Desk, Onboarding, QA, and the Development team to make CAS successful.”
In less than two years, the Onboarding team grew from just Stefanie to six people, with Stefanie as the lead. Recently, her career has taken two more interesting turns. “First I was asked to join the Product Management team part-time. The idea was that I would continue working as Lead Onboarding and dedicate time to analysing roadmap topics, assisting in translating business questions from clients into product requirements. As part of Onboarding, I get a lot of these questions from both colleagues and customers. Bridging business and product will ensure that the customer is fully represented in the earliest phase possible. This will support faster onboarding, fewer product gaps, and provide a higher quality and predictability of the system.”
Directly on the heels of this announcement was yet another development for Stefanie’s career path—C4T needed an interim Product Manager and Stefanie’s insights from both the customer and software perspectives are invaluable in moving development forward. “My goal is to make sure there is a clear structure for evolving CAS and it is aligned with our customers’ needs. We need to make sure that analysis for new functionality is properly executed and that the development squads can move forward with clear communication.”
In Stefanie’s five years at C4T, not only have her responsibilities grown but the team has grown too, from 10 to nearly 100 employees. “The culture, vision, and mission haven’t changed. I still work very closely with Pieter and Ilse and they are still very open and transparent. Five years ago, we sat together at the lunch table and it’s the same today. I left my previous job at a huge multinational to work for a smaller company because I felt like a number. C4T is growing but I don’t have that feeling; that hasn’t changed over time. The collaboration and the dynamics of working together with several departments is a great learning opportunity and a day at the office is never the same. Every customer has different flows and products that make them unique and working with different customers on multiple projects is the nicest part.”
Stefanie’s new role as Lead Product Manager will give her the opportunity to approach CAS from a different perspective and open up different roads for her future. “This is an opportunity to learn all about Product Management and get a feel for that side of the business. I still really enjoy Onboarding and now I will be able to learn about and experience life from the product side first-hand to decide which path suits me best.”