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Catching Up With… Claudia Thijs

By Merry Richter

October 30th, 2023

Claudia Thijs and team

Claudia Thijs is the Director of Global Field Marketing at OpenSpace, where she bridges sales and marketing and leads a talented team of marketers who are helping more builders discover the benefits of reality capture.

 

MR: Thanks so much for spending some time with us, Claudia. Let’s get to know you a bit better! Where in Belgium are you originally from, and what do you love most about living in the Netherlands?

Claudia: I am originally from Sint-Niklaas, a city located between Antwerp and Ghent. In 1996, I went to Antwerp to begin my studies, and because that’s where I spent most of my adult life and made most of my dearest friends, I consider Antwerp my home base. I moved to The Netherlands in 2016 but still go back to Antwerp regularly to meet friends.

I love living in the Netherlands for the open, positive-minded, straightforward people, the beautiful nature-like beaches (as opposed to fully developed), the many beautiful star cities (fortified cities), and of course, because the love of my life and best friend is from there.

MR: Befitting a global marketing leader, you’re extremely well-traveled. I was excited to discover your impressive travel blog, in which you and a friend have chronicled your adventures. What are some of your favorite places, and why?

Claudia: Yes! One day, my travel friend and I were in a taxi on Penang Island and realized we would forget all the highlights so fast that we’d better start writing them down. We created the blog mostly for ourselves (so that later in our seventies, we would still be able to look back) but also for the benefit of other people. We made a nice blog out of it, but unfortunately, nowadays, we stopped that very good habit as people are more visually triggered by photos and videos instead of text. We do still share sometimes on our Shots and Bites Instagram page, but for lack of traveling and time, it’s pretty quiet there nowadays.

My most favorite places always have a combination of a lively and colorful city, mountains, water, and beaches. Hence my #1 city in the world is San Francisco. Sydney, Barcelona, Lisbon, and many others with that combo I have visited are definitely also favorites to go back to.

MR: And as a fellow cat lover, I am obsessed with your PetSitter platform! Such a creative idea to launch this website, which I’m assuming has helped facilitate your travels!

Claudia: Definitely. When I was traveling a lot for Autodesk, I had a friend/colleague in San Francisco who was also traveling for work, and she mentioned she would hire a cat sitter. That was in 2012, and at that time, cat sitting was not really a service you would pay for or have a website for in Belgium. You would ask your neighbors, which I always did until one day when I was actually going on holiday with the neighbor.

I did some research, only to find that it was really not catered for yet in Belgium, so I decided to start my own platform: www.petsitter.be. It launched well, and I can honestly say my site introduced the term “petsitter” to the Belgian market and connected many PetOwners with PetSitters. Very soon after my launch, others with funding copied my site and added a business model. I kept my site free of charge for the love of pets, and to date, people still use it. I keep it active so that one day when I am retired, I can consider re-launching it. And I might even become a PetSitter myself then. 😉

MR: And did your love of travel prompt you to focus on a career in global marketing, or was it the other way around?

Claudia: It probably worked hand in hand. I had always felt the need to travel and see the world, and luckily, being single at the time and with the opportunities I had at Autodesk, I was able to combine both. There was never anything holding me back from traveling, so I seized the moments and opportunities. For some assignments, I even spent weeks in a row abroad, and I even lived in San Francisco for six months in 2007. That was before I adopted a cat. 😉

MR: You hold a master’s degree in Economics. What inspired you to become a marketer, and what are some accomplishments you’re most proud of thus far in your career?

Claudia: Marketing is about more than nice creatives and social media. It might make me sound old, but when I started my career, concepts like ecommerce and marketing automation just started happening, and I was always at the forefront of these projects being implemented at Autodesk at that time. Those activities also connected well to data and technology, which in turn related nicely to my Economics degree. So I would call myself more an “analytical” marketer rather than a “creative” marketer. I like the data behind the activity. If we do this, what does it result in? If we spend this much, how do we get a return from it? I love understanding the entire marketing and sales funnel and the handover of that between Marketing and Sales organizations—and how, when we both work closely together, we can impact the bottom line.

Top-of-mind accomplishments include being part of a project that launched eStores globally and a project that implemented marketing automation (Aprimo). I’m also proud that I successfully drove demand for many products like AutoCAD LT and Buzzsaw. There was also a great project where I collaborated with Business Control on tracking the entire marketing and sales funnel all the way to LTV/CAC in PowerBI—and kept up to date daily to steer decision-making. Overall, I’m proud of bringing Marketing and Sales closer together to work the magic together, which is what my team is also achieving at OpenSpace. Marketing is Sales, and Sales is Marketing. We’re all going for the same end goal.

MR: You worked for Autodesk for 13 years. What appeals to you about the construction industry? What led you to OpenSpace?

Claudia: Working at Autodesk’s distributor TechData is what led me to Autodesk and the construction industry. So I was not purposefully pursuing that industry; I just rolled into it. If I had known more about it before I decided to study Economics, I might have made different choices. What I have liked most in my past roles was being able to build something from scratch and make it successful: a channel, a process, a campaign, a report, a team…And that for sure matches with what our target audience does in the construction industry: building things from scratch.

I think it’s amazing what people can create from scratch and make work. Hence I like to go out with the Dutch sales team to visit prospects and customers and understand more about their world and how we can help make them more successful.

I learned about OpenSpace through my Autodesk network. Goes to show that when you connect well with people, you’ll be remembered for great opportunities and considered for potential next steps.

MR: We’re fortunate to have you here! As a global marketing leader, what are some key challenges and opportunities you face when it comes to marketing a reality capture solution in Benelux countries and other parts of the world? How do you perceive technology readiness in Europe and Asia as opposed to the trends we’re seeing in the U.S.?

Claudia: The key challenge is to understand the local market and the factual nuances that are very different from one market to the next. It’s great to have a global approach as the foundation, but you cannot execute it globally in the same way. I like the 80/20 principle where, based on the content and situation, you can apply 80% and add a local sauce for 20%. However, in a lot of cases, you also need to be willing to apply it the other way around, such as when it comes to customer stories, where you need to profile local customers.

At the same time, this is also an opportunity, as not all companies understand and apply this well. If you get this mix right, it can become an important competitive advantage. This is why having Marketing in the field working alongside local Sales is so important.

I consider the countries where we operate in Europe and Asia as technology-ready as the U.S., if not more ready. I think the OpenSpace technology is so close to how we use technology on a personal level that it’s essentially a no-brainer to apply it on the construction site level. I think that’s the basis of success for a lot of key global technology players, and this will ultimately make OpenSpace successful. It’s simple and obvious and makes life easier.

MR: You’ve mentioned that you’re a situational leader. What does that mean to you, and how has your career shaped that approach?

Claudia: Yes, the one training that always pops back up in my mind is training on “Situational Leadership.” At the beginning of my career, when I started managing a team, I thought: if they all do what I do in the way that I do it, we’ll be successful. Hahaha, that was naive and, of course, did not work how I intended it to work. I started to understand that it’s about accepting that everyone is different and at a different stage in life and career and that it’s you who needs to adapt to the people and world around you instead of vice versa. This is the key to building and working with a successful team. Even though I also think it’s important to “lead by example,” I also know that everyone will apply that differently, and that is okay. As long as there is joint success and happiness in work, the way to get there can be different.

MR: What advice would you give people who are considering careers in construction, and to women in particular?

Claudia: My advice, in general, is to always be in charge of your own destiny: you decide what’s best for you. Stay true to yourself. Embrace change and take risks on opportunities coming your way, as that is what will make you learn and grow. Find common ground and shared agendas with the people you work with; thinking you are right does not always mean getting to be right. Be nice, be positive, and see your glass as half full. And what also helps is to be pro-active, organized, communicative, responsive, and open-minded. These are the things that helped me most in my past career, of which I am proud and happy about. They may all sound like clichés, but hey, whatever does the trick for you. 😉

MR: They’re clichés for a reason! Finally, what motivates and inspires you about working at OpenSpace?

Claudia: I really like OpenSpace’s mission to bring a new level of transparency to the built world and to simplify how the world gets built. I like this because it reflects on our customers instead of ourselves. It states what’s in it for them. It makes their lives easier.

I also like our company values of “simplicity” and “better done than perfect”, which allows for flexibility to make a lot of fast decisions that are right for the local market as well as the execution of these decisions. I like the fast pace in which we can make things happen. All of that gives me the ability to complement Sales and makes me feel like I am truly contributing to the bottom line. Last but not least, I am inspired by the colleagues I work with, as I feel we’re all on the same page and dedicated to achieving our shared mission.

MR: Thanks again for sharing your story with us, Claudia!

Claudia: It was my pleasure! Thanks for the opportunity.

 

OpenSpace has a diverse, talented team across the globe. Some actively support our customers to keep them building better and faster. Some lead key departments and initiatives to keep OpenSpace moving forward fast. And others work in fascinating roles behind the scenes to deliver innovative technology that we’ll also explore. In this “Catching Up With…” series on the OpenSpace Blog, we’ll meet members of the OpenSpace team, learn about their roles and what motivates and inspires them, and give readers an inside look at OpenSpace. Looking for a new challenge and want to build something you can be proud of? Join our team!

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