“I score relatively high on out-of-the-box thinking”

Published on: 24 June 2024

Who are those people that consciously choose to work in the pension sector? What do they do there all day for your pension? And what do they like about their jobs? In “The people behind your pension”, we take the reader behind the scenes. This time: Dave Extra, Manager of Master Data Management at APG. “The men’s weekends I organize are my way to give something back to the world.”


How does someone become a Manager of Master Data Management?
“I don’t know if there is a specific route for it, but mine went like this: I started at APG 15 years ago. My manager at the time was quite excited that I had a technical and business background rather than a financial one. At the time, that provided me with the opportunity to work not only in Heerlen, but also in Amsterdam, where I helped set up the new Business Management department. From there I rolled into a small team dealing with data administration and processing. As that team grew to about 25 employees, I was asked to join a colleague in running the department now called Data Management. And I’ve been doing that for nearly six years now.”

You’ve been working at APG for fifteen years now. How do you keep your work exciting?

“One of APG’s characteristics is that you can seek your own challenges here, and there are plenty of them, but you are also fueled by your environment. We are constantly changing as an organization. I myself have held about five different positions so far. During that time, we have executed insanely large projects and built an unprecedented system landscape. I always say that you have to tackle what moves you; then you often get many opportunities. And I like to grab those opportunities with both hands.”

What do you think could be better at APG?

“We could be a little more daring. We are a large asset manager and manage an awful lot of money. That means we value a certain amount of security and have a fairly low risk appetite. This is justified, because a mistake can have major consequences. We have therefore long focused on robust processes and automation, leaving little room for risk. At the same time, the world is changing so much that as an organization you also have to be very flexible, because looking five years ahead is simply no longer possible. On our side, that requires guts and daring to take steps. At APG, the so-called ‘blue’ employees, who according to the Management Drives method (which uses six colors to provide insight into what drives people, ed.) attach great importance to structure, have always been very much appreciated. After all, they always follow the rules properly and maintain the system. It would be good if there were a healthy balance between employees of different colors.”

What color are you, according to this method?      
“I belong to the rare category of people whose colors are all the same size, but seem to have a slight preference for result orientation. I also score relatively high on out-of-the-box thinking and the social aspect. The fact that my colors are all virtually the same size sometimes makes things complex. I need to pick a color for myself too. Literally.”

Can you give an example of that?
“When I am in a meeting, I have to think carefully in advance about what role I am going to take. I tend to be quick to take the lead, but on the other hand I also feel comfortable in the role of an expert who is strong on content. Sometimes I am the one speaking, but then I notice that I also really want to include the other people, so I give someone else the stage and sit back for a while. This sometimes creates confusion among colleagues about my role. I now realize that it is often good to choose a role in advance and stick to it.”

Are you actively working on clarifying for yourself which role suits you best?

“In recent years, I have been doing a lot of personal development. This ranges from learning my biochemistry and neurolinguistic programming to regularly organizing men’s weekends. So, I am definitely aware of my own behavioral patterns, and occasionally try to break them in order to make clearer choices.”

How does someone come to the decision to start organizing men’s weekends?
“For me, that was mainly related to the fact that I went through a very difficult period. About five years ago, my partner left me. We had two young children and I was no longer cognitively able to resolve things that came at me. I was still able to tell exactly what was going on with me, and I understood the stages of grief I was going through, but somehow that didn’t square with my own behavior and feelings. Then I decided to walk my own path, where I saw many wonderful things. At the same time, it occurred to me that we tend to this kind of thing only when we are having a hard time in life. How great would it be to taste and smell some of those lovely things, even when your world is not turned upside down? But anything organized in this area felt a bit wishy-washy to me, like a retreat that only has yoga or meditation on the program. As a man, I thought it would be nice to combine that kind of thing with deep conversations, a good workout and a nice barbecue. That is my way to give something back to the world.”

What do you personally get out of those men’s weekends?
“I can only describe it as satisfying. Perhaps the best part is convincing men who resemble my former self and are skeptical about it to participate. The more skeptical, the better. During a breathing session, I regularly see men who are insanely analytical and are in their heads a lot, experiencing and feeling all kinds of things. When I hear them say that they have never looked at the world like this before, it really feels like a gift to me.”

How does your work in the pension world compare to such a men’s weekend?

“It sometimes feels like it’s two different worlds. The participants in the men’s weekends can really appreciate my down-to-earth nature, because they might have expected me to be an organizer sitting in a cabin in the woods with a headdress on. On the other hand, until a few years ago I was known at APG as Dave the analyst, whereas now people associate me more with ‘human’ and ‘feelings’. I had to get used to that label, but now I wear it with pride.”