Employee Testimonial

Meet Niels den Heeten, Global Innovation Project Manager, True Colors Lead

Niels den Heeten is one of the innovation project managers researching innovative and exciting products and services of the future – and he’s also in the lead of AkzoNobel’s True Colors LGBTI+ inclusion initiative.

  • Global Innovation Project Manager, True Colors Lead
  • At Business Area Paints and Coatings
  • Works in Amsterdam
  • At AkzoNobel since 2013

"In a truly inclusive environment, I’m a happier person and a better colleague. That’s why I am proud AkzoNobel drives and supports diversity and inclusion, and I’m happy to be a part of it."

    

The best thing about Niels den Heeten’s job as Senior Innovation Project Manager is that he’s part of making fantastic things happen for real. One of his current projects is the development of removable wall paint for your home, a concept adapted from the car industry. After the paint dries, it can simply be peeled off – making it very useful for holiday decorating and for renters who need to restore their apartments to original condition.

Niels says: “It’s exciting to research how we can better help our customers. When I was young, I always wanted to be an architect. Now I am, in a completely different way than expected. As an innovation marketing expert, I am essentially an architect of the future. The job combines my creativity with my skills in planning and project management.”

True Colors and Coming Out

“On top of my main responsibility, I’m also leading True Colors,” says Niels. “That means I’m driving the global network and creating awareness for LGBTI+ inclusion at AkzoNobel together with other colleagues.”

“I joined the company as a single guy. I was young, it was my first job, and I didn’t share much about my personal life in general,” explains Niels. “Only later on, I met my boyfriend with whom I now live. Partly because of this sequence of events and partly because you go through a coming out process of sorts in every new place – which I was less comfortable with at the time – I didn’t share much about this part of my life.”

He continues: “When I moved into my current role, somehow it was much easier to talk about who I am. It got me thinking about why this experience was different and what it would be like for others within AkzoNobel. This is my reason for driving True Colors. I want to give everybody the opportunity to be who they are and be comfortable being open about it.”

“Looking back made me realize how much more comfortable I am now in this different environment,” adds Niels. “At the same time, giving this interview is also a coming out to some of my colleagues, with whom I’ve never discussed my personal life.”

Diversity and inclusion at AkzoNobel

Everybody has a story, and we want AkzoNobel to be a place where everyone feels comfortable sharing it if they want to. Niels’ story reminds us that keeping up our efforts to create a diverse and inclusive workplace is important.

It’s why we recently launched an unconscious bias and microaggressions training program and are driving thought leadership with the Diversity and Inclusion Sounding Board. Internal employee networks, like True Colors, are also part of our commitment to create an inclusive and respectful workplace. By valuing and celebrating people’s differences, we are winning together.

Niels believes the effort we put in is well worth it. “In a truly inclusive environment, I’m a happier person and a better colleague,” he says. “With that in mind, I’m constantly looking for opportunities to be more inclusive and challenge existing stereotypes. I examine my own and my colleagues’ behaviour on the assumptions we make in interactions with others. I’m proud AkzoNobel drives and supports this topic in such a way, and happy to be a part of it.”