'Sometimes you have to trust that other people can simply do things better.'

Paul van Renselaar and Sandor Beckmann - Colleagues and running blind team mates

A working relationship and friendship full of blind trust

With a huge amount of mutual trust, the working relationship between Sandor Beckmann and Paul van Renselaar is a special one. Paul’s visual impairment calls for openness and transparency. As a result, these two men present a strong front and it doesn’t take long for them to be on the same page. They found each other at work and in their shared passion for running. 
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If you know what’s going on in somebody’s personal life, you can understand each other better. It means that you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes and go the extra mile for them.’ - Sandor 


Ups and downs

Paul: ‘Sandor and I worked on the implementation of a software package for NN worldwide. It involved a lot of travel. While travelling, we worked hard, but we also had the chance to get to know each other well. We had some intensive discussions during which work soon seamlessly turned into friendship and we shared our ups and downs. It created a special bond that has endured. Being able to switch easily between our work and personal lives has benefited our partnership. Sandor has taught me that if you know what’s going on in somebody’s personal life, you can understand each other better. It means that you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes and go the extra mile for them.’ 

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shouldn't complain

‘Sandor is the Manager of Service Operations. His main task is to ensure that processes and IT systems run smoothly at NN, from mortgage calculations to pension payments. He and his team translate the developments into concrete projects. Paul: ‘In the team I’m the Project Owner of a product called ServiceNow, which is used to merge three large platforms. I’m responsible for managing the team that devises and develops the technical aspects of this process and I make sure that we continue to improve how we do this and make it even smarter.’ Sandor: ‘Paul is Mr ServiceNow. He is hugely knowledgeable about the product and its processes. He’s energetic, enthusiastic and is always at the forefront. He doesn’t shy away from giving presentations, either internally or externally. You would never know from his performance at work that Paul is visually impaired. Quite the opposite!’ Paul: ‘I really enjoy life, love to travel and want to see everything while I still can.’ Sandor: ‘It’s incredible how positive and enthusiastic Paul is, in spite of his impairment. I’ve learnt a lot from him and as a result I often think: ‘I’m healthy, my family is healthy, I shouldn’t complain!’ 

Eye disease 

Paul’s congenital, hereditary eye disease, choroideremia, means that his eyesight is deteriorating. Paul: ‘It starts with night blindness, but ultimately I’ll lose my sight completely. I currently have around 14 per cent vision.’ Sandor: ‘In everyday life, you notice that Paul doesn’t pick up on non-verbal communication in particular. If he gives a presentation and people respond to it or want to ask a question, I give him hints. Otherwise, Paul has a standard workstation, with just the text on his computer enlarged.’ 

Paul situation 

In the team, we handle Paul’s impairment in a light-hearted way. Sandor: ‘By getting to know one another well we’ve built up a band of trust. These days, we talk about the phenomenon of the ‘Paul situation’,  which means that the projector or the font is set very large so that Paul can read it. But we also make puns. Somebody once said during a lively discussion: ‘I don’t see the problem.’ This humour creates a great atmosphere in the team and this is how a discussion can sometimes take a pleasant turn.’ The team dynamics has changed hugely by having somebody with a visual impairment. Sandor: ‘I’m really proud of my team. Particularly in the society we’re living in, which is becoming more and more individualistic. People feel responsible for Paul and always help him.’ Paul’s impairment helps the team to move forward. Paul: ‘My impairment is a type of catalyst for “we’ll do it together” and it encourages collaboration. Because I don’t see very well, people not only take account of me, but also of each other.’ 


‘My impairment is a type of catalyst for “we’ll do it together”.’  - Paul 


Love of running 

Sport means a lot to Paul and Sandor, both individually and together. Sandor: ‘Running helps me to structure my thoughts. After a quarter of an hour, I get into my stride and can think about things at the same time. Paul: ‘During a trip to Romania, I decided to go running with Sandor. At seven in the morning, we were ready to set off on a three-kilometre run.’ Their open communication style comes in handy when they are running. Sandor: ‘Running with somebody with a visual impairment is pretty intensive. You suddenly become aware of other things: loose paving stones, kerbs, tree roots. I’m constantly telling Paul what’s ahead of him.’  Sandor has reignited Paul’s love of running. Paul now often runs a fixed route because running in a new place is unnerving. Paul: ‘There are two aspects to running for me. When I run, I switch off and I can empty my head. It’s also a sport you can continue to do if you have a visual impairment.’ Paul and Sandor, along with other colleagues, have taken part in the CPC run, organised by NN and Running Blind. Sandor: ‘It was a more difficult race because I was responsible for somebody with poor vision. It felt like a next step in our partnership and friendship. Again, it’s all about trust and letting go of control.’ 
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‘Running with somebody with a visual impairment is pretty intensive.’ - Sandor 


Total trust 

Paul: ‘When it comes to running, you have to have total trust that somebody will help you get to the finish line. But I also help Sandor to push through when he finds it tough. I really see it as a partnership, just like at work. Sandor does a very good job as a manager. He puts the people in his team in the spotlight. By making them successful, he’s successful too. Sometimes, you have to trust that other people can simply do things better. By running together, we’ve enriched our experience and if you click on a personal level, you understand each other even better at work’ 
 

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