We have had a new chairman since June 2022: Peter Ryckaert. He previously attended to our organization's finances as a board member, but traded that position in some months ago. Why did he do so and does that breathe new life into how our board functions, we wondered.
Where does your motivation to commit yourself as chairman of our board come from?
Philip (General Manager of DNS Belgium) simply asked me. Earlier this year, I applied to extend my role as treasurer. I had not really considered standing for chairman. So, I didn’t have the idea that the chairmanship should be filled differently or anything, everything was running smoothly. But when Philip asked me to succeed Piet, I was happy to consider it. He told me that Piet wanted to take time for other matters. So it was a propitious time to take over the torch. After all, I had known DNS Belgium for a long time.
By being chairman of the financial committee for several years, you mean?
About eight years ago I joined the strategic committee of DNS Belgium with FeWeb. When the board of directors was later expanded, I joined and have been a member ever since. A few more years later, I took up the position of 'treasurer', representing the board of directors. So, I already clocked in several years and therefore have a feel for DNS Belgium.
That bond is definitely there. You were formerly a registrar yourself. Does that contribute anything to your role as chairman?
That was ages ago! You refer to my time at DigiPoint, when I was indeed a registrar. That was in the 1990s, a period when you sent a fax with proof of registration to the Chamber of Commerce in order to register a domain name. But I was thus involved in the domain name business from the very onset of the Belgian Internet.
Have you already launched any new initiatives since you started as chairman? What innovation do you want to bring within the board of directors ?
I am not known as a revolutionary, so I don't see us doing a total turnaround or changing big things. The board was already running very well, also thanks to good preparations by Philip and the team.
I have made two small suggestions already, based on my experience as a member on other boards. Thematic board meetings and more employee involvement in a board meeting, for example. This seems to me like something on which the board could move further. Then one theme would take centre stage such as innovation and tech, HR, finance and so on. DNS Belgium employees can then explain their own plans for their own area of work or specialisation.
On the sustainability front, we as a board of directors can also do something and roll up our sleeves ourselves. Perhaps by way of team building? That idea is not innovative; I saw that already at Microsoft, for example. But let us aspire to involve the board actively in a sustainable project. Maybe we could support Digital for Youth? It's worth exploring that track further.
"In the 1990s, to register a domain name, you had to send a fax with proof of registration to the Chamber of Commerce. Times have changed!"
I doubt whether that is essential for a chairman. It is useful to know some people from that world, though. Being familiar with a registrar's point of view is useful. But you don't need to know everything about engineering and technology. We are not specialists in DNS and we don't necessarily need to be. As a board of directors, you want to move the organisation forward and prepare it for the future.
I see you serve on other boards : will there be enough time for DNS? :)
Of course you make a time investment as chairman, but I want to nuance that: most of the work is done by the organisation itself. As chairman, you fine tune the meeting in advance, feed discussion points and see how to handle it. But when I look at the number of hours of preparation time, it's not too bad and won't change much compared to my role as treasurer. Back then, there were also financial meetings outside the board. That falls away now, for example.
"Let's walk the talk and take an active part in DNS Belgium's sustainability projects, as a board of directors."
What does a contemporary board of directors look like? What actions should we take to make that ideal picture come true?
There are certainly some areas of concern in terms of diversity. More specifically, it is a matter of the gender, language and ethnicity of board members. Now it is mainly white men who sit on the board, although there are also two women. DNS Belgium is a Belgian organisation and yet all the members are Dutch-speaking. We have to do something about that too. In the first instance, it is up to the members themselves to delegate someone. On the other hand, we can take this actively into account in future candidacies. We are certainly aware of all these working points.
“There are definitely areas of concern in terms of diversity. More specifically, it is a matter of the gender, language and ethnicity of board members.”
What was the main achievement of your predecessor (Piet Spiessens)?
The smooth functioning, full stop. The board simply works well: everyone has the right to speak, everything is done professionally and in an atmosphere of openness. There is appreciation when someone brings up a point, there are respectful discussions, and Piet guided that perfectly, also in terms of time management. He could bring discussions to the point perfectly.
Talking about cybersecurity: in what area do you think DNS Belgium can make a difference?
I invite the communication department to step up its game. DNS Belgium can definitely make a difference on the communication front. Cybersecurity is a social problem and yet people don't bother until they are confronted with it.
DNS Belgium is an expert in cybersecurity. My advice is to take that role and communicate more to organisations. Raise awareness among Feweb, Unizo and others. There is still a lot of virgin territory, for example also with a very diverse SME market.
Joining forces with other parties in the cybersecurity world in Belgium is something you are already doing today. You should definitely continue down that path. The cooperation with the cybersecurity coalition is an example of that.
“Cybersecurity is a social problem and yet people don't bother until they are confronted with it. There is still work to be done in terms of raising awareness."
And what about corporate social responsibility? What should we focus on?
Here once again: communication. Drop the modesty and come out with best practices, inspire other organisations with them. Seek opportunities. There are plenty of seminars focusing on the SDGs. Bring your story there. Large companies are often already working on sustainability and have teams that do an excellent job of it. In the SME landscape, this is still a question mark and is limited, for example, to greening the car fleet or a few obvious actions. Come out with your achievements in 101 ways. That too is a form of corporate social responsibility!