Adam Abbas

Adam was an intern at Tech Labs: Albert Heijn’s IT testing ground

Of course, it was a promising idea from Albert Heijn’s business department: you reserve a pack of leftover products via an app and collect it from the shop around the corner for a friendly price. That means less waste and cheap groceries for customers. But that the pilot version would be downloaded 50,000 times on the first day? No one had anticipated that. Not even Adam Abbas, even though he built the application himself.

The winning idea: Remainers

‘To be honest, I didn’t expect this to be such a great success,’ says Adam Abbas, IT specialist at Albert Heijn Tech Labs. His team was asked to develop an online application that would allow branches to offer their leftover products in mixed packs. Think daily fresh bread, products with an approaching expiry date or items going out of range. Great for the supermarket that can get rid of its stuff, as well as for the consumer who can pick up a box full of good food for a few euros. Moreover, it is a great way to combat food waste. The popular app Too Good to Go already shows that such a concept can work very well.

Testing ground for tech concepts

Now, a few months later, ‘Overblijvers’ is about to be widely launched within the Albert Heijn App. Pretty cool, says Adam. He was closely involved in the first pilot, among a handful of shops and users in the Zaandam area. Adam helped build the application and even went flyering in shops – while he was still an intern at Tech Labs at the time. That innovation team was specially set up to develop smart ideas in just four weeks and test them for feasibility. Anything goes, as long as it has to do with technology. And the team runs largely on interns like Adam.

Code, design, and business case

‘As an intern, the work was very technical: so really coding, in my case as a front-end developer. But especially in the early stages, we also did a lot of brainstorming with the design side and the business team. Eventually, we merged all our work into one product.’ Developing a prototype and testing it on a small scale reveals whether the idea has a chance of success. Some projects don’t get past the pilot phase, while others grow into standard technology within Albert Heijn. Ultimately, this helps the supermarket to grow and keep innovating.

From internship to job

Generally, trainees stay at Tech Labs for six months. But Adam got the chance to stick around: ‘I had the opportunity to start working as a supervisor for the new batch. I help the students with their work and make sure they get the most out of their time at Albert Heijn. I also monitor continuity: when trainees leave, I maintain ongoing projects.’ This is important for the smooth transfer of successful ideas from Tech Labs to other departments at Albert Heijn.

‘Besides this job, I study Software Engineering at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. There I specialised in AI, automation and Mobile Development, among other things – things that tie in well with the work at Tech Labs. In a year’s time, I hope to graduate. And after that? I would like to stay at Albert Heijn. The Overblijvers project really stuck with me: I like app development, I’d like to continue with that.’

Challenging work environment

For a software developer, there’s a lot to do at Albert Heijn, thinks Adam. ‘You make your own contribution to something really big here. And because we’re so big, there’s always more to learn. Whatever question you have, there’s always someone walking around here who knows the answer.’ No wonder the current Albert Heijn App is already ‘really cool’, according to Adam. ‘But sometimes I do see small areas for improvement. But: those are not so easy to adjust. The app is so extensive that the effect is enormous if you change just one thing.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere in the office is surprisingly relaxed. ‘You actually feel very free here. There are no rock-hard deadlines, and you can just take a walk if you want.’ Adam works from home most of the time, as do his colleagues. But once a week he walks to the office – an advantage of living and working in Zaandam. At the office, we can socialize a bit as a team. And sometimes have a drink in the park afterwards.’