“Express your ambition and go for it!”
This was one of the tips and tricks which was shared during the TopFem College organized in collaboration with Lof on Tuesday the 8th of March, also known for being International Women’s day. Four inspirational leaders were asked to talk about authentic leadership, resulting in personal storytelling about career paths, challenges and success. Stories about the importance of networking, role models and quite often a healthy dose of luck. Using their own experiences, they gave advice to a broad audience of women and men of diverse ages. There was a lot to learn from each speaker during the college, and from each other during the drinks afterwards, as the speeches inspired further discussion on leadership, ambition and making difficult decisions.
The personal approach in each speech was both encouraging and motivating.
Jabine van der Meijs, VP finance at Shell, shared how her mother motivated her to make the most of her study and later her professional life at Shell. Her career started with a desire to show her partner that being offered a job by Shell was not that big of a deal, that she could do it too. And she did, to great success.
Elferieke van Galen, Partner the Rock Group, started her career at KLM after discovering that her summer job as stewardess wasn’t as fun as soon as she had to do it full-time. She shared a number of different assets of leadership, including the aspects of cultural sensitivity and finding your passion.
Prof. Mr. Tanja Bender, Professor Tax Law Leiden University, noted how much time had changed over the last thirty years: when she started studying Law in Leiden, there hadn’t been a single female lecturer. Though she did stress that tenacity was still very much needed, hoping that the current generation would see a day in which International Women’s Day would no longer be needed.
Tanja Ineke, director VBZ-KAM, gave a presentation inspired by the theory of The Hero’s Journey, a journey which is seen as the backbone for many fairytales. It all starts with a calling, expressing your ambition, the arrival of a mentor and eventually overcoming obstacles on the way to success.
These women, who have made it to the top, almost make it sound easy. The disbelief almost couldn’t be stronger after they answered the question “What were your biggest setbacks?” Three women answered “I didn’t have any”. It makes you wonder how they define setbacks. Perhaps, as they seemed to described it, they were just lucky, being in the right place at the time. But reflecting on their stories, there was a common theme of hard work, continually looking for new challenges – whether you feel ready to make the next step or not – as well as going out on a limb in pursuit of a new opportunity. One of the speakers mentioned that she was only now starting to really plan where she wanted to end up. It is never too late to create a plan for your future. With these role models, good partnership, ample network opportunity to express your ambition, and a bit of luck you can find your path to the top.