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I Am TopFem: Tessa

Every first Monday of the month we post an interview with a TopFem member or TopFem alumna. This month’s I Am Topfem is with Tessa Daling. Tessa was part of the Mentor&Network Programme 2013-2014, and currently works for the municipality of The Hague.

Who are you?

My name is Tessa Daling and I participated in the TopFem Mentor&Network Programme in 2013-2014. I currently work for the municipality of The Hague and one of the projects I work on is One Young World 2018. Via Friesland, Leiden and The Hague I’ve ended up in Amsterdam. My hobbies are running, cooking, reading and making bags.

What is your academic background?

I did a Bachelor in Political Science at Leiden University. This led me to my Masters in Political Science with a focus on International Politics. I did my Masters also at Leiden University. During this time I interned at a Dutch NGO called ‘Atlantische Commissie’ in The Hague. The Atlantische Commissie engaged in trans-Atlantic issues such as NATO, TTIP and so on. The internship was mainly a research-based internship, and I also finished my final dissertation within this field of interest.

After I graduated I did feel like I missed some practical experience. That is why I did a second internship at the International Affairs department from the city of The Hague. After finishing this period, I entered my first job.

How did you discover TopFem?

I discovered TopFem via my fellow student Aukje. She was already very much involved with TopFem matters, and she had such positive remarks that I was curious to learn more. I learned that TopFem had an opening for doing research within the Dutch parliament, which was the perfect opportunity for me at the time to send a letter. Together with Aukje and others we questioned several female politicians to answer our main research topic: What kind of person is the Dutch female politician? We managed to make up a profile of her after analysing quantitive AND qualitative data. How old is she? Does she hold a University degree? We presented the results with these politicians, friends and others in ProDemos which was a very nice ending of it.

During this process, TopFem connected me with a mentor from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I learned a lot from her; for example what this Ministry is looking for in new employees, what kind of projects she works on and how to get ready for my first job. It helped me a lot.

How was the transition from your student years to your working life?

Transferring from your student years to your first job can sometimes be challenging. Where to start? What is the thing you are most interested in? And, especially for former Political Science students, does your study focus match the real (working) world? Internships can be very helpful to discover what you want after you graduated but I think the mix of work experience, networking and learning about other people’s job is even better. That is why for me, TopFem was a logical step. Within TopFem you have all these ingredients together to make the most out of it.

What is one characteristic the you believe every female leader should possess?

Being out there and (at some point) knowing what you want is something I think every potential female leader should possess. There are always circumstances in which you are challenged by the status quo (such as an old boys network) but you can influence that in your own benefit by being engaged and confident in what you want.

To conclude, I must refer to my time with TopFem in meeting so many inspirational women. It is hard to pick only one female role model so I would like to shout out to all the Dutch political women in parliament but also at our ministries. In a reality where we only had one female head of a political party, there is still work to do to give these females a first place on the stage like they deserve. And in the meantime let’s help each other out and don’t forget to enjoy the (learning) process!

All the best,



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