I Am TopFem: Britt

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 Britt van de Ven. Britt has succesfully completed last year's Leadership Programme and was part of last year's Marketing Committee.

Who are you?

© 2016 Foto: Nils van Houts

Hey! My name is Britt van de Ven, age 25, and I am a former TopFem Leadership Programme Participant and ex-member of the Marketing Committee. My roots lie in lovely small town called Beuningen (GLD), which I left 7 years ago for a study in Leiden. After my graduation I spend 3 months on a backpacking trip through South East Asia. Recently, upon my return, I’ve started working as an Advisor Life Sciences at HollandBIO in the Hague. When I am not busy broadcasting about the potential of the Dutch Biotech sector, or enjoying my travels, I enjoy trying new things. I consider myself highly experimental in the kitchen, but I also love sports and am teaching myself how to play the piano.

Which studies have you completed?

I’ve always been passionately curious about the human body and its functions. I wanted to know how diseases work and how you can find ways to cure them. Because of this, I started my Bachelor and Master Biomedical Sciences at Leiden University. Both research projects for my study were focused on finding therapies, for atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s Disease respectively. However, because I discovered that my interests were not purely confined to lab research, I took part in several other psychological, pharmaceutical and business-related courses, at different departments within and outside my University. For my final internship at Sanofi, I performed a qualitative research on (improving) the conduct of gene therapy clinical trials in the Netherlands. Ultimately, this resulted in my graduation last October.

How did you discover TopFem?

I was approached by TopFem’s Esther de Zeeuw, who I knew from my bachelor. She invited me for one of TopFem’s famous networking events and encouraged me to apply for the Leadership Programme.

How do you experience TopFem?

TopFem and its Leadership Programme provided me with the fuel that I needed to work on my soft skills. It allowed me to build a network of ambitious peers, with whom we shared challenges, set-backs and achievements in our study and career-path. The Leadership Programme specifically challenged me to perform a lot of self-reflection and gave me insights in my ambitions and life goals: both on a professional and a personal level

Do you have a female role model?

Well, I think I have a role model in about every area of my life. I love to surround myself with people that set an example. People that don’t necessarily follow the beaten tracks. People that listen to what makes them happy and passionately pursue this. People that set goals, even if they are hard to accomplish. Those are the kind of people that inspire me to do and achieve things.

How did you end up at your present job?

During my final internship on gene therapy at Sanofi, I performed a lot of interviews with relevant stakeholders. Several of the interviewees -independently of each other- pointed out HollandBIO as a possible employee, where I could remain engaged in the gene therapy field. I applied for a job before I went backpacking, and when I returned from my adventure I was completely caught by surprise when I received a call that they wanted to offer me a job.

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

As I was quite a hard-worker during University, the transition went quite smoothly. The thing I had to get used to the most, was the fact that all of a sudden I had quite a lot of projects under my supervision and additionally, the extent to which I relied on others for input on all of the topics.

What is your experience when you partook in the Leadership Programme and the accompanying research project?

I dedicated my TopFem Leadership Programme and the accompanying research project to self-development. At that point in time, I was close to graduation and struggling with my career choice. The programme demanded me to reflect on the way I spend my time, on my priorities and goals and helped me figure out what I wanted to do after graduation. The project I subsequently used to figure out what was needed to work in the sector where I wanted to end up in.

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

Good leaders are empathic, constructive, positive and approachable. They do not make themselves important: they are a source of inspiration because they empower others, by listening to them and making them feel important.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope I will never stop learning new things and exploring new places. I try to watch at least one inspiring TED talk every day, which keeps me motivated. As I am just at the beginning of my professional career, I look forward to interesting discussions and developments in the drug development field. I hope to be able to contribute to ways we can improve and speed up this trajectory, in order to make sure that (innovative) medicines reach new patient populations in time and in a sustainable fashion for our health care system.

Any advice to other young female students and professionals?

Please just follow your heart in whatever it is that you want to learn or pursue. No one can set your goals or priorities but you, and you are the only person standing in the way between you and success. Dream big!

What – in your opinion – needs to be on everyone’s curriculum vitae?

As your cv is a way to distinguish yourself from others, I feel that everybody’s cv should be different. However, one of the experiences on my cv that I value most, and would definitely recommend to others, was my semester abroad. In my case, I spend it at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, but I think the experience of studying abroad can be amazing anywhere. So, if you have the change to go abroad, please do: I promise you won’t regret it!

From which (life) experience have you learned the most?

During my recent travels through South East Asia – immediately after my study – I felt free of obligations, for the first time in a long time. I realized that I had always been “working”. During my study, at my jobs, in committees. I was always looking for a next step, a bigger achievement, something that would look good on my cv. I had worked at the expense of myself and never really taken the time to unwind. Realizing that I had been so hard on myself hurt me. Right now, I try to keep my work-life balance more balanced.