I Am TopFem: Jolanda

Every first Monday of the month we post an interview with a TopFem member or TopFem alumna. Jolanda de Roo has been the Programme Manager of the 2016-2017 board untill October. Phyleen Mattaar will take over managing and coaching the Leadership Programme.

Who are you?jolanda-interview
My name is Jolanda de Roo and I have fulfilled the position of Programme Manager until now. The reason for the short involvement with TopFem is that I got the great opportunity to emigrate to Spain with my family. I am a former PhD student at the Leiden University Medical Centre, and now I am working as an Academic talent recruiter in high-tech studies at M2i.

I was born and raised in Rotterdam, but am living now for about 3 years in The Hague. I love to bake and making people happy with the result. It reminds me of doing science and being creative. Nonetheless, at home it is not appreciated that much anymore due to the burden of having to eat it all. So I guess my work colleagues are the next victims.

Which studies have you completed?
I did my BSc study of Biomedical sciences at the University of Amsterdam. I actually have no idea why I got into it, because I didn’t really enjoy biology in high school. Yet, I was very intrigued in how the human body would work and had a great interest in science. I was the typical kid running around the garden with her microscope, dissecting insects. I also very much enjoyed mixing all types of colored soaps like I would be mixing chemicals. I guess it was quite a no-brainer to do something scientific.

I decided to do my MSc at Leiden University in Biomedical sciences with a management specialization track, and spend 4 months abroad at the Ruprecht-Karls-universiteit in Heidelberg Germany. I had the idea that there was more to the world than just science and in Leiden they offered this study where you can still do science, but get to know more about management and business related things. I also participated in the first class of the Leiden Leadership Programme and did many extracurricular business classes.

I did several fundamental scientific internships in the Amsterdam Medical Centre, the Leiden University Medical Centre and in the German Cancer Research Centre. For the management related part I did an internship on Organizational optimization and Cultural change at ZonMw, which is a governmental funding agency for several research programs.

During my studies I was interested to know more about the human body and especially in a scientific way. After a while I noticed I was living in a scientific bubble and saw that managerial skills were also very much needed in science. I decided to broaden my knowledge in business related themes, which eventually expanded my interest in doing more things than just science.

How did you discover TopFem?
I came into contact with TopFem via Facebook. I can’t really recall whether it was linked to a friend of mine, or that it was just matched to my profile. I called the ladies in charge and I was very pleased to hear them talk so passionately about female leadership as I am.

I wasn’t involved in either the Leadership Programme nor the Mentor&Network Programme, but did like the combination of both. Especially after having done the Leiden Leadership Program myself and noticing that just doing that program did not open many doors for me, I had the same opinion that a Mentor&Network Programme would increase the quality of the Leadership Programme.

How do you experience TopFem?
I experience TopFem as a young, vibrant organization of very strong and ambitious young women. I was surprised to find out that our board fit together like a glove and has a very diverse set of personalities but with a strong sense of empathy. I have been surrounded by many successful young professional women but unfortunately, noticed a strong sense of unnecessary competition.

I think that having such a balanced board will have its positive effect on the participants of TopFem 2016-2017. And I hope that the future generation of young ambitious women will see them as a good example of young female leaders.

Do you have a female role model?
I don’t have a specific female role model. I believe in that each person has its uniqueness and should be guided in his/her specific characteristics for being a good leader. There is no good nor bad leadership style; it should just fit the situation and surroundings. So I strongly advise to open yourself up for constant feedback and personal development, to enable others to grow as well.

How did you end up at your present job?
I found the vacancy of Chemistry and Life Sciences Recruiter on LinkedIn and for some strange reason I felt very attracted to it. It didn’t fit my expertise, but I decided to call and inform myself about it. They told me that they were looking for someone more experienced in Chemistry, but if I was still interested I could send in my CV. Against all odds, I still felt attracted to it and just send in my CV without any extra effort. I was invited for 2 interviews with 4 people and these conversations were very nice about my believes and vision on science and the academic world. It actually didn’t seem like interviews, and in the last conversation they offered me a different job as Academic Talent Recruiter.

I guess that some things just fall in to place when needed and the best way to go at it is to be yourself. I now work in a great team with great colleagues that empower me constantly and give me feedback to develop myself. I also can help others here by using my leadership characteristics and help them in their development. With other words: my ideal job!

How was the transition from your student years to your working life?
I started my PhD in fundamental science right after my MSc. In hindsight, I should have had a break between starting my job and finishing my MSc, because the workload had been very high for many months and starting a job is big transition in one’s life. I was hitting a burnout and surviving the first months of my new job were very tough. But I went through it and it didn’t stop me from reaching my goals.

I learned a very valuable lesson that your working environment and manager/leader are very important in your professional but also private life. We spend a large part of our time at work and it has its effects on your personal wellbeing buy also social life. Surround yourself by the right surrounding and you will be able to balance it all.

What is one characteristic that you believe every female leader should possess?
Don’t feel competitive with males or other females. What I noticed during my years of work experience is that many young ambitious women feel that they need to compete with others. They become frustrated because they focus on the wrong goal. I look at it as a symbiosis; learn from others and take out the lessons for your own personal development. Focus on yourself and your own goals, but always keep in mind that you should empower others on the way.

What are your plans for the future?
Actually I was a future planner, but learned that life cannot be planned. Things happen in contradiction to your plans and it is the way you deal with it which matters the most. Role with the punches, as they call it. So, that is the way I try to live by now.

I have many things that I still want to learn and much personal development that I still want to achieve. How and where I will do that; time will tell. For now, I am comfortable where I am and when I’ll notice that I have outgrown the situation, I will find the next thing. One plan I do have in mind is to start up a bakery on day. I might be crazy enough to work as a part-time intern at an existing bakery to learn the skills and make lots of people happy with sweets and savory. Who knows …

Any advice to other young female students and professionals?
I would advise young females to believe in themselves, even when everything points out to not do it. You will have many rough times in lives, that will make you doubt about yourself and your capabilities. See them as personal development checkpoints; as if you are being tested on your new development. Pass the test, and a new great opportunity will follow. Fall back to your old habits, and you will be faced with the same test again. Sounds very spiritual if I put it that way.

What – in your opinion – needs to be on everyone’s curriculum vitae?
I would like to put it in a different way. I would advise to not overkill on your CV. You might have done may things in your career already but some things just do not cohere very logically. Make sure your CV is structured with the most important things on top. Draft your CV based on your target audience. So for example if you are applying for a position in politics, I wouldn’t mention that you have done several courses on animal pathology. I always say to my candidates: think well what you want to show and write down what you believe the hiring party would like to know. What things or experiences are important for that job and specify on the ones you have.

From which (life) experience have you learned the most?
From the birth of my child. I was a PhD researcher which was expecting a baby, which is something that is quite taboo in my research field. I even believe it is still a problem in many other working areas, because there is this misconception that becoming a mother will change you and make you unreliable. I can say out of experience that it will not change the way you are; if you are a hardworking and ambitious woman, you will be the same afterwards. I can’t imagine myself staying at home, and am currently working fulltime because that makes me feel useful. You will actually also get very efficient in your work because you can’t pick up your kid late at daycare. If anything changed, it is that I am more efficient and able to find balance between work and private life. Which is actually a topic that is hardly touched upon when you are aiming at a successful career.

How has having a mentor helped you?
I deliberately was looking for a new working place where my manager would want to be my mentor too. I was in need of someone that would empower me and help me balance my work enthusiasm. I can get quite extreme and caught up in work, while forgetting my own rest. So, I needed someone that would guide me in this and would not take advantage of it.

Now I have my directing manager and team that helps me in this and it directly had its effect. I am much more balanced and less stressed, while still reaching all my goals efficiently and with success. The fun part is that my team members and directing manager also learn from me, because I created the possibility to talk about these things and they are expressing themselves more too. I would say it is an ideal example of very different ambitious characters that are empowering each other.