I am TopFem: Maaike

Every first Monday of the month we post an interview with a TopFem member or TopFem alumna.

Maaike Riesthuis is Co-Founder & Head International at TopFem.

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Can you tell us who you are?

My name is Maaike Riesthuis and I co-founded TopFem with one of my best friends Genevieve van der Veen 5 years ago. Our goal was to connect female top talent with each other and their dream jobs/careers. That I co-founded TopFem says a lot about me as a person: I’m ambitious, entrepreneurial, internationally orientated;leadership is in all aspects my biggest passion.

Can you tell us which study you have completed and what career you were planning to pursue after this?

I absolutely enjoyed every second of my studies (Psychology/Law & Business). The knowledge I gained, my student house, my student job and of course all the great people I met. I just loved everything. I also did part of my studies abroad and I did an internship at the economic department at the Dutch Embassy in Australia. This time abroad was crucial for my independence and personal development.

What were you like as a student ?

As a student I was quite serious. I had a student job for 2 days per week, I volunteered a lot, I co-founded TopFem but I also really enjoyed my social life. During my studies I travelled a lot and between undergrad and postgrad I took a trip around the world. I wouldn’t change a thing.

How did you discover TopFem?

Co-founding TopFem fulfilled a need I had for a more serious, ambitious network where I had the opportunity to find out what I really wanted and develop my leadership skills. The best thing about this is that TopFem still succeeds in fulfilling this need for me every day.

How do you experience TopFem?

I’m still involved in TopFem as Co-Founder. In this role I’m involved in the strategic long-term plan. And although I realize that I might be biased I have never met more interesting and talented people before, thanks to TopFem.

Do you have a role model? How and why do they impact your life or inspire you?

I strongly believe in the power of having role models. Why would you want to  invent the wheel all over again? I have a few women that inspired me a lot in the past:

  • The managing partner of McKinsey UK, Vivian Hunt,
  • The former president of the representatives in the Netherlands, Gerdi Verbeet
  • The ambassador of the Dutch embassy in Australia, Annemieke Ruigrok

What I admire in all of them is their sense of humor, style and diplomacy.

How did you end up at your present job?

I have always been really interested in the business management of the public domain. In my current job I have the opportunity to build a whole new business based on improving the business management of the education sector in the Netherlands. It is really exciting and in my role I’m responsible for all internal affairs. This means a lot of leadership responsibilities together with the making and shaping of a new company.

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

The biggest shock for me was that nothing really changed dramatically and although I don’t think this is a big shocker: I loved my career. For me it’s most important that my career gives me the opportunity to really contribute to something I believe in.

What are you doing daily to ensure your continued development as a successful woman?

I try to follow 3 steps: I plan, create and improve. When planning I make sure that I’m going where I want to go (If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail). When creating output I want to contribute to something bigger than my own personal contribution and I don’t sign anything if I don’t improve it first by making it simple and beautiful.

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

A sense of purpose and resilience.  But these go hand in hand because: He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.

What are your plans for the future?

For now it’s really important for me to make the Bursar Society really successful and to build a really strong TopFem network. At the same time I want to develop myself further in the direction of leadership consultancy. Because while it's one thing to stimulate woman to go for leadership positions, it's another to keep them in those positions and to help them grow as leaders.

What is your final advice to young female students and professionals?

Go abroad, have mentors and find out what you want (long term) and never forget to dream big.