Every first Monday of the month we post an interview with a TopFem member or TopFem alumna.
Suzanne den Engelse is part of the Supervisory Board and Head International NL at TopFem.
Can you tell us who you are?
After my graduation I moved to Rotterdam and I am very much enjoying the city. I work as a legal counsel in the field of notarial law. My spare time is spent on the organisation TopFem, sports and social activities. High on my to-do list is competing in a triathlon and of course finishing it. My best friends describe me as hard working, friendly, smiley and someone you don’t want to meet on a rugby pitch.
Can you tell us which study you have completed and what career you were planning to pursue after this?
In 2013 I graduated in notarial and tax law at the Radboud University in Nijmegen. The reason I chose for notarial law is quite simple, it was the study I disliked the least. Luckily my choice turned out well. In order to broaden my view I decided to also study tax law. During my study I mainly focused on the corporate side of notarial and tax law, aiming for a dynamic job as a civil law notary at a big law firm. The reality of that however didn’t quite match my expectations. Nowadays I see and enjoy the beauty of a different side of notarial law, concerning topics around family, succession and marital law.
What were you like as a student?
To be honest there is not that much exciting to tell about me as a student. My grades were the grades of a hard working student with a certain degree of ambition. The only exciting bit is that, in order to keep open the opportunity to become a lawyer or judge I took extra subjects. Taking extra subjects to create more opportunities is something I would recommend to every student. So if you are considering it, just do it! It’s definitely worth your time.
How did you discover TopFem?
I discovered TopFem by accident while it was still in its very early stages. Instead of studying I was browsing on Linkedin and hit an announcement for network drinks organised by TopFem. Out of curiosity I signed up for the drinks and made the journey from Nijmegen to Amsterdam - the rest is history.
How do you experience TopFem?
Soon after the first TopFem drinks I participated in the first TopFem Talent Programme. Together with my co-participants I did research on the success factors of female members of the Dutch Parliament. The following year I was board member of TopFem NL. I’m currently involved as a member of the Supervisory Board of TopFem NL and as Head NL TopFem International.
TopFem contributes by connecting ambitious students and young professionals with each other. It has proven to be a great network platform and support system for this group. From my own experience I can also say that providing mentors through TopFem makes a big difference. The advice and words of my mentor led me to where I wanted to be. As a student or young professional there is (still) a lot you don’t know about. It’s a good thing a mentor can advise you on things and answer questions you can’t answer yourself. I would definitely recommend having a mentor to anyone.
Do you have a role model? How and why do they impact your life or inspire you?
There are several women and men I admire with regard to their vision and opinions, but I don’t realy have a role model – but I can say I’m fan of Dolly Parton!
What are you doing to ensure your continued development as a successful woman?
It’s important to keep challenging yourself, that’s for sure. I try to take on new or scary things and will go to great lengths in order to stay working fulltime. Inspiration to keep going is something I find within my work, TopFem and in books - currently I’m reading Boris Johnson, ‘I got views for you’.
If you’ve taken part in the Leadership Programme or done a research project via TopFem project could you tell us about the experience?
Over a period of 5 months we conducted 36 interviews with female members of the Dutch Parliament - which equals a lot of trips by train to The Hague. The conclusion we reached is that if you want to become a member of the Dutch Parliament, it’s all about working hard and be willing to make sacrifices. Your background or study is, therefore, not that relevant – a positive message for politics.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
I believe every leader should have the power to motivate people and give them confidence. As once stated by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) “Great leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impacts lasts on your absence.” Working with someone who has this skill will enable you to reach your full potential. So if you can, choose your boss carefully.
What are your plans for the future?
Common advice is to plan your career. Personally I believe this only leads to tunnel vision and ultimately makes you less opportunistic. Therefore I don’t have any specific future plans; I simply take the chances I believe I should take in order to stay connected to interesting topic regarding to law and society. Any chances to further my contribution to rugby in The Netherlands I take without a doubt.
What is your final advice to young female students and professionals?
Firstly, there is a lot of advice I would like to share. From my own experience the best advice I would give is; never let any insecurity stand in the way of your ambitions. For several years I had a noticeable stammer. This was a great challenge to me on many different levels, but I refused to allow it to limit me. I have recently conquered this as a result of my increased self-belief and self-acceptance. Occasionally I still have a little stammer - but that’s okay, it’s a fun part of me.