To have the space to be enterprising. To uncover and develop your skills. But how do you do that? Me inc.’ers discuss taking the reins of their own lives and work.
Deviating from your path is not failing
Adriana Botman (31) is a project consultant in Amsterdam. An unexpected internship in Shanghai taught her how to embrace new experiences.
‘I’m a planner by nature. Even when I go on holiday, I make daily activity plans in Excel. My educational path was also mapped out ahead of time: I wanted to do a Master’s in Accountancy & Auditing through a Pre-Master's degree. A change to the commencement date meant that I could only start a year later. But then I’d ‘already’ be 27 by the time I graduated! I wondered how I’d explain that in future job applications.
But that initial disappointment led to another dream come true: interning abroad. It ended up being Shanghai. The language, the culture, the food: everything was new and different. But I had the time of my life in an international community where I quickly made close friends.
After that, I consciously decided never to let myself be constrained by making overly big plans again. Deviating from your path is not a sign of failure. It creates space for something beautiful instead.
For example, I’d planned to specialize in the data side of our work as a project consultant. But after a year, I needed a change and wanted to move into finance. I felt pretty bad about it – I’d already announced the data specialization. Wouldn’t my manager be disappointed? But again, it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as I thought it would be. My managers were very understanding, assuring me that TriFinance is all about motivated consultants. They were more than willing to help if a change of direction could achieve this. I’ll always prefer a right-first-time approach; that’s just how I am. But I’m going to give myself space more often to choose what’s best for me now .”
I want to inspire other fathers
Dirk Börner-Laszuk (35) works as a project consultant in DÜSSELDORF. As a father of a baby daughter, he is taking seven months’ parental leave, even if others don’t.
“My wife and I were adamant: if we had a baby, we would each take seven months’ leave. Now that our daughter Elea Marie has recently come into our lives, I can’t imagine it any other way. She needs me, and the time that you spend together in the first few months is time that you’ll never have again.
In Germany, we have fairly progressive rules on parental leave. In total, parents get 14 months’ leave, which they can divide as they wish. But most couples deal with this quite conservatively. The man takes his required two months off and the woman takes the remaining twelve. In fact, all our friends have divided it this way. And why? The man earns more, the woman is still breastfeeding, or their own parents did it that way. Talk about old-fashioned! We keep talking about emancipation and equality instead of actually implementing it. It’s nonsense to say that a leave of absence doesn’t fit in with your career. You also have time to pursue a career in your forties and fifties.
The first two months of my leave are over. I’m now working on a temporary project, and then my remaining five months will begin. Fortunately, TriFinance has been very flexible. I found it quite hard to work at first. My thoughts were constantly with my family. Now things are more balanced. If I work from home and hear Elea crying, I take five minutes for her and then I can carry on. But I won’t be working overtime any time soon; my priorities have changed. I truly hope that I can inspire other fathers at TriFinance, even if it’s just one. I get nothing but positive feedback and many dads say they regret not having done it too.”
They call me a happy boomerang
Petra Eeckman (46), a senior project consultant in Ghent, believed she was getting too old to work as a consultant. Nonsense, of course.
The variety and diversity in consultancy has always been an ideal fit for me. In 2014, I’d been working at TriFinance for six years and had no complaints. But I started to have second thoughts when a client asked me to join their payroll on a permanent basis. I was 38 and thought: I like the fast pace of consulting now, but will I still be able to do it when I’m 50? I took the safe option and joined the company in-house. Variety in the work was the first thing I missed. I also noticed that I quickly felt responsible for the company. Not only for my own job but also for all its unwieldy processes. I worked a lot of overtime to optimize that. By the end, I was bordering on burnout. I could no longer ignore the fact that I wasn’t enjoying my work. I had to adjust my outlook.
Why on earth did I think that, at 50, I wouldn’t have the energy for consultancy work? If the work is in your blood, surely you can do it until you’re 70? In the process, I learnt that every business has its problems. If you’re 95% happy somewhere, that’s good enough. I’ve been back at TriFinance for a year now and I’m enjoying it. A happy boomerang is what they call me. I’m now working as a controller at a start-up, where I’m learning all about how a business like this operates. Instead of being involved in restructuring processes, I have to come up with solutions that can be implemented quickly. As a result, I find it much easier to distance myself from my work and I get more satisfaction out of it.’