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First Year of Work Experience

Time flies. I’ve already been working with/for my mom for a whole year. When graduating university in May 2019, I hadn’t planned much – I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t going to be doing a masters – it was much of a free-for-all. I had thought about doing an alternative master’s degree in Amsterdam but in the end I decided not to, leaving my life with a big blank space to fill in.

My only plan for the summer was to go visit my best friend in the US for about a month and half, and after that I would go visit my mom in St. Barth. Once with my mom we would take time to figure out my next moves together – step one of the summer was to just enjoy my time in the US, which I had never visited before. I had the opportunity to take my time in figuring out my life, so that is exactly what I did. But when halfway through my trip in the US my mom called with a job offer, of which we’d work the details out when I would be with her, I immediately said yes. It felt right and I as I didn’t have anything else planned, it seemed like a great opportunity to gain some work experience. Now it’s been a little over a year of working together and my overall evaluation so far is that I really love it! Much more than I initially thought I would.

In July we took some time to evaluate how our first year of working together had gone, and to review how satisfied we both were. For me it was the question of whether I like the work and would want to grow more into this field. And for my mom it was a question of whether she was happy with the output I was producing, as well as with how the working together was going. By the end of our evaluation it was clear that we were both very happy with how things were going and we decided that I would continue working for my mom for, at least, another two years.

Deciding to continue working together for another two years also means that I have now started learning about more complex aspects of the job. My mother, or maybe from here on out I should call her my employer, it feels like a good way to keep personal and profession separate, still reviews the content I produce and we always walk through it together. So far this has been an effective working method and has helped me learn how I should formulate or position certain parts of a document, presentation or project. For my employer, Marja, it saves a lot of time and energy. As I do a lot of the initial research, crafting of presentations, and the writing of dossiers and reports, Marja only has to review it and shape it into its final form. Working with an already created structure has allowed Marja to take on more projects because she doesn’t have to do all of the nitty-gritty work alone anymore – now we do it together.

We’ve noticed that we are a good team and work really well together. Some people have been surprised when I tell them I work for my mom – they’re confused about how we keep personal and professional separate. Funnily enough this comes quite easy and even though we do have occasional personal clashes in work, working with my mom as my employer has actually allowed me to grow immensely both on a personal and professional level. I deal with personal confrontation from which I can grow, and in my professional aspect I am more motivated to do good because it’s not just my employer who I am working for, but also for my mother, whom I want to show that I can do a good job, and I am working for myself, to push myself to be the best version of myself in what I do. Overall we work very efficiently together and it’s been incredibly pleasurable.

While this job is my first full-time job post university graduation, it is not my first job! I’ve always looked for extra work in order to get by, especially during university. Back in high school, during the summers, I worked as a waitress in my hometown, Hilversum. In both high school and university I used to babysit. Then during university, alongside babysitting, I got two part-time jobs: one as a student ambassador in the admissions office, where I showed potential new students around campus and worked on scanning transcripts and sending out acceptance emails. The second job was as a student advisor, where I was in charge of guiding a group of new students that semester, to show them around campus and Paris, as well as to check in with them throughout that first semester, and to ensure that they were settling in and doing okay. During university I had also gotten a third, part-time job, which was already for my mom (maybe I should’ve seen this as foreshadowing). But this work was in a different area than the work I do now, even though I have continued to do this work on the side of my regular job. I do the administration of her company and two foundations. The work is fairly easy, as once you’ve set up a system, the work just flows.

One of the biggest perks of my job is that I get to work from home. This way I can organise my workday the way that best suits each day. I can organise my workday so that I have proper time for meals and for exercise while still getting all my work done in a manner that is incredibly efficient for me and beneficial for my well-being.

Work-station from back in The Netherlands. A snapshot from last May.

What exactly is my job?

My current job title at Into Creation SBH EURL, which is a consultancy, is Project Manager. This is the simplest way to give an overarching name to the work I do. In reality, it is a giant mix of many different things and many different types of projects. This has, already after one year, allowed me to become somewhat of a Swiss Army knife.

What occupies most of my time is the medical-related work: market access scans, writing dossiers and working on expert procedures. But since all of these are “projects”, titling my position as “project manager” is the easiest way to describe it all.

The main thing I work on is Market Access Scans, which is the process of assisting companies in the execution the procedure to be accepted into the reimbursement system of the Dutch government. We do most of this in The Netherlands, but are working on expanding this to a global market, with partners in different countries. We are currently working on a project, with numerous levels, of which we recently expanded into four different countries outside of The Netherlands. It’s been really exciting to expand our work more internationally.

Another aspect of my job are expert procedures. In February we completed what was my first ever expert procedure, but I already had vast knowledge about them as I’d seen Marja do them many, many times before. The expert procedures are one of the, in my opinion, coolest things we do. The process includes gathering experts from the specific field our project is on. This can include doctors, individuals from patient organisations or from professional organisations – individuals who are experts in their field. We then ask their standpoint on the topic that the procedure is about. We first ask each expert individually, followed by a group meeting, or when necessary, two group meetings, where we discuss the consensus that we created from combining the information of all the individual expert meetings. The consensus that we create, based on the information from the group of experts, often shapes guidelines for the given topic. All this information results into a report which is always made public. The coolest thing about these expert procedures is that you can do them for any given topic (but more on that later).

We are currently working on two different writing projects: a dossier and a medical article. Dossiers are where we submit information about a new, internationally registered product to the Dutch government in order to get the medicine included in the reimbursement system. The other is a medical article. For this we work with experts, similar to the expert procedure, but a smaller group who assist in providing content as well as reviewing the article. Once the article is completed it will be published in a medical journal.

Looking over an article together with Marja.

Global Young Leaders

Back to the possibility of doing an expert procedure in any given field. Before I started working with Marja, she did an expert procedure in a different field with my sister Rowena, who also works with my mom (my brother also works with my mom as of September 2018). This expert procedure was about young people. What specifically about young people? About their decision-making in life, how they design and shape their life, what factors influence their choices and the way they chose to be. Rowena and Marja gathered eight young people, who were considered experts in the field of being a young person in the world, and brought them all together in Sicily to discuss topics like decision-making, influencing factors of our playing field, and the way we make decisions in life. This resulted in what is now known as Global Young Leaders (GYL). This organisation that Marja started, is now carried mainly by Christiaan. Christiaan was invited as one of the eight young experts in the Sicily week, and it turned out that GYL is the perfect fit for him.

Rowena and I work on GYL as well. This is another part of my job. Alongside the medical projects and procedures, I work on the social media and community development of GYL. Additionally I keep track of the administration, as I already had a functioning system I used for Marja’s other companies, it was just a matter of plugging in different numbers.

Working on GYL projects and its social media has been a bumpy but exciting ride. In the past I’ve had days where I wasn’t as motivated or inspired to create content and think of how to develop our project. But recently, throughout August and September, we’ve had numerous meetings about the future of GYL and how we want to move forward, and who we want in what role. For Christiaan it is his full-time job, while for me it gets a certain amount of time out of my work week, as the rest is spend on my work for Into Creation SBH EURL. We analysed the way that each of us works best and most efficiently. For me, I am most efficient and productive when you give me a project, some guidelines and information that I’ll need, and then you just let me do it. I’m not one for frequent review meetings or brainstorming sessions. I do see the value in these and I enjoy it when we have these regarding the future of the project and grand idea and structure reviews, but not for smaller projects and things. So we’ve established ways to ensure that each of us can work in our greatest capacity that also ensures growth for our project.

In the past couple of months we’ve also noticed significant growth in our GYL project. Our social media following, as well as engagement, has gone up significantly, and we have a big upcoming project through which we are looking to create more engagement and interaction with the community we are building.

Additionally we have reached more individuals with our workshops. Due to COVID-19 we’ve had to move a lot online, and initially this felt quite tricky as a big value of our workshops is the peer-to-peer, personal interaction – something that can be difficult to create via a Zoom call. But we’ve figured out a way to do it and we’ve been able to reach people all over the world. While initially moving online felt restricting, it has now allowed us to have people in our workshops in locations where we don’t have hubs set up yet, as well as that it allows us to have people from different parts of the world inspiring one another – an opportunity that wouldn’t have been possible if we’d only done in-person workshops. We’ve found a positive spin to a challenge we faced, which is one of the important aspects we share in our workshops, especially in our COVID-centred workshop: “Navigating Life in Times of COVID“.

Curious about our workshops and what we do at GYL? Check out our website or our Instagram!

A snapshot of some of the social media content I produced for the GYL Instagram.

What I’ve learned so far:

As my first full-time, post university job, I’ve learned that what you study at university doesn’t really matter so much (in general). Yes it can help you get a foot in the door at your prospective job, and for some jobs what you study really is important. But in general, for a lot of jobs, it’s more the basic experience of being a student, working with deadlines, working with other people, presenting and turning in quality work that truly matters and helps you. Before starting my job I knew very little about the medical world. Yes I had some basic knowledge and vocabulary from having listened to my mom my whole life (as she’s had her business for over 27 years, meaning it was already around before I was even born). But my medical knowledge has grown immensely over the past year, just from paying attention and being interested in my work, and from all the literature that I’ve had to read. But a large part of my work has also been making presentations, writing reports, which feel similar to essays or a thesis project, I’ve had to have professional zoom calls, which truly just feel like a formal presentation. So a lot of basic skills at university really help in whatever job you get/choose.

But besides basic skills, I’ve learned a lot about the medical world and how different processes work. I’ve also learned that the behind the scenes of the medical world includes a lot of political games and strategies (so I guess my politics degree has come in somewhat handy – yet not essential). It’s been really intriguing to observe the medical world from a consulting perspective.

Alongside learning new things about the medical world, in the past year I have gained so much more experience and knowledge. And not just in the specific field I’m working in, but I’ve also had a look into how companies run and how the corporate world works, and all of that from the comforts of my home. While Marja’s companies are all just run and managed by her, and technically I am her only official employee, we do work together with a company in Groningen, The Netherlands, called ASC Academics. We work on many projects together, we do the more medical side of a project and they will work on the economical side of a project. But working together is fun and occasionally creates the “larger office” feel. Something that isn’t present when it’s just Marja and I at the office.

Besides my medical work, I’ve also learned a lot about time management and working hard for things you’re passionate about. I’ve always been good at time management, but when you’re managing numerous different projects, and working for a whole other company/project (GYL) next to your regular day-to-day job, you have to have your shit together. And sometimes I don’t and then I feel stressed out, but it’s all a giant learning experience so I’m not too worried about it. Additionally it has been really exciting to work in so many different fields at once – to work on formal medical presentations, dossiers, and expert procedures, while simultaneously working on social media strategies and community building, all the while also working on numerous companies’ administration.

And what amazes me most sometimes is that I’m managing it all. Yes some weeks are busier than others and some weeks I work many hours over time, while other weeks are more relaxed and manageable and I get time to catch up on projects that aren’t as urgent. I’m amazed at my own skill development and time management and that every day I get up and have a job that I constantly feel is teaching me new things.

And at the end of the day, when already working hard on my day-to-day job(s) and putting in a lot of creative input and energy into them, I still feel motivation to work on my own “work” too. I am in the process of setting up my business (details of which I won’t spill just yet), but it is related to my writing work, and I amaze myself sometimes at the energy and excitement that I can still manage to generate for my own projects and undertakings. Sometimes I wonder where I get the energy from, but I guess when you are passionate about what you do and what you get to create and learn from every day, energy doesn’t run out that fast (not to say I don’t have days where I’m not motivated at all and just rather crawl back into bed, I’m human and have those days too, but overall my energy level is incredibly high).

Maybe the key to life is to just create and feel motivation in all that we do, and if we discover that our work or extracurricular activities aren’t providing that, that we find the courage to search for something new, even when it can bring uncertainty. It is the greatest way to grow and create our own life.

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