April 2023 | Written by – Ariel Slaughter
The Expat Spouses Initiative’s innovative mentorship program, Women for Women (WfW) would not be possible without its Ambassadors. They are a diverse group of locally connected women who volunteer their time and insights to help international women kick-start their careers in the Netherlands. This month Lisa Wouters, managing director at Driessen, details her journey and unique perspective on the program as a first-time WfW Ambassador.
Moving from Strength to Strength
Lisa began her higher education at the Breda University of Applied Sciences with a propaedeutic in logistics, followed by studies in International General Management after coming to the realization that logistics was not her “cup of tea.” Later in her career, Lisa would also complete a Master’s in Strategic Management.
Sales would be the area Lisa thrived in. And given her energetic and warm personality, it makes sense that people-oriented roles would be her strength. So, Lisa’s career took off as a sales specialist for the Taiwanese manufacturing company, Advantech, in their distribution channels for Scandinavian countries. “It was a really fun job where I made some stupid mistakes, celebrated success, enjoyed the traveling and met a lot of people from different origins.”
Later Lisa would transition her experience into an account manager role with Alphatron Medical Systems, selling software to hospitals to digitalize and combine different medical imaging types. This role would take her to hospitals throughout the Netherlands and Belgium, including the French speaking parts. Lisa described it as “the time of [her] life.” “The software was innovative at that time. [The job required] a lot of travelling and [I had many] interesting conversations within the medical sector.”
After her period at Alphatron, Lisa would hold a role as a unit leader at the polyclinic at the Maxima Medical Center where she learned about “being a manager” for the medical secretaries, specialist nurses and was the point of contact for different doctors, before landing at Driessen. Driessen is a recruitment agency that specializes in connecting people with jobs in the government, healthcare, and education sectors. Here Lisa started as a tender manager, then became a commercial manager and is now one of the managing directors of Driessen since 2017.
“Driessen is part of a family-owned company, located at our Brainport Human Campus. We are a recruitment agency, that connects people and work in the government, education and healthcare sector. For 30 years we invest in good employership for our people. We are a recruitment agency at your service. We have 5 vows to our temporary employees and make sure we contribute to the work happiness of those employees during their whole working life.”
Creating Employment Opportunities for Everyone
Lisa’s varied and colorful background lends itself well to the Women for Women program within Talent100, which she joined for the first time in September 2022 for Edition IX. She learned about the program via social media and Ilse Wouters, another Ambassador, and was really enthusiastic about joining. She connected Kavitha Varathan, founder and CEO of the Expat Spouses Initiative and Ed Heerschap, Living In program coordinator at the Holland Expat Center South to learn more about it.
The Talent100 program is a 12-week career re-entry program designed by three top regional changemakers: Expat Spouses Initiative, the Holland Expat Center South, and Huis Naar Werk, which connects local international talents to the demands of the Dutch labour market. The goal of the program is to take 100 unemployed professionals every year and empower them through a variety of skill building and informative workshops to help them return to work, either by reintegrating into their previous careers or a different one. Every Talent is categorized into one of three different program tracks (Career Discoverers, Kickstarters, or Women for Women) depending on the stage of their professional journeys, participating Ambassadors, and other criteria.
Although Women for Women is part of the Talent100 program, is a longstanding initiative that pairs influential local women, Ambassadors, with international female professionals called Talents. Ambassadors not only open-up their networks to the Talents but they also mentor them, providing personalized and intimate knowledge that demystifies the application and interview processes and Dutch culture to accelerate Talents closer to the labor market. Women for Women is in its tenth edition in Eindhoven, and has just rolled out a pilot in Breda in collaboration with Living In Breda and West Brabant, and Breda Internationals.
Dreaming Big with Women for Women
“I have always been a bit of a dreamer. And fulfilling dreams is a driver for me. I was touched by the mission of the Women for Women program and by their quote ‘Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back’[…] It’s such as waste that we do not use the capacity of well-educated international women with a lot of (relevant work) experience for our tight labor market. I give these women the world and want to help them to fulfill their professional dreams.”
That’s exactly why the Expat Spouses Initiative, Women for Women, and the Talent100 program came into being!
Although Lisa immediately connected with the mission of WfW, at first, she didn’t know exactly what to expect. She just knew she wanted to be part of this movement to create change to help international women and attract international talent to the sectors that Driessen specializes in. “As Driessen connects people and work in organizations within the government, education and healthcare sector, we would love to connect international talent to the meaningful jobs in our public sector.”
And she helped her Talent achieve that. Lisa’s Talent, Noorien Abbas, is an HR professional from India who by the end of the program, was employed as a corporate recruiter for Wageningen University & Research. Of Lisa, Noorien said:
“As an expat spouse, moving to the Netherlands was both exciting and daunting. The unfamiliarity of the Dutch labour market added an extra challenge. Thankfully, [Expat Spouses Initiative] and Lisa came into my life and made a tremendous impact. Lisa’s bright and infectious personality made me feel welcomed and at ease. She genuinely cared about my wellbeing and went out of her way to help me in any way she could…Lisa’s extensive knowledge of the Dutch interview process was invaluable. Her guidance and support helped me to become more assertive and confident in interviews which ultimately led me to finding my dream job in the Netherlands.”
Lisa hopes to create a more international vibe not only at Driessen but also at their customers organizations to better reflect the diverse cultures and community there. “How wonderful would it be if we embrace the English-speaking talents in our organizations at the same ease as we embrace the English-speaking parents during the tennis competition of our kids or at the schoolyard.” Women for Women is one way that Lisa contributes to that goal.
Partner with the Expat Spouses Initiative
You too can make a difference in someone else’s life and professional journey in Brabant. You can volunteer your time and expertise like Lisa to help international accompanying partners settle in the region by becoming a Women for Women Ambassador. Not only will you meet highly skilled locally available Talents, but you can also meet, network and collaborate with other Ambassadors. Or we encourage trailblazing early adopters who want to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion to join our new initiative Including You. Including You is the start of a movement that champions building a more inclusive professional ecosystem for migrating international talent, including accompanying spouses and partners. As an early adopter you will meet other like-minded individuals that will shape this partnership across industries throughout the region.
Not ready to take the plunge? Then, read more inspirational stories in the Tips, Trips, and Stories from our Community section.