Joke is Business Manager at Prosource. She lives in Mortsel with her husband, their 2-year-old daughter and their furry friend, Boy.
Tell us about your education and career path so far.
“Well, it’s been quite a ride! My high school path took me across different studies from general studies to the School of Arts, back to general studies and eventually Tourism. Looking back, I think I would’ve benefited from being more steadfast and holding on to what I chose. But I simply was not interested in school, even though the difficulty of the courses was not an issue. The future seemed so far away.
When I was 16, I started to realise how important a degree was, receiving a C-attest (causing me to redo a year), was my much-needed wake-up call. At 20, I made the decision to start my career and rolled into a Young Potential Program of a major retailer.
I started studying again and got a bachelor’s in sales and marketing while working full-time. I was able to grow into store manager roles across Flanders and was able to learn a lot during that time.”
What inspired you to pursue a career in sales?
“After 8 years, I had enough of retail and took a few months to think about what I really wanted to do. I love to work with people and assist in their professional development, so I made a move to the recruitment world.”
Who has played an important role in your career in order for you to grow?
“I learned a lot from Heidi, who was one of the store managers when I just started out in retail. I looked up to her because of her ambition and drive. She always shared a lot of tips and tricks and is still one of my sparring partners today. A wonderful lady!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far?
“Never give up, even when it gets hard. Life goes on. There will be ups and downs and they will teach you who you are. This doesn’t mean that you should shut out your emotions, on the contrary. Becoming a mom has been one of the most emotional experiences of my life, it makes me feel truly alive.
Motherhood is something that also builds your self-confidence, would you agree?
“Definitely. Once you have the responsibility to take care of a child, you get a lot more perspective and challenges that might’ve seen hard before all of a sudden look much more attainable.”
Can you describe some of the challenges you’ve faced?
“When my dad passed away, it made me think deeply about life and how I wanted to live mine. My dad worked in sales in the heavy machinery industry and I admired him because of his flair, how he was always himself and how he was never afraid to fail.
I want to pass those values on to my daughter as well. It’s important to me that she is able to put into words what she feels or thinks in a respectful way.
I’m a very outspoken person with strong opinions. As a team lead, it’s important to take the different characters and personalities in your team into account. Instead of being direct in a blunt way, I learned to become assertive and adapt my communication style to that of my team members.”
Being able to adapt your communication style is an underrated skill! Which other skills do you think are essential for success?
“Perseverance immediately comes to mind. Focus on the results and don’t give up. But also empathy. When I was a team lead in retail, I always asked for feedback from my team so I could improve. I’d ask them how they perceived me, and how they wanted me to communicate with them. I know I have the tendency to come across as directive so I do my best to take on a more coaching role.”
How would you define leadership?
“This is a tough question. I don’t like the words ‘boss’ or ‘manager’. I think work is about collaboration. Leadership is about being a role model, having trust in your team and communicating openly. It’s not a monologue but a conversation where all involved parties should benefit from, be it from sharing knowledge, getting support or having a sparring partner.”
There’s the idea that professionals should make a choice between becoming an expert or a generalist. What’s your take on that when it comes to leadership?
“Leaders are both experts and generalists. They should know about people management; how to elevate a team, how to communicate, and when and how to adapt the way of working when circumstances require it.
Additionally, it’s crucial that team leads know what a job entails before they can lead a team. Some expertise is required in order to build your credibility. It’s a challenge to roll into a leadership role and guide people if it’s not clear to you what their job looks like.”
What advice would you give to other women who aspire to pursue a career in sales?
“Listen carefully to what is being said and what is expected, indicate on time if something is unclear, ask for feedback, and never give up!”
This interview is part of Sisu Group’s campaign announced on Women’s Day 2023. The goal is to highlight the stories behind the many talented professionals of Sisu. For more, check out Sisu’s blog.