If you want a lot, don't ask for a little!
She launched her own company earlier this year in the midst of a crisis. Potential TechGirl of the Month Hendrika Willemse is determined to make She in IT. She always knew she wanted to get into IT and now she wants to help other women who want that too.
Hendrika: “My brother is eighteen years older and worked in IT when I was young. I heard his stories about work and I got the idea to go into IT as well. I did MAVO, then MBO IT. Then I started working very young. I started a company with my brother when I was 17, in addition to studying part-time. I thought it was important to have a Bachelor degree and chose Commercial Economics. I needed that guarantee for the future. My MBO was also very technical and I wanted to know more about sales and marketing.”
It turned out to be a wise choice, because Hendrika ended up running the company for ten years. She did that for six years with her brother, who sadly passed away in 2006. “He passed away suddenly. It was a tough time: you have a company together, employ people, at the same time it affects your private life. I’ve had to make big decisions: am I going to sell the company? In the end I continued it for four years, but then I thought it was done and it was time for something different. Detron ICT & Telecom Groep eventually took over and part of the deal was that I would go along. That is how I ended up in the board for three years.”
That was an interesting time for Hendrika, but perhaps even more so for Detron’s George Banken and his team: “I was the only woman on the board and they clearly had to get used to it. Also for me: I was 26 or 27 years old and for the first time I ended up in such a large organization. It was a huge learning experience, but it also got me questioning: I was done, wasn’t I? Now I was still here. Then I left and spent two years at VMWare. I was responsible for global accounts, so I was able to help with major transformation projects.”
After 4.5 years, Hendrika switched jobs. From the commercial VMWare to Nutanix (also an American IT company) where I was responsible for central government customers. However, she found it difficult to find her way after seven years in corporate life. “Entrepreneurship continued to itch. In the end I gave birth to my son 2.5 years ago and I did coaching courses during my maternity leave. I have worked in IT myself for twenty years, so I know better than anyone what you can run into. But also: how challenging and fun it can be. I am 37 now and I have been working for 20 years. I have never regretted that. I was young and quickly grown up and was involved in very different things than student life.”
This is not only due to the IT and the business that Hendrika had with her brother. Hendrika has had another career. “I have had a karate career for almost twenty years, also internationally. I started coaching children, so I was very busy with that in addition to my business career. I have started She in IT and I notice that the women who come are very different. Sometimes they are young girls who are just starting their career and want to know how to build your career, but there are also entrepreneurs who have been around for years and ask if I can watch the optimization of a sales team.”
An online platform will be added shortly. Hendrika Willemse: “This way you can go through modules and you have an all-round package of everything you need to know. For example, how to make a plan with concrete handles and daily challenges. They are also about doing business, for example: how do you stand up for yourself? Men and women work differently. Women often have less self-confidence. When a woman sees a vacancy, she quickly thinks that she is not meeting what is being asked if only one point is off. Men think, “I’ll just go for it anyway”
She in IT
According to Hendrika, a lot of women are often reserved about themselves. “Women can do more than they think. That uncertainty is killing, which we already get from our childhood. I remember well when I said I wanted to do IT. That was accepted at my house, but many friends said: is that for girls? It’s very technical, can you do that? I still come across it a lot, although it is often more subtle. It is often difficult to figure out what to do with sexist comments. You are not prepared for it, they catch you unexpected. I think it’s good to learn to deal with that.
Moreover, women really need to stop thinking whether they are capable. Things that come from our insecurity from our youth, they say nothing about who you are now. I also want to work on this with my company: tools for building that self-confidence.”
Hendrika herself misses coaches who are women and who also have experience in IT, which is one of the reasons why she started She in IT. “I once received advice from George (Banken): “If you want a lot, you shouldn’t ask for a little.” I am still grateful for that every single day. I hope that with She in IT I can help ensure that more women make the step to enter and stay in IT. I also hope to motivate young girls to choose an IT education. It is important and fun to empower women to dream big and pursue their ambition.”