Bela Evers

Senior Sustainability and Digital Transformation Consultant

“You are in control of your destiny. Create opportunities that you feel passionate about and go where your energy is.”

“You are in control of your destiny. Create opportunities that you feel passionate about and go where your energy is.”

 What is your personal story? 

My early role models were fairly traditional. My great grandparents were from India, my parents from Africa, and I was born and brought up in the UK. Traditionally in my family, careers weren’t considered as important for the women as the men. I, on the other hand, have always been a very free spirit with a strong streak of independence. After my B.A. in Economics, I went to the University of Stirling to get my MBA in Marketing. That’s where I really learned how to be independent and make choices for myself.

I started my career working in marketing at CWS Food Manufacturing and had plenty of opportunities to learn and grow. Then I moved on to different internal positions at Ford Motor Company. I left there to travel around the world, after which I moved to the Netherlands with my husband. For the next 10 years, I worked at a software company in Marketing, Communications and Branding roles. I became a real career person changing jobs every two years. Each time I was given a new project and challenge as a team leader. It became a bit like a game, where the goal was always to get to the next level.

Some 12 years on, I had three kids and had started to feel like I was stuck in the same routine. I wanted to break out of that mold, take a risk, go on a new adventure. So I decided to work for myself as a consultant. It was a beautiful decision that led me into a whole new world of companies, working for brands like Unilever, Shell, Danone, Adidas. Throughout my professional life, a recurring theme has been bringing value to companies or start-ups wanting to transform. That has continuously shaped me as a person because I’m always wanting to venture out on my own transformation.

After I turned 52, I decided to embark on my own life changing adventure. I joined three other women in the ‘Duchess of the Sea’ team to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. We set off on 12 December 2020 to row non-stop from the Canary Islands to Antigua to support two great causes, the Plastic Soup Foundation and ALS Neuromuscular Research. Eight weeks later, we arrived at the finish line, each shaped by our journey into the heart of the ocean and ourselves.

Share the important challenges or breakthroughs in your career that led to where you are today

Learning to promote myself and be more structured as an entrepreneur
As an entrepreneur you learn different skills compared to working for a company. You learn to network and to promote yourself. I’ve actually enjoyed that aspect. When I go to networking events, I am curious about other people and organically grow my network. Building relationships is important so that people can reach out to you and vice versa. You shouldn’t feel scared to promote yourself or ask for things or even return the favor. It’s kind of an unspoken rule of networking. Becoming an entrepreneur was a pivotal moment for me that may sound romantic and adventurous, but also brings its own challenges. I’ve been really fortunate to enjoy it. I’ve learned a lot, like becoming more disciplined and handling paperwork. I basically learned by doing, but it’s been a great experience.

Value and respect are important to me
I am very much a people person and live off the energy of team collaboration. There was one interim project where I experienced someone who was not an ally or a people person. This ‘alpha male’ manager came into the organization I was working for and did not show respect. He seemed to know better. If I don’t feel respect in a relationship then my loyalty is gone. My assignment was coming to an end, so I decided it was a good time to leave. You can fight it or let it go and I decided to let it go. If you don’t have the right energy, your effectiveness and passion for the job will suffer.

Create a buffer for yourself
I don’t stress if I have no assignments…. It’s always short-lived. In the moments when I have had no work, I’ve always kept a buffer to live off and enjoyed family life. That gave me a peace of mind not to worry. With my rowing adventure, I created a buffer beforehand to create that long period when I was gone. This gives you the best balance between work, pleasure, and family-life which I would not exchange for anything.

Learning from behaviors that hold you back
In our interviews, we love to talk about “12 behaviors that hold you back” – that were researched and published in the book ‘How Women Rise’ from Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith. We asked Bela if she could identify with any of these 12 behaviors that hold women back from moving forward in their careers.

Disease to please
I think I was always trying to please people when I worked as an employee for a company. It’s a very feminine instinct. We tend to please a lot. I wanted to step out of that role when I became an entrepreneur. Now I’m the ‘owner’ of my own destiny and am truly empowered to make a difference. Now I’m pleasing my customers because I’m my own brand and see the direct reward of adding value for the client.

Letting your radar distract you
Rather than letting my radar – my ability to notice a lot of things going on around me at once – distract me, I’ve learned to use my radar to my advantage. I think of it as self-reflection. You really need to self-reflect and be open for feedback, so you know what your strengths are, where your passion lies, where you can grow. You kind of learn these things throughout your career. It’s not just about what you do in your career, it’s also about reflecting on what you want to do as a person. We need those retrospective moments in life.

When you find yourself in a difficult situation, what is your go to skill?
My go to skill is ‘the problem solver’. I am creative and collaborative. I bring everyone on a call and together we solve it. I think it’s great if you can facilitate problem solving or ideate as a team. I love doing that. A challenge is like a game. It helps you think ‘out of the box’ and together with people you have the power to solve things together.

What advice would you give to other professional women who want to shine in their career?
I think self-leadership is a really important attitude to have. Reflect really well on what you’ve achieved and what you want to get out of life. Make decisions for yourself. You are the only one in control of your destiny at the end of the day. If you want to be an entrepreneur, leader, or anything else, it’s up to you, but be conscious of those decisions.

I’ve seen both entrepreneurs and people working for companies who are very frustrated. And I’ve seen people who get comfortable in a role and don’t move on. If you want to move on and do something different, figure it out. Take action if you feel you need to. Above all, be conscious of what you want and do it.

In your career, you can sit there and become a fixture in the company, which is OK if you are fine with that. Or you can choose to do something else, like becoming a freelancer or broadening your horizons or going on an adventure. Or, like me, you can choose to take some time off and row across the ocean.

I don't want to get caught in the rat race. I do that through my self-leadership. I make decisions and take the risk to do things. It helps if you don’t fear what is on the other side and you learn to take that journey, just like I learned to be an entrepreneur. You learn to let go, build resilience, and enjoy yourself. If you don’t, you will always be the same person you always were. It doesn’t have to be transformational. It did help me to get more out of life and more out of my career. That’s my red thread.

My whole life has been about making decisions for myself. Each phase has had different moments. I was very career driven before and during the early years as a mother. I went from the rat race to independence. Now I want to make a difference in what I do. I feel like, if I can make a difference, I should. It’s in my own hands. For me, that means I want to take on assignments that are really purposeful, like sustainability, well-being, or other purpose-driven themes. Our impact is in our own hands.

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