Female Tech Heroes role models #7 - Nadia van Bedijk - Dekkers: ‘In the job hunt, women are more likely to underestimate themselves.’
May 6, 2020 11:37:51 AM. By: Anna Mazur
Sometimes, having a good hunch is more crucial than having the skills and a clear career path in mind. 13 years ago, without having a technical background, or a clear career path in mind, Nadia van Bedijk - Dekkers rolled in the field of recruitment. But, having a hunch for a tech potential of the Eindhoven region, she made a conscious choice to specialise in the tech sector.
During her experience as a corporate recruiter in the largest companies of the ‘European Silicon Valley’, she envisioned an opportunity in the niche target group – women. Clearly seeing where her talent and experience adds the most value to the world she resigned and started YNTL, now known as the leading recruitment agency for female tech talent in The Netherlands.
The coming months we will introduce female and male role models who act upon increasing diversity in the tech industry. By telling their personal and career stories, we can inspire and learn from each other.
You left your job on the permanent contract at ASML and became a freelancer early in your career. What was the main reason? I figured that if I want to take a big leap towards my own goals in life, I should push myself out of my comfort zone, and start my own company. Also, I’ve always enjoyed the sense of freedom and wanted to get diverse work experiences, which fit into the role of an independent contractor. I was working as a recruiter at ASML for one year when Philips advertised a three-month assignment for a contractor. I saw it as a perfect opportunity, and a company, to start my new career as a freelancer. It was a ‘now or never’ situation for me. I was single, without kids, and without high living costs. So, I asked myself: ‘If not now, then when?’ And I just took the leap, resigned from my job at ASML, where I just got a permanent contract and sorted everything out regarding becoming a freelancer within 2 weeks.
And how did the idea for YNTL, a recruitment agency for women in tech, came about?
Working at Philips, daily I saw that the technical applicants were 85% male. I saw that women formed a niche. When it came to women, the focus and questions in the recruitment process were quite different from men. While men were more focused on negotiating the salary and the perspective on growth, women (usually applying from abroad) were asking about the local culture, the safety of the country and school systems. Seeing these differences in the processes, the seed was planted to do something with recruitment, tech and women.
The topic of diversity was not that big a couple of years ago as it is today. So, a lot of people whom I shared the idea with thought it was the dumbest one ever. Even the people who loved the mission and vision of the concept were warning me about the risks, saying it could be too niche, too difficult, etc. But despite all, the idea was not getting out of my head. Trusting my hunch, I started brainstorming and mind-mapping ideas and the three pillars – utilizing female power, tech and recruitment - came together into YNTL, which stands for ‘You Need Tech Ladies.’
What would you call a ‘secret of success’ of YNTL?
That’s a good question. What is success exactly? For everyone, this is something different. For me, I think that the success of YNTL is that we stand for a bigger purpose. We are authentic. I can talk for days about what I believe what’s the importance of authenticity in a company and that this goes beyond having ‘flashy’ programs or as I like to say’ just putting on some nice lipstick’ to look good for the outside world. If It doesn’t align with your core values, it will not work.
YNTL’s mission comes from honesty, authenticity and this is exactly what resonates with the women we’re reaching out to. They tell me that with YNTL it feels different because we are different. We stand for women in tech, we stand for levelling the playing field, it goes beyond just making a match. They feel inspired to join us in this mission. It’s a common cause.
Besides this, personal attention is the key. Which can be tough in the world today, that is becoming more and more digital. Recruitment processes are merely automated processes, and there are companies where you don’t even talk in person with a recruiter. From my point of view, the biggest strength of recruiters lies in personal contact. It can never be replaced by a technical process. There are great tools out there, which we can use to support our process and eventually even to make a better hire. But nothing beats personal contact where we can tap into the personal wishes and story of our candidates. Male or female.
How can recruiters make jobs in tech more attractive to women?
I’m not sure if recruiters are the best ones out there to make jobs in tech more attractive to women. Well, let me put that in another way - we are not the only ones. There are plenty of tools out there that help you ‘make a job description more attractive to women’. But does that really do the job?
I briefly touched upon this subject in the previous answer. From my perspective, it is just putting on some lipstick. You are working on what looks nice, not your core, your believes, where you come from. A company is a living organism, just like us, humans.
The question that you need to ask yourself is: What makes you tick? What makes the company tick? What are their core values, their authenticity, where do they stand for? And does this resonate with what makes you tick? If this is the case, the details become less important.
What I’m seeing is that diversity hiring has become a hot topic. And don’t get me wrong, it is good that it gets the proper attention. But this goes beyond making your job description more feminine or designing hiring programs for women. It all comes back to your core beliefs. As a company and as a human being. This is transcending gender. This reflects on all of us.
Is not about what you do, it is about who you are. That makes you authentic. And this is what resonates with people or not, you can’t fake this. You can design and implement programs that look nice to the outside world, but if this doesn’t align with who you are, as a company and as a person. It is not authentic, and it will (eventually) not work.
What would be your advice for female candidates searching for a job in the tech sector? Maybe, also, job interview tips? Be bold, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Women are more likely to underestimate themselves, their skills, their fit for a job. Men are more likely to just go ahead when they match the job for 60%, while women strive for 80% before we think we are ‘good enough’, for the role and the company.
From my work experience in the corporate field, as well as the experience with the clients of YNTL, I know that even hiring managers sometimes don’t exactly know what they are looking for. They need to capture the ‘perfect match’ in a plain text. Of course, hard skills provide a guideline of what the company is looking for. But the most important are the personality, vibe and energy that a candidate brings with her/him. What are your beliefs, your values, your personal mission and does these align with the culture of the company?
Regarding the job interview, my main tip is – be prepared. Make sure you have done your homework, research the company, (some of) the people who are working there and prepare questions. Also, I always say: ‘It takes two to tango’, so it’s not just a one-way street where you need to please the person sitting across the table or screen. What do you need from a future employee in order to further develop yourself? In what kind of environment would you like to work?
And to conclude, of course, join our YNTL talent pool. We have such a broad network in the Netherlands which enables us to make a good match with the skillset and cultural fit.
There is a huge talent pool of expats and spouses of expats. How should we encourage them to pursue a career in tech? Be the example. External encouragement never does the trick if it doesn’t come from an internal burning desire. The best thing we can do is to give role models in our field of work a podium for other women, that are open for this inspiration, to see and to make up their own mind into pursuing a career in tech.
Every new day holds an uncertain future, which we can shape. To do that, we need brave role models to lead the way into uncharted territory. And although we are always focussed on the future, the only time we can change anything is now. So in the beautiful words of Mahatma Gandhi: 'Be the change you want to see in the world.' Adding my words: 'Be that change right now.'