No matter what people think of us, always believe in yourself.
When I came back in the Netherlands in 2008, I had found a job in one of the big international banks in Amsterdam. I had been hired in the technical department of the bank to set up a team in India.
I’ll always remember my 1st day at the bank.
My first day
When I arrived, I could not help but notice that there were only 3 women in the team (out of approx. 40). All the others were mostly Dutch men in their 50s & a few young Indian men.
I went around and introduced myself to each of them. All were really welcoming.
All of them except one man. He was the oldest.
When I came to introduce myself to him, I reached out my hand to him, told him my name, and said that I was the new manager of the team. He then asked me:
‘Do you have any technical background?’
I replied ‘No’
He looked a bit surprised and continued:
‘And do you have any banking background?’
Here again, I said ‘No’
He looked puzzled. I knew he was wondering how I could have been hired to work in the IT department of the bank: me, a young woman, French, without any specialist knowledge.
At that moment, I told myself ‘Fair enough’. He does not know me, he does not know what I can do. And maybe, I would have reacted the same way if I had been in his situation.
The next few weeks, months, years…
From the next day onwards, I started to get to know my team members, my job, got the opportunity to go to India and meet some other colleagues of mine.
Every day, this man was always a bit grumpy and not very friendly. Although it sometimes bothered me, I continued to build relationships with all my colleagues and team members, getting to know them while they were getting to know me. I was one of the few women, one of the youngest, and one of the few foreigners in the team. Yet, I was confident in my abilities. I kept remembering that I had been hired for a good reason. My manager had told me during one of my interviews: “I already have many specialists in the banking and IT areas. What I need is someone who has experience in managing international/virtual teams.”
Then, 3 years later, this man had a heart attack. I went to visit him in the hospital and at his home when he was better. I helped him dealing with HR and any other challenges he had while he was recovering.
He came back to work for a few weeks/months later. He had become very friendly with me. The fact that I had helped him when he needed it had apparently had a positive impact on him.
A year later, he decided to retire.
And then, the unexpected happened…
On his last day, we had a farewell gathering and he did a little speech. He had worked for more than 40 years in that same bank. He told little stories and thanked the bank for all the opportunities he got….
And at the end, he said: “There is also one person I would like to thank here, and this person is Virginie. She has always provided me all the support and help I needed, especially when I got sick.”
He brought tears to my eyes…. I was touched by his kind words and could not help remembering my very first day in the department, as well as his remarks and look…. How different it had been!
On that day, I really became aware of one thing:
No matter what people think of you,
Believe in yourself.
Continue doing what you need to do, what you are good at.
And be human.
As Theodore Roosevelt said: “‘Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care’.