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“As women, we need to support each other and share our knowledge”

Written by Hans Vernimme on 3 July 2023 for Professionals

Sindy is not your typical Exellyst. Her trajectory has been so unique and inspiring that we simply had to share it. She faced and overcame many challenges: from having a different nationality, speaking a different language, to being a woman in a male-dominated industry: she crushed all these hurdles in her own upbeat and enthusiastic fashion.

Sindy de Jonge started her career in South-Africa, where she was born. For years, she worked as a financial and administrative manager at a large South-African retail company. She was always very ambitious and worked hard to get ahead.  When she was up for her next step up the ladder, as a manager of managers, she moved to Belgium and her career was interrupted.

Afrikaans is like Dutch, right?

After moving to Belgium, Sindy spent two years learning Dutch. In case you’re frowning at your screen right now: “No, Afrikaans is not the same as Dutch! There’s quite a big difference,” Sindy laughs.

But after two years, Sindy felt her Dutch was still not good enough to take on a role with similar responsibilities as she had in South Africa. “This was ten years ago. Back then, there weren’t many opportunities for people who didn’t speak Dutch, in management positions. Luckily, that has changed a lot,” Sindy says. “This is why I randomly decided on a sunny Sunday afternoon to go back to school. Maybe having this piece of paper from a Belgian school would eliminate my challenges, I thought. So, I started studying Informatics at PXL University College in Hasselt, majoring in Software Management. Going to a Dutch-speaking school really helped me to master the language, but I probably would not have survived my studies without the support of my biggest fan – my husband”

Skip forwards five years, and it was time for Sindy’s graduation – and the job hunt needed to start. “I was contacted by Exellys and was curious to see how their approach works, so I went for an interview. I had such a good vibe with my recruiter Trang – I was her first recruit, by the way! Anyway, we really hit it off. Talking to her, I could immediately tell I belong here,” Sindy says.

Navigating setbacks and finding the right fit

“My first project was quite rocky. I was already the fourth or fifth project manager there, so I knew it wasn’t just me. Even though there were already difficulties, I tried to make the most of it, but I didn’t feel at home there. It just wasn’t a good fit as I needed more recognition and a sense of belonging. After some time, I decided it was not a good idea to continue with that project. It simply was not good for my health. I was however reluctant to be on the bench. It felt like a personal failure.”

People at Exellys proved very supportive in dealing with this setback. “I could openly speak about my challenges with my coach, but also with other colleagues at Exellys, Trang, that recruited me as well as other Talent Development Managers. My Grow Smart learning group were also a big support. During our Grow Smart workshops, I could talk openly to them about my inner conflict, and it was easier to really open up because I learned to trust the group. Discussing these sensitive issues with people who could look at it more objectively, really helped me figure out what to do. I eventually decided to quit the project and go back on the bench, for my own sanity. Luckily Exellys knew how to keep me busy for a few weeks” Sindy says jokingly.

“After this, I promised myself that I wouldn’t just take the first job that came along. I would hold out for the right job, a job that would allow me to be myself. I had a few interviews but didn’t directly find a match. One afternoon, I got a call from Lenny (an Exellys account manager). He said: there’s someone who wants to meet you, but it has to be today. I said: I’m on the bench man, set it up!”

Second time’s a charm

And just like that, everything changed. “I had an interview with Tina from ING Belgium at two o’clock. By two thirty, she asked me: when can you start?” Sindy beams. “During that first conversation, it was immediately obvious that it was a match. Tina was very easy to speak to, and I could also be honest regarding my needs as an employee. Her way of managing is less restrictive, straight-forward, and allows for some creativity in reaching the set target/solution. Of course, she’s always available to guide or assist, but she doesn’t micromanage. This also suits my personality quite well. I kind of have this idea that I’m an adult, I can do my job, so give me the freedom to do so, without looking over my shoulder with every step.

At ING Belgium, Sindy is currently taking on the role of Business Manager. In this capacity, she can apply her previous management experience and technical knowledge and combine them to streamline processes and make sure everyone understands each other. “A big part of my job is stakeholder management. I’m in contact with internal and external employees, senior management, C-level management, global management… I do a lot of work for the CIO, preparing some of his talks, building his slide decks, etc. On the side, I also manage some smaller projects. After a few months, the onboarding of tech profiles was also entrusted to me. I try to help new people find their way in the organisation. On top of that I also have some learning & development topics like learning paths for engineers and some other L&D projects. I facilitate the management meetings as well, so we’ll just say I’m pretty busy!” Sindy laughs.

Grow Smart & personal leadership

Sindy signed up for the Lead Smart track during Covid, but all the classes were full. Her coach suggested that instead of standing by, she joins the Grow Smart track instead. “I really learned so much more in this track than I had expected,” Sindy says. “Even for someone who has quite a lot of experience, the Grow Smart programme is very valuable. I think what impacted me the most, was personal leadership. I had lost my way at a certain point I guess, and this training really helped me get back on track. A refresher on the giving and receiving of feedback, and the connections I made with people in my learning group have made a big impact on me. Finally, the Outward Bound trainings, which were all about learning how to trust yourself and others, helped me a lot in dealing with both personal and professional challenges over the last 2 years.”

Women in tech: a Sisterhood

There’s no need to deny that tech and banking are both predominantly male fields. But at ING Belgium, Sindy has never felt different for being a woman. “At ING, we are all colleagues. Man, woman, young, old, whatever nationality – it doesn’t matter, we’re a team. ING Belgium focuses a lot on diversity and inclusion. Right now, most projects focus specifically on getting more women in tech positions. An example of their efforts is the Lead the Way programme they have set up with Exellys. This isn’t just for women of course, but it’s yet another way of getting women in tech leadership positions. There’s a talent shortage in our field, so the best way to get these skills in-house is to train people. That’s what ING Belgium and Exellys do so well together.”

At ING Belgium, there’s also a community of women in management positions called the Sisterhood. “The Sisterhood aim to support and mentor other women. Because no matter how you look at it and regardless of the efforts being made, women are still a minority in tech. We should support each other and share our knowledge, so we can help each other achieve more,” Sindy says. “My advice to women aspiring a career in tech? “It is never too late to change your career, but always be yourself and trust you can do it!”

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About Exellys

Exellys is a Talent Incubator. We match ambitious companies with the finest talent. Are you ready to drive the innovations of tomorrow? Ready to make an impact and become a future-fit digital leader?

Whether you are a graduate or (young) professional, Exellys will unlock your full potential by guiding you to a challenging work environment that perfectly matches your personality, expectations and ambitions.

On top of that, you are enrolled in one of our very own training and coaching programs (based on your personal and professional ambition and experience). This means that, while working as an Exellys consultant, we are helping you to bridge your ambition to excellence.

Through intensive training and coaching, you’ll gain the essential skills, competencies and knowledge necessary to become the highly effective professional you aim to be. Become an Exellyst and get in touch with us today!

Written by Hans Vernimme Talent Development Manager