My name is Elsemiek Meijs and I live in Baarn with my husband. Our two children recently left home. I have been working as an independent coach and adviser to people in organisations for a number of years. That I would end up doing this kind of work wasn't something I would ever have imagined when I graduated in Computer Science Engineering from Delft in 1993.
I find human behaviour infinitely fascinating. The engineering side of me really wants to understand, catalogue and explain human behaviour. The more philosophical side of me can accept that a lot of what people do is subconscious, and that we shouldn't want to know exactly how this really works, or want to exert supreme control over it. My work is an effort to introduce more of a human touch within organisations.
If I can help a client or coachee to gain more insight into what it is that drives them or holds them back, consciously and subconsciously, this gives me satisfaction. I believe that this kind of self-awareness is an essential aspect of being able to work together in organisations successfully and sustainably, but also pleasantly.
The fact that Delft University Fund aims to give students and academics more social impact appeals to me. In this respect, things are really different from thirty years ago; this didn't seem to be a very explicit aim of TU Delft then. This especially is an aspect that I am very happy to make a contribution to.― Elsemiek Meijs
The discipline of the future
At school I was a dreamer, a little girl who just wanted to do her very best. At home we were taught that choosing what to study didn't simply mean choosing what was easiest. That you had to have ambition for the future. As I was good at mathematics, I decided to study Computer Science. When I started studying Computer Science in 1987, it was already a very popular programme as it was “the discipline of the future”. The government's slogan at the time, “smart girls prepare for the future”, appealed to me too as I liked to be associated with 'smart’. The fact that I ended up in Delft as opposed to Leiden, for example, was due to my school guidance counsellor though, truth be told.
I graduated from the Information Systems department, specialising in organisation studies. I look back on very pleasant years as a student, but I must admit the field of computer science engineering never really managed to steal my heart. My first job, as an information analyst, was in this field though, and thereafter I worked as a project manager and information manager. I worked in large companies as well as in smaller ones. Ultimately I became an MT member at Independer. My job itself was never really a problem for me, but what was below the surface was what I found less straight forward: how should I manage a team, what role should I adopt, how do I get people to support changes and how does the culture of the organisation influence our behaviour?
I came across the phenomenon of “storytelling” during a major change process. I found it delightful to be able to balance the analytical and rational with something else, something new. I resigned as a manager eight years ago to set up a storytelling agency. Ultimately, it was the personal stories of the people within the organisations I worked for that fascinated me most. This is how I eventually ended up becoming a personal coach.
Connected to TU Delft
As a student I was an active member of Virgiel. I also served on the University Council for a year, representing the student group ORAS; this gave me a sense of connection with TU Delft as a whole. And yet, I lost that sense of connection with TU Delft for quite a long time after that. I was far too busy meeting job and family obligations. I was always very proud of the fact that I had studied in Delft and got my degree here. Having a degree from TU Delft meant that I was always taken seriously in any work context – without having to do much explaining. People value a degree from TU Delft.
After graduating, I didn't visit Delft very often, except to attend the odd student association or housemates’ reunion. I returned to the Campus for the first time in years when a friend of mine was awarded her doctorate. Being in the Aula Building felt really familiar.
And then the time arrived for our son to choose where he wanted to go to study science. Naturally, I plugged TU Delft unashamedly. I still remember the open day I attended in Delft with my son. As I sat down in the lecture hall I felt as excited and enthusiastic as I had thirty years before. I was filled with the sense of being part of something special and great again.
My son decided on Delft and is a second-year Mathematics and Physics student now. This fact ultimately brought me around to respond to the call to make a financial contribution to the TU Delft University Fund via the Good Friends programme. I feel a new sense of connection with TU Delft. The fact that there is more quiet time in my life again, enabling me to engage in things other than work and children, helps too. At last I have time to actually read Delft Outlook! The fact that the University Fund aims to give students and academics more social impact appeals to me. In this respect, things are really different from thirty years ago; this didn't seem to be a very explicit aim of TU Delft then. This especially is an aspect that I am very happy to make a contribution to.
I attended the Taste of Excellence Dinner this year and enjoyed hearing more about exceptional developments and research at TU Delft. It was great meeting other Good Friends there too, familiar and unfamiliar ones. This is gradually turning into a veritable community. Prior to the dinner, I attended the TU Delft Best Graduate Award Ceremony for the first time. This isn't something I would normally have attended. On this occasion, the invitation came via the Delft University Fund.
There was an example of scholarly excellence to represent each of the faculties – these were people who had recently finished their Master's degrees. I found it really inspiring to see these talented young people each explain their thesis to an audience of laypeople in 5 minutes. It showed me that the younger generation is worthy of our trust; these young people have shown that they wish to contribute towards building a better world – and we can build on this. It reinforced my great pride in being a part of the community of Delft graduates. This sense of pride makes me want to do something in return.
I would like to encourage anyone who has ever felt a connection with TU Delft in any way to seriously consider becoming a Good Friend. A fine university like TU Delft deserves to have its ties with alumni strengthened in this way.