“The opportunities I've been given to work internationally, have broadened my vision and made me what I am today.”

From HR work-placement student to Regional HR Director

Perfetti Van Melle is known for its healthy corporate culture. We work hard and we challenge you to bring out the best in yourself, pleasure in your work and a healthy balance with your private life is equally important in our opinion.

Going commercial after all

As a child I was very sporty and competitive. I was good at various sports and played for Maastricht's first team when I was 14. I was always going to choose the sports academy. But when I became a PE teacher, I realised I wanted to be assessed on my performance on a personal level. I realised this preference was most suited to a commercial setting. In order to move to the commercial world, I studied education theory in Utrecht. In 1993, when I reached the final phase of my course, I had four options, one of which was Perfetti Van Melle. The company seemed to have a good atmosphere and I thought: 'I'll fit in there'.

Lured abroad...

The HR department had a new personnel information system within which the international educational details of all the staff had to be coded. A great task for a work-placement student... So I started creating a manual for expats. Once I had graduated, I was offered a year's contract as a trainee in HR and was able to hone and apply my brand-new knowledge as an educational theorist in practice. Once I had worked on the basics of HR practices for a year and a half, I was asked: 'Would you like to work abroad?' I thought maybe Belgium, but it turned out to be China!

Pioneering in China

So, when I was 29, I moved to Hong Kong where, with a small team, we had to create an effective and efficient business. It was genuinely pioneering: we went to a job fair, for example, and were overwhelmed by job-seekers the minute the doors opened. They threw their CVs at us in the morning; in the afternoon we held interviews; and by the evening, we'd hired six employees. We bought them a bike and they got to work... Selling Mentos in China. Amazing times! When, after just under three years as a Senior HR Manager, I said goodbye to China, we had our own factory, six sales offices and 140 staff.

Extremely business focused

After China, I went to Brazil where, as HR Manager and Management Team member, I was able to contribute towards reorganising our less-efficient branches. It was a completely different culture: the Brazilians and Chinese are poles apart when it comes to work ethic and enjoying life. Once the organisation was in place, I worked in the role of Export Manager on our commercial activities in countries such as Columbia, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador and Venezuela. I think I am extremely business-focussed for an HR Manager.

And back to the Netherlands

Perfetti Van Melle is a company which helps you get the best out of yourself. I felt that back when I walked in as an aspiring work-placement student, and that has never changed since. So, after six years, when I'd had enough of developing markets and was looking for a mature market, I was offered the opportunity to take on the role as HR Manager for Perfetti Van Melle Sales Benelux and Export. Sometime later, Kees de Waard asked me to join Perfetti Van Melle Benelux' management team and, as Manager HR & Communications, I became responsible for all HR activities across North-western Europe. Another step up the career ladder.

You need to be there for your people

After the takeover of Van Melle by the Italian company Perfetti, there followed turbulent times during which the entire organisation had to be restructured. This was a major intervention: branches had to merge, factories were closed or sold off and we lost around 500 staff. Painful but entirely necessary. And, as the HR Manager, you are the one standing in front of the personnel. After 2004, our activities began to grow again: Switzerland, Poland, Russia, Romania and the UK joined us and the group took over Chupa Chups in Spain. A great brand. I am proud of the international developments I have led.

"I hate losing"

I always wanted to win, even as a child. And I still hate losing, even though now I can assess it and then move on. I link competition to enjoyment but, for me the priority is always wanting to be better and go quicker than your opponent.