by Astrid Ruts, Change, Communication & Education Lead for European SAP Implementation, Cargill
On November 19, 2019, young professionals from the AmCham Belgium community were joined by Neldes Hovestad, Vice-President Operations Benelux of Dow and Managing Director of the Dow Terneuzen site, for a Young Professionals @ Noon luncheon to speak about his career journey and the key lessons learned along the way.
Neldes opened the lunch with the remarkable statement that he never intended to work for Dow. Yet, during the job interview he was charmed by how the company focused on who he was as a person, rather than on his academic achievements. Twenty years later, he’s proud of his career at Dow and keen on developing the next generation.
Make sure the shoe fits
The atypical start of Neldes’ career taught him how important it is to feel ‘at home’ in the company you decide to work for and spend the majority of time. His advice to young professionals? Make sure you understand the DNA of a company before making your decision. Ask yourself if you can relate to the company’s values: did you have a connection with the people you met? It’s important that the shoe fits in terms of what you do, the environment in which you need to do it and the people you need to do it with. Only then you will be able to thrive.
Build a strong network
Hearing Neldes talk about his Dow colleagues was most inspiring. He said:
I’m the loser of Dow if you put me on my own, but when I surround myself with people, I’m strong.
He spends a significant amount of his time listening to his colleagues. Each month, for example, he joins a shift team in their day-to-day activities to understand what is happening on the shop floor. Neldes believes his role as leader is to bring together a strong team of talented and diverse people who inform him and enable him to make the right decisions to support the future of the company.
It’s not work/life balance, it’s your life
Being a leader is not a 9-to-5 job, and it’s not about work/life balance. What helps him setting priorities is clearly defining four “buckets”: family, Dow colleagues, friends and himself. Each quarter he takes a step back to evaluate if the four buckets are sufficiently filled. Every bucket is important, also the one he reserves for self-care, because if he does not take care of himself, he cannot take care of others.
Neldes’ message throughout the lunch was clear and inspiring:
Find a workplace that fits your values, balance hard work with building a strong network of people, both at work and outside of work. Moreover, make sure you enjoy what you do as only then will you be able to thrive.
You don't need to be a specialist if you want to be in a leadership team, but you won't get there without the ability to listen and to give honest feedback.
About the author
Astrid Ruts is Change Leader for Cargill’s SAP deployment in Europe including Russia. Within AmCham Belgium, she chairs our Young Professionals Committee and acts as liaison to the Board of Directors for the Committee. Contact her to join forces with the young professionals or to learn more about their activities.