Live by your own rules

In January 2014 Leadarise Brussels were delighted to bring together two very special things: a workshop on communication, motivation, and negotiation with Montis Training and Consultancy founder Elizabeth Van den Bergh, in the calm and creative surrounds of Brussels’ best coworking space the Library.

Participants were warmly welcomed at the Library
Participants were warmly welcomed at the Library

A few months ago, this workshop was just an idea, or selection of ideas, thrown together through animated discussion about what young women in Brussels needed in order to ensure a foothold or step up on the career ladder. As Leadarise volunteers we agreed we needed to consider exactly what we wanted, how to present ourselves and how to negotiate the right deal. Where could we find the answers?

In the end, the answers came in the form of the generosity and knowledge of other young women. In particular, two Brussels based entrepreneurs, Elizabeth van den Bergh, who volunteered to inspire us with a free workshop, and Anne-Sofie van den Born Rehfeld, offering us her unique coworking space, the Library. The Leadarise ethos had been explained at a meeting for new volunteers, held in the home of one of its founders. The team were more than willing to help us along the way: an important lesson in solidarity and the significance of truly supportive networks.

Participants in discussion
Participants in discussion

“We looked afresh at how we present ourselves”

The workshop itself was a thought-provoking and inspirational session, not least because of Elizabeth’s personal experiences of leaving her office job to become a freelance trainer in communications and project management. She asked us to consider our own ultimate goals and how these linked in with our values and skills. We looked afresh at how we present ourselves to others and at the importance of solid preparation when negotiating. Reflection and animated discussions formed the core of the session and again emphasised the mutual benefits of supportive interaction.

Thanking Elizabeth for her expertise!
Thanking Elizabeth for her expertise!

The workshop, and our experiences in its organisation, got to the heart of what Leadarise is about: it got us thinking about the bigger picture and gave us concrete tools for the future, but, most importantly, it emphasised the fact that our biggest strength lies in the support we can give to each other.

Leadarise Chief EU Laura Hemmati said “We are so proud of our volunteers. They put together a rich and rewarding event with very little time and even fewer resources. It just goes to show, when determined young people put their heads together, they can create inspiring events with an irresistable atmosphere of support and community”.

 Article by: Leadarise volunteer Daisy Markes

Entrepreneur Elizabeth van den Bergh
Entrepreneur Elizabeth van den Bergh

Inspired by her incredible workshop, we interviewed Young Woman to Watch Elizabeth van den Bergh, founder of Montis Training and Consultancy about her journey so far!

How did you end up in Brussels, doing what you’re doing?

I have been living and working in Brussels for 10 years. After studying abroad, it made sense to come to Brussels as I wanted to live and work in an international environment.I have always worked in communication, on projects and with people. Right now I’m using my experience in my business Montis, where I do consulting for communication projects and give trainings on project and people management.

How much courage did it take to set up your current business?

A year ago I wanted to change jobs and I realised that becoming an independent was the logical next step in my career and for my personal development. It did take some courage, but my drive was always stronger than my fear of insecurity. The momentum was there, it felt like it was now or never.

“I realised that becoming an independent was the logical next step in my career and for my personal development”

The idea of doing what I do best was very energising. I quickly saw many opportunities and possibilities. You will always find reasons not to do something, but the trick is to focus on why you do want to do it.

What were the biggest obstacles/triumphs?

I try to look at obstacles as challenges and opportunities. For example, promoting myself is a challenge. Business development is new to me. I try to do it as much possible via networking, something which I enjoy a lot. I have plenty of friends who are independent. So I knew it is not necessarily the easiest way to make a living, but if you succeed in doing your own thing, it is the most rewarding way. My biggest triumph so far is the number of references for new assignments I get. I have a stronger network than I believed.

How do you ensure work/life balance?

As an independent you are no longer in the 9 to 5 schedule. You work flexible hours. Good planning is key. It is a good thing my partner is also independent so it is easier to take care of our baby and do non work related tasks during office hours when needed, like going to the city hall or to a dentist appointment. On the other hand it is very tempting to work in the evening or during the weekend. There is always some work left to do. As an independent you surely work more hours. But as my goal is to do work that matches my personality, it is not as energy-draining as my employee jobs. On the contrary!

Who is your inspiration?

The world is full of strong, courageous and entrepreneurial women and I am happy to see that more and more women start to actively network and help each other thanks to organisations like Leadarise. To name a few inspiring women, close by there is my friend Mona Shair, and on a national level there are Miet Smet and Mia Doornaert, ladies with great careers in journalism and politics.

What would be the most important work lessons you’d like to pass on to other young women?

Live by your own rules. The world is full of rules imposed by other people. Only by creating your own rules, you can set yourself free. For example, we are told you cannot have a family and have a successful career. Not true, the two go together and can cross-pollinate each other. It does help to have a supportive partner.

Participants putting Elizabeth's advice into action
Participants putting Elizabeth’s advice into action

Another example: we are told you must have a very sound plan. Not true, you must have a clear idea on the direction you want to take and than start doing it. If you wait until you are ready, nothing will ever happen. Surround yourself with supportive people that believe in your capabilities and who encourage you. Follow your heart and be perseverant.

Would you do anything differently?

No, I don’t believe in regret, I believe things happen for a reason. Life inevitably has its twists and turns and that’s the beauty of life. You live and you learn. I am very happy with all the experiences I went through, some rough, most of them nice, they made me into who I am today.

What will the next 5 years look like?

I am looking forward to developing Montis Academy as an online knowledge resource, to writing e-books, and to continue to be surrounded by people who want to move forward and make a change for the better.

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