A while ago I sat together with Synergy’s chair, Bianca Balvert, to conclude the series of interviews we had with the board. In the interview below I inquired to what comes with being Synergy’s representative.
Of course you are the chair, but was this also the function you wanted when you joined the board?
Yes, I already wanted to become the chair and did not really go for another function, mainly because I had a broad interest. I thought the other functions were already quite specific, while the advantage of being the chair is that you are involved in every aspect. Next to that I like to lead the group, motivate others and work towards big results together. You do everything together which is what I really like.
Was it the leadership experience that convinced you to join the board, or where there other factors involved?
Yes, I really wanted to gain more experience. At the moment I’m doing my master’s in OD&D and I thought: ‘’I only learned stuff from books, but what value am I to the company I will be working at in the future?’’ I already did several committees, but still didn’t feel ready to join the labour market. I saw how other ex-board members experienced their year, and also saw this during general member meetings. Eventually I thought it would be a cool year to end my studies with, and would also prepare me for the labour market.
You said you did a few committees: which ones were they?
I did quite a lot actually. First I started with the Career Committee, after which I joined the NCE Committee, followed by Conference and the Synergy Week. I joined Synergy mainly for the formal part, because I wanted to develop my personality and add experience to my CV.
How long have you been a member of Synergy then?
I only joined Synergy in my second year, but in my last year I did three committees which followed each other rather closely. I joined the Conference Committee after NCE because some people dropped out. Of course that committee ends in February, after which I switched to the Synergy Week. Up till then I had never been chair of a committee, so it seemed like a fun thing to do. Also, in this committee you of course have a mix between formal and informal activities.
What did you expect of your board year before you actually begun?
It might sound weird, but I always viewed it as having an own company together with five others. The idea I had was that you are doing many things at the same time. I knew it would be a busy year in which you put a lot of effort, but still it’s a bit more busy than I expected. I think that’s because of who I am: I like to be active, so even when I do not have to do a lot for Synergy I still like to work on things. Also, we are having more and more activities in the weekends. Not only things like the Ski or Atlas Trip, but also board weekends or family days. All of it is very nice, but of course costs more time. This is something I expected less when I started.
What is for you the big plus about being the chair?
A big advantage is that you will be doing a lot of different activities, in stead of the same every day. I think that this function is the most diverse one: I join company visits, but also meetings with the management team (MT), and that way I see the university from the inside. I look at the financial statements together with Mark, although I don’t understand everything about it haha.
Is this also what you like most about your function?
What I like is that I can decide for myself which projects I want to take next to the tasks I have to do on a daily basis. That makes every board year different, because it depends on which projects you undertake. You can look at what Synergy is lacking, and how to solve that.
What would be a hard aspect of the job?
‘’Bad news conversations’’ are always less nice to have, because you don’t want to disappoint people. What you notice within committees is that they want to spend the whole budget. The only thing is that we have to justify the use of the budget during general member meetings. And if for example the whole budget will be spent on beer, this is not possible, even though you have the money for it. Sometimes you have to disappoint committees, and they don’t see why you make such a decision. Of course they accept it, but it’s also sad for them. It makes it even harder when it concerns good friends of yours, because then you really have to divide personal and professional relationships. It’s all part of the job, but you learn from it.
Of course you also have a great deal of night activities, which costs time. How do you deal with that?
I’m someone who likes to be busy, so it’s no big deal to be away in these evenings. Sometimes you want a night for yourself, but I compensate this in the weekends by leaving free time in them. My Friday evening is empty most of the time so I can take my rest there. Overall I do not mind being busy with Synergy those times, because it helps me living the full experience.
How do you feel about the upcoming half a year in terms of challenges?
Of course we are already looking for successors, but at the same time you are looking for projects to pick up. It’s quite a challenge to do so in such short notice. You are also busy with tracking the progress of your goals and planning, which is something you need to take into account when taking on projects. Personally I want to steer Synergy more towards the master specialisations, which we already did via the Management Month.
Why should people join the board?
It’s a year you won’t forget. You create a group of friends: I see the board as my family. I knew everyone before this year, but far less than now. You do a lot together and learn from each other. Recently we went away for a weekend, as well as celebrating Carnaval together. You really develop yourself: if I compare myself to how I was at the beginning of the year, I notice that I have grown a lot in terms of leadership and dealing with different kinds of people. People are different, the one is more direct for example, and you need to level with everyone. Also, you experience some kind of a working life, while keeping your student life at the same time.