2020 has seen a massive shift in how we approach and organize events, changing the way we were used to working for so long. However, things are starting to look a little brighter as the Carrier Community Global Awards in Berlin became one of the first awards ceremonies to return to an in-person format. And not only that, but our own Irina van den Broek won the award for “Telecommunication Woman of the Year”!
We sat down with Irina to find out more about herself, her career, and what it means to be recognized for all her hard work at Expereo.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! Well, I’m originally from Russia – Moscow, to be precise – and I’ve lived in Amsterdam for the last 4.5 years or so with my husband and our newborn son. I never planned to move from Russia, but about 5 years ago I met my husband and those plans changed. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave my life and family in Moscow behind, but I never regretted it. I love my life in Amsterdam, I love the country, I’m a happy wife and mother and I’m very happy with the career I am building here.
What is your role at Expereo and what does your day-to-day work look like?
My role is Team Lead Supplier Relations Management (SRM) Europe at Expereo, managing a team of 6 people – it’s a fantastic team with 6 different nationalities (Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, French, Russian), who always bring fresh and exciting ideas to the table. Our typical responsibilities include procurement related projects, such as price negotiations on products and contracts. We’re also in a very unique position within Expereo because we operate in the middle of the organization, making sure that the relationships with our suppliers are at a sufficient level so that every department at Expereo can smoothly perform their tasks – from sales to service delivery, from finance to customer support teams.
What I like about my job is that it never bores; there are always new challenges and tasks coming at us from all angles, requiring the team to get creative in order to find the optimal approach or solution. There is no standard ‘daily agenda’ for me and my team. At Expereo we all grow together by assessing what we can improve in, sharing improvement ideas, developing new processes, and so on.
How did you get started with Expereo and also the telecommunications industry in general?
I joined Expereo in April 2017 as a Junior Supplier Relations Manager and was responsible for the E-E market. Before joining Expereo I already had roughly 6 years of experience in procurement but in the furniture and packaging material industries. The telecommunications world was something completely new to me, but it was an interesting challenge. From day one my work at Expereo was challenging and dynamic: attending telecommunications conferences, learning and growing my knowledge every day, and also working with amazing people. My manager René eventually entrusted me with the challenge and opportunity to lead various projects within our team, which I enjoyed a lot, and in January 2019 I was promoted to Team Lead Supplier Relations Management Europe, a role which came with new and exciting challenges. Expereo gave me a lot of opportunities to learn and grow, for which I am very thankful.
While adapting to my new role, I received great support from René and the rest of my team. However, 2019 saw some big changes for me not only work-wise but also in my personal life as I became a mother for the first time. My son was born in November of that year and I returned from maternity leave in March 2020 – just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold of the world. As you can imagine, returning to work during the pandemic as well as having a baby at home was hard work, but with the help of my husband at home and my team at work, I managed to get back up to speed very quickly.
What was your reaction to winning ‘Telecommunication woman of the year’?
I was so happy, but also quite emotional – I couldn’t stop smiling! I had no idea that I was even nominated for the award so you can imagine how surprised I am with winning “Telecommunication Woman of the Year”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the award event in Berlin myself, so I was watching the awards ceremony and the event online. When I heard my name, I was amazed! Thanks again to everyone at the CC-Awards for everything.
Would you usually attend events like these in person? Has COVID changed the atmosphere surrounding events?
Yes, I’ve been attending conferences around Europe since my first day at Expereo and would go to maybe 5-6 per year. I have been to these awards in Berlin back in 2018 and 2019, watching Expereo win various prizes. Unfortunately, this year I couldn’t make it in person because of COVID and my parental duties. As you know, most of the telecommunication conferences in the past few months have been canceled or gone virtual due to COVID, making it extra special that the CC-Global Awards 2020 could take place live. It was a welcome and anticipated event for the telecom industry to reconnect in person again after a long period of working remotely.
Can you tell us a bit about what this win means to you?
I feel very honored after winning this prize, and very proud of this accomplishment, and grateful for this show of recognition from the business. Of course, it’s not solely a personal achievement – a big thank you to everyone from the SRM team, to René, and to the entire Expereo family for providing the platform and guidance to reach this point and beyond.
Is it important to recognize the achievement of women specifically in this industry?
It is not a secret that women are under-represented in the telecommunications industry. I am glad to be working in a professional environment where I experience women being respected equally to men. However, I do know that gender inequality, unfortunately, still does exist in other organizations and businesses and I strongly hope that any barriers that still exist for women today will soon be eliminated. Regardless of gender, race, age, or industry, being recognized in your field is very important for everyone and anyone. For me personally, it boosts my confidence and motivation even more.
Here’s a quote that I think sums it all up quite nicely.
“If you can find something that you’re really passionate about, whether you’re a man or a woman comes a lot less into play. Passion is a gender-neutralizing force.”
Marissa Mayer, the first female engineer at Google and former CEO of Yahoo!