I wish I had had the knowledge I have now when I was starting my career about the internal barriers and unconscious biases that women face. I really only became aware of these when I read Lean In 8 years ago. If we as Female Ventures can create more awareness on these topics for women at a younger age and empower them to change, I think it can greatly help them in their careers.
Although she has only been with us for four months, Tessa de Flines has proven to be a worthy addition to Female Ventures. She became the new City Coordinator in a pivotal moment of transition in the Delft/The Hague team which she, thanks to 20 years of experience in project/change management, promptly organized and set to its course. Tessa is co-founder of Masters of Scale and helps entrepreneurs to accelerate scaling through streamlined and futureproof organizations. Although she was born and raised in the US to Dutch parents, Tessa is now based in Voorburg where she lives with her husband and two children. Next to Female Ventures, she has been a devoted member of a Lean In Circle in The Hague since 2014. She is driven by change and making an impact and is passionate about being creative and active both in her professional and personal life.
Can you tell us what brought you to Female Ventures?
I first heard about Female Ventures in 2018 when my colleague at a start-up spoke at one of the events. Then someone from my Lean In Circle joined the Female Ventures Innovation Team and was very enthusiastic about the group. When I heard about Female Ventures a third time from my Masters of Scale co-founder, I knew I needed to go check it out!
I joined Female Ventures at the beginning of the Corona crisis and quickly became involved in the online community on Slack. I’ve met so many inspirational women and made great connections even through this Slack platform. Having worked most of my career in the corporate world and being a new entrepreneur, I can relate to almost everyone in the community. So when the vacancy for City Coordinator was posted, I thought it would be a great opportunity to further contribute to Female Ventures.
How do your professional ambitions align with FV?
As an entrepreneur, it is always valuable to strengthen your network and spar with other people. Being part of Female Ventures allows me to do both of these. Female Ventures also approaches empowerment from a positive perspective, i.e. what can we do ourselves vs. complaining and hoping something will change. This is 100% aligned with my professional approach which is all about empowering people to change and improve their businesses and embed a continuous improvement mindset.
As Masters of Scale, our ambition is to improve the success ratio of innovative entrepreneurship worldwide by helping start-ups to scale and accelerate the closing of funding rounds. Up until now, 100% of our customers have been male founders and research shows that only 1% of Dutch VC funding goes to female entrepreneurs. We hope to be part of changing that. Therefore diversity is one of our main communication themes and we aim to provide extra support to female founders.
Before becoming a freelancer three years ago, you already had a prosperous and ‘safe’ job. How did you plan your career path? What were the milestones?
I was raised to believe in meritocracy, that good results were always rewarded. When I started working at a large corporation in the Netherlands, it took me a while to realize that networking and promoting yourself were just as, if not more important than delivering good results. You weren’t just given a promotion, but had to proactively manage it yourself.
Once I realized this, I started to actively manage my career. I would discuss with my manager what I needed to achieve or demonstrate to take the next step and then work towards that. I also actively networked and explored potential new opportunities.
A few major milestones or defining moments strongly influenced my career path:
- Starting as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt at GE, which resulted in change/improvement/project management becoming the common themes in my career
- Becoming a manager and discovering my passion for helping others grow
- Leaving ABN AMRO after 12 years and exploring different roles in small companies and deciding to focus on SMEs, eventually joining forces with 2 partners to build Masters of Scale International.
Can you name the biggest challenges you and the Delft/The Hague team are facing so far and have you managed to overcome them?
We are a new team and the biggest challenge has been to get to know our community here in Delft and The Hague given that we haven’t been able to host offline events. We have developed a questionnaire which we will be sending soon together with conducting some interviews to get a better understanding of the challenges our community is facing and the needs they have. But of course, we hope to be able to start organizing in person events as soon as possible!
We do see a female minority both in the university and in businesses in a high-tech environment like Delft. We are therefore developing, in cooperation with various groups from TU Delft, workshops for both students and non-students to stimulate female entrepreneurship.
FV is currently developing a new content framework. Tell us more…
There are so many great resources (articles, books, podcasts, workshops, etc.) out there to support and stimulate female empowerment, but nowhere where you can find all of them. As one of our first initiatives as a new team, we decided to start sketching the full female empowerment and gender inequality landscape and creating a kind of resources library, including both Female Ventures resources and other resources. It is still work in progress, but we will be reaching out to the Female Ventures community soon to get input and continue to build the library together. Ultimately, we’d like to offer this as a resource to our partners, but that is more long term.
Could you share some good advice and recommend books or podcasts for young women venturing their career?
As I’ve mentioned before, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg was an eye opener for me. So if you haven’t read it, you should! The Lean In website (leanin.org) also has great videos on various topics like effective communication, negotiations, leadership skills, etc.. Some other books I recommend are
- Presence (Amy Cuddy),
- Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office (Lois P. Frankel),
- The Chimp Paradox (Dr. Steve Peters) and
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (Mark Manson).
For starting entrepreneurs, the Masters of Scale podcast by Reid Hoffman is fantastic and is the inspiration for our company name!
Tatjana Lisjak, June 2021