FEEDBACK REALLY IS A GIFT

Introducing Syan Sitalsing, Management Consulting Analyst at Accenture

When the world went into lockdown in March last year, 26-year-old Syan Sitalsing and her family were worried they wouldn’t have the chance to see each other anymore. So Syan and her sisters packed up their bags and boyfriends, and moved in with their parents in Groningen. “Although it was obviously also a very strange and confusing time, I have some very happy memories from those months.”

“Family is extremely important to me. We are very close-knit. However, I’m based in Amsterdam, while my parents still live in Groningen, along with my 16-year-old brother. My older sister (24) also lives in Groningen, while my 21-year-old sister lives in Utrecht. If I could, I’d go to Groningen every weekend to spend time with them. The idea of not being able to see each other for a while really bothered us, so we decided we’d rather go into isolation together. While other families might have driven each other crazy after a while, we actually had the most amazing time together.”

“My parents met as trainees at the police academy in Apeldoorn. In those days it wasn’t all that common for a girl from rural Drenthe to date a boy from Suriname. I see my bicultural background as a real gift, though: my name, the color of my skin, my life, everything. Contrary to popular belief, I think the cultural differences between my parents’ families are minimal – they’re probably more similar than many families where both sides are Dutch. We get together a lot – both my mother’s side and my father’s side – and I think it’s very special that we all get along so well.” 

A family-oriented person far away from family

“Why would such a family-oriented person living in a popular student city choose to move away and study in Utrecht? Because I’m also the sort of person who gets bored pretty easily. After high school, I was ready for a new challenge. So I decided to relocate to Utrecht to study law, despite not knowing anyone there and never having been to the city before.”

“It was a great move. Aside from the decision to study law – that didn’t work out too well. I lasted for three years in the program, but when I got to the master’s level, I realized it wasn’t for me. I remember cycling through Utrecht the day after I decided to withdraw from my law master’s, feeling like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. A week into my new master’s degree in Organizations, Change and Management, I knew that switching streams was the right choice.” 

Seeing the person behind the refugee status and the talent behind the CV

“When I was looking for a place to do my internship, I came across the Refugee Talent Hub (RTH) and was instantly intrigued. It’s such an amazing initiative and such a fitting way to tackle the employment challenges that refugees face. I love how RTH looks at the person behind the refugee status and the talent behind the resume. Moreover, I think what makes RTH so effective is the fact that it works very closely with employers to help them to better prepare to hire refugee talent. After all, businesses play a crucial role in making a difference.”

“Making a difference in people’s lives is also important to me. Personally, I know I’ve been really lucky in life – with my upbringing and the opportunities I’ve been given. That makes me humble and aware that many people aren’t as fortunate. I see it as something of a moral responsibility to help other people. Over the years, I have done quite a lot of voluntary work – for instance, I was a reading tutor for a young Turkish boy who was struggling with the Dutch language. By reading to him for one hour a week, I managed to help him improve his skills. It was rewarding in so many ways. While I helped him with his reading, he and his family taught me so much in return. It was quite amazing how much of an impact just one hour a week had on all of us.”

The comforting knowledge that what I do matters

“All that said, I can’t pretend I’m just a Good Samaritan here. I try to consider what’s in my best interest, too. In my current role as Management Consulting Analyst at the Health & Public Service, I’ve found the best of all worlds. It’s the perfect position as it allows me to develop and grow as a young professional, while also having a positive impact on people and society. While my impact is perhaps not as direct or visible as it was when I worked for RTH, it definitely still exists – for instance, we managed to make quite a big difference when we helped the Dutch Medicines Evaluation Board (MEB) with their IT system, which is necessary for the approval of COVID-19 medications. By assisting such organizations, we manage to drive meaningful change in society.”

“In order for me to enjoy what I do, I need to know that it matters and contributes to a broader goal. In my job, I need to be kept on my toes, so the work I do should ideally always be just slightly over my head. I love the sense of fulfillment that comes with successfully completing a task that I wasn't sure I’d be able to manage.” 

“It also means a lot to me to feel recognized by my colleagues. That’s why I proactively seek feedback, which has become more challenging to get now that we’re not seeing each other due to COVID-19. I started in my role two weeks before the outbreak of the pandemic. As a result, I don’t know many of my coworkers personally yet. My first year at the company has been very atypical in that respect. Even though I knew a few people from my internship time, from the moment I started officially working at the company, everything has been ‘different’. I’d be lying if I said I enjoy working from home and not seeing my colleagues.”

On-the-go feedback sessions

A few months ago I started asking my colleagues out on walking ‘dates’ so we could give each other feedback. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous to ask at first, as I wasn’t sure how they’d respond. As it turned out, everybody was very enthusiastic about the idea. I know it’s a terrible cliché, but I really do see feedback as a gift. Each and every one of the walks I’ve gone on with colleagues has been very valuable. And not just for me; my colleagues also seem to really appreciate when I offer them my own feedback, too.”

“On the topic of walking, I don’t think I’ve ever done as much of it as I do these days. As I live right next to the Vondelpark – in the apartment that my boyfriend, Benjamin, and I moved into four months ago – I almost don’t even have an option: I have to go for a walk. However, it was my discovery of audiobooks that took my walking habit to the next level. Benjamin starts work early, which means I’m up at the crack of dawn every morning too. Come rain or shine, I always start the day with an hour’s walk through the Vondelpark – listening to an audiobook as I go, before work begins at 9am. While I used to be the type of person who always wanted to be surrounded by people, over the years, I’ve learned how to be on my own and enjoy my own company. So I keep my morning walks for just me, and my books, of course. I can’t think of many better ways to kick off the workday.”

What I do

I help organizations in the health and public service sector to innovate and optimize in various ways.

A day in my life

… consists in part of preparing for presentations or meetings, and aligning people on all of our projects. A lot of it comes down to solid stakeholder management. 

Advice to fellow and future colleagues

If there’s something you want, make it known to everyone – and their mothers. You obviously have to work hard to get the assignments and projects you want, but it helps to express your goals out loud, and frequently, too. 

Syan Sitalsing (1995)

Studied: MA Organizations, Change and Management, Utrecht University (2019)

Started working at Accenture: September 2019 (internship), but as a full-time employee from 1 March 2020 

Relationship status: Living with Benjamin

Loves: Sunshine and spending time with my family 

Gets annoyed by: People whining about things that are within their power to change, but never actually taking action

Favorite food: Thai food and fresh Vietnamese spring rolls 

On my nightstand: Earplugs, a plant and a notebook in which I write down three things I’ve enjoyed every day. Also the book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, but that’s more for show because I never actually read it

Listens to: Mostly audiobooks these days. But I also enjoy listening to Buena Vista Social Club, Otis Redding, Leon Bridges and soul music 

Last purchase: A second-hand dustbin to separate plastic from other waste

Would like to sit next to in the plane: Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand. I’m a big fan of hers 

Life-changing event: No event in my life thus far qualifies as such

The best lesson life has taught me: If you want something, just go for it. It will always turn out alright in the end, even if it doesn’t at first

What I learned recently: I recently did a workshop on writing. The tips we were given on how to get a reader into an agreeable ‘yes’ mode’ in the introduction of an article really resonated with me

Most beautiful place on earth: My parents’ holiday home in Charente in the southwest of France. As we're always there with the family, it is the happiest and most beautiful place in the world for me 

Hobbies/passions: Playing field hockey, and throwing dinner parties for our friends (once COVID-19 related restrictions lift). I love hosting at our large dining table, and preparing and cooking everything myself

What my colleagues don’t know about me: That I eat 200g of chocolate every day. Sometimes even for breakfast

Life motto: My dad always used to say, “No flowers until the finish line”. I used to think he meant you should only celebrate a success at the end of a journey, and I strongly disagreed with that. Recently he explained to me that he meant that one shouldn’t judge too fast, and should rather hold judgment until you have all the facts. Now that I understand how he intended it, I wholeheartedly agree with him

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