July 2018 | Sofia Simeonidou
How what we do applies to the real world? Sometimes lately it feels like we lose sight of why we started doing what we're currently doing. We forget what is possible. So I went back another time to read through what we talked about with Shea. What's the underlying message that stays with me the most after this interview? Never stop exploring what is possible. And go for it.
The ArchiTECHts. What is it about?
It’s about company culture and employee experience. I work with companies looking to improve their company culture and increase employee engagement and employee satisfaction. I have a holistic approach looking at things from all different perspectives, the employer brand, and values, recruitment processes, the ideal employee for the right company, how they experience working in the company and how that experience relates back to the employer. The companies I work with have a Human Resources department and we work together with other areas such as IT or Marketing. Together we improve processes that can improve the employee experience. One of our goals is for the employees to be company ambassadors even after they leave the company.
Sounds great. Are companies interested in bridging the gap and increase employee engagement?
They want to but they don't know how to do it. It’s not a top priority to invest in, which is a mistake because employee engagement is key to profit. If your employees don’t understand what they’re doing or why they’re doing it, if they don't feel part of the purpose, then your company won't receive the profit productivity you’re striving for.
When did you start with The ArchiTECHts?
I worked on the concept for two years now but I just put the brand and the business together this January.
What's your background?
I started off in Human Resources and I’ve done everything from Recruitment to HR Information Systems, Compensation, to Talent Management. In every role, it always comes back to how do we keep our employees engaged? That’s always the question. How do we get our employees to participate more, be more active, entrepreneurial?
Were you always a business owner?
I started off as an employee and later I became a contractor. I think a contractor is just barely one step away from being an employee. Somewhere around 2015, I realised that what I really wanted to be is a business owner. If you start off as an employee there’s a transition you’re going through, a mindset change, from being an employee to a business owner. Some of us are going through this in different ways.
What is it that drives people from employment to self-employment?
The type of people who become business owners are looking for a sense of independence and from my point of view they see something new they can bring to the table, they see a gap that they can fill and they have a vision of how they can do it better or differently.
What's your favourite part about having your own company?
My favourite part is meeting with clients and problem-solving with them. This is the situation, how are we going to fix it? I love looking for unique solutions, finding new ways to do things better. Then I’d outsource the rest of the work involved in having my own company.
How do you deal with self-doubt?
What I try to do is to have a group of people around me, people I can count on, to be honest with me. They’ll tell me if I’m going in the right direction or if I need to rethink my plans. It helps me look at things more objectively and quiets the inner nay-sayer.
Would you decide to go back and become a contractor or an employee again?
If there was something that would make me feel that I’ll be making a difference, yes.
What else do you do besides The ArchiTECHts?
I'm a personal brand coach for The What If Project, helping people take control of their careers by developing as thought leaders within their organization and industry. I help my clients view their career as a product that they sell to companies and package themselves as a brand. We work on company politics, moving to new roles or new fields, having a presence within the organization and online, and doing all of that while still being themselves and staying authentic. I also have a foundation called Empower Amsterdam and our goal is to help non-Dutch speaking immigrants (not only expats) who are unemployed to get back to work. We provide free career coaching, workshops, guidance and all the support they need to feel confident about their skills and finding a job.
Tell me a bit more about the foundation. Where did this come from?
This is something that runs in my family. Most people in my family are quite altruistic they’re trying to do something to try and change the world. So I thought this could be something where I get to help others. I’ve always been really passionate about helping people with their careers. People who don't have the money to have career coach sessions or they don’t have the money to prioritise coach sessions, and just need a bit of support to get back on track again. That’s what we do at Empower Amsterdam, we give a little support to get you back on your feet again.
Who do you look up to?
I am really inspired by women who see a problem and go out to fix it. There are so many women doing this now by starting their own organizations and foundations. If I look at Michelle Obama she is inspirational in the way she influences and connects with people to affect change in the world. There is Leila Janah who helps poor people find dignified work. Nancy Lublin, ex-CEO of Do Something.org, a foundation that connects teens to social change. There are more women out there leading change and that inspires me.
How do you feel about marketing?
I like marketing, I have a degree in marketing. I enjoy coming up with new stories, I like saying things in a new way, I like having a voice. It’s just that it takes time and that’s the challenge, finding the time.
What’s your favourite SM channel?
Facebook is good for attracting different people and being more personal. I also like Linkedin because it’s a different type of conversation, it’s more business oriented.
What do you struggle with?
I struggle with making time. If you’re a solo entrepreneur you’re the one doing everything, relationship building, marketing, administration, all those things. So it’s always nice when I can outsource some activities.
Where would you live if not in Amsterdam?
I really like Malta. It’s warm, it’s active, it’s friendly.
Favourite things you spoil yourself with?
I love a good spa treatment, something where someone else is taking care of me.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A secret agent, a spy. I wanted to speak different languages and visit other countries.
For Empower Amsterdam we’re looking to step out beyond Amsterdam this year and go to Den Hague and Utrecht. For The What If Project we have a one day workshop, with a small group, to work on your personal brand, whether you are an entrepreneur or climbing the corporate ladder. It is an opportunity to focus on your professional career and to move it forward. You will have access to two personal brand coaches who will audit your online presence and help you make your brand stand out.