'The goal is to create a strong and vibrant community of people who really care about the future of our society'
After completing the Human Resource Master at RSM, Ninotchka de Windt worked at several companies and startups, until she signed up for EUR Connect and happened to stumble upon the vacancy page. Now she is the new Grant Manager at Erasmus Trustfonds. ‘I believe in the story: we as alumni and as a university as a whole can have a fundamental and positive social impact on society.’
What is your background?
‘I finished a degree in Marketing in HES Amsterdam, but I decided to pursue further studies. I figured Human Resource Management at Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) at Erasmus University Rotterdam would fit my interests. These were quite heavy years: I had to work more than 24 hours a week to pay for this fulltime Master. But it was definitely worth it. I developed a strong love for this university and city. In that period of my life I learned to work hard, do a thousand things at the same time and constantly shift gears at a fast pace.
Where did your career start?
‘After my RSM Master I worked for the marketing department of a big sand-and-gravel company. In my second job I worked for three years at Nationale Nederlanden, a big insurance company. This was nice but I needed more space to develop my own projects. I worked for several startups, one of which was a startup that helped women who have been out of the labor market to become private drivers. I also did volunteer work at Rotterdam’s local government for some time where I visited lonely elders. This also appealed to me, the people were so sweet.’
How did you end up working for Erasmus Trustfonds?
‘I noticed posts about the network EUR Connect on LinkedIn and at a certain point I decided to sign up, because I am an EUR-alumna after all. I was curious what EUR Connect was about. After signing up I randomly checked out the vacancies. There I found the vacancy for Erasmus Trustfonds Grant Manager. Immediately I thought: this job fits me perfectly!’
So it all came together?
‘Yes, because everything I liked and had previously done came together in that one job. I could use my education, my knowledge of the corporate world as well as my experience in social startups. I like to communicate a lot and be around people. And it lines up with my desire to have a social impact on society. We are working on Challenge Accepted: a joint campaign that calls on all alumni to contribute to advancing three ambitions that will help shape the future. For better health, inclusive prosperity and living peacefully in vital cities.
The funny thing is: last summer I visited campus Woudestein for the first time since my graduation in 2011 to talk with the Chief Diversity Officer and I was thinking: wow, a lot has changed! When I graduated the campus was a mess. Now it is so beautiful with an international appeal to it. I remember thinking: how nice it would be to have a job in which I could visit this inspiring environment from time to time. And see, this wish came true. Luckily they invited me to come and have a talk, and then I got the job.’
'In this network everybody is close by, everybody is approachable.'
Ninotchka de Windt, Grant Manager at Erasmus Trustfonds
What do you do as grant manager?
‘People tend to think that my only focus is to raise money, because our goal is to create a fund of 100 million euros by 2025. But I would like to say: my work is not about the money. The goal is to create a very strong and vibrant community of people who really care about the future of our society, our university and the city of Rotterdam. Because we can all be of real value in building a better future for everyone. The main drive is enabling people to share and give back, about having a warm heart. Maybe it is because I’m an idealist but I truly believe in this.’
How do you do this?
‘We create events like dinners but we also organize activities such as lectures and guided tours at Erasmus MC. At some events, for example, people can see how we help fund cancer research. It is nice and interesting to show very concrete examples like this to our community.
What is the added value of EUR Connect, according to you, apart from getting you this job?
‘It is another way of creating such a community. It is nice to feel connected to the university and to its alumni, even if you’ve graduated a long time ago. We had a good time as students and it is nice to keep that connection alive. We can be proud of our university and the city of Rotterdam. RSM is quite communicative towards their alumni but through EUR Connect you can also meet alumni from other faculties. Everybody in this network is close by, everybody is approachable. Next to this it is nice to see what is happening at Erasmus University and follow events.’
Do you believe Dutch people will eventually understand the (sometimes referred to as ‘American’) concept of giving back?
‘It is easy to understand: it is about making a connection, and about doing good for your city and society. Maybe people need to get more acquainted with the idea in practice but eventually people will understand how they can add value by joining the network, by sharing knowledge or provide funding, by making the community bigger and stronger and have a positive impact. Let’s label it: a movement. People will join.’