For those hoping to re-enter the workforce, making the leap can seem quite daunting. Katalijn Ritsema van Eck, who joined Deloitte as a consultant in 2013 after a three-year career break, shares her experiences. By now, she has happily settled back into her consultancy role - and climbed to the position of Senior Manager at Deloitte.
Katalijn works as a Senior Manager Consulting Human Capital at Deloitte. As a psychologist her focus lies on the ‘soft side’ of culture change within organisations. Katalijn and her husband have two sons aged twelve and ten.
Up until 2010, Katalijn enjoyed a successful career as a consultant, and initially she kept working after becoming a mother. But when her youngest child turned one, she switched to a less challenging part-time job close to home. Three years later, when both kids were of school-going age, Katalijn found herself ready for more challenge again. So she applied for a consultancy job at Deloitte and got hired. ‘It was an enjoyable interview, but I was definitely nervous,’ she recalls. ‘Do I still have what it takes? Clients will be paying high hourly fees for me, so can I live up to those expectations?’
‘I've always set high standards for myself. So when at one point I couldn't handle simultaneously being a consultant and a mother, I honestly felt like a bit of a failure,’ Katalijn admits. ‘When I came back, I secretly hoped I wouldn't have to work for the kind of superwoman who effortlessly combines both aspects. That would be very confrontational for me.’
And sure enough, her new project leader had just given birth to twins. ‘I would absolutely call her a strong woman, but most of all she turned out to be a really friendly and reliable colleague. I really enjoyed working with her,’ says Katalijn. Other colleagues helped her feel at home as well. ‘Consultancy wasn't very different from how I remembered it, so I was up to scratch very soon.’
More flexibility for parents
During those three years, the public debate about achieving a healthy work-life balance had raged on. ‘There are fewer and fewer colleagues whose partner single-handedly takes care of child-rearing,’ Katalijn explains. ‘As part of some projects, the team starts the day with a conference call to discuss current matters. Traditionally we did that at eight in the morning. But when half the team is calling while on the road, driving their kids to school, we can also jointly decide to reschedule the standard time. Nobody makes a fuss over things like that.’
Working part time is not an issue at Deloitte either. Like many other managers, Katalijn works 32 hours a week. ‘That's plenty of time to meet my goals, especially since I have flexible hours and partially work from home,’ she says. ‘On office days, I usually leave at half past four, and get a bit more work done while on the train. When I get home I have dinner with my children. And it's not an issue at all. At Deloitte, your hours are less important than what you get done.’
"On office days, I usually leave at half past four, and get a bit more work done while on the train. When I get home I have dinner with my children and it's not an issue at all. At Deloitte, your hours are less important than what you get done."
Rediscover your Career
Experienced managers who want to get started again after at least one gap year can enter the Deloitte Rediscover Your Career programme, where they're offered an annual contract of at least 24 hours a week, along with a role within the organisation and a refresher course. The course focuses on both technical skills and soft skills. Katalijn applauds this initiative. ‘In the longer term it's important that we don't lose our young mothers in particular. We could offer extra long maternity leave, for example. Never mind the statutory minimum, a year would not be a luxury! But first we're focusing on incentivising leavers to resume their careers. This programme makes it just a bit easier for them to return than it was for me.’
‘Deloitte's atmosphere is quite result-oriented, but also very warm and friendly, in my experience at least,’ Katalijn says. ‘Over time you get really attached to that. I have a lot of freedom in what I do and how I go about it. Currently I'm leading a consultancy project about culture change, with Deloitte itself as the client. Furthermore I'm in the internal coaching pool and I've been involved in a number of Deloitte Impact Foundation projects, where we contribute our knowhow to community causes. With the way I can pick my own projects that connect to my talents, I’m truly happy in my job.’