Inspiring Mentors: Meet Jolanda van der Steen

One does not need to be bad to become better. This has been Jolanda van der Steen’s motto as she has mentored many entrepreneurs over the past six and a half years.

Jolanda’s passion is the development of people and organisations. After working in the financial sector for 23 years, she asked herself “what do you really want to do with your life and what truly makes you happy?”. She took the time to truly scrutinize her journey and re-engage in the activities that truly mattered to her. This inspired her to become a mentor to help others to do the same.

“I think it’s great to be able to contribute to someone’s personal and / or business development. To inspire, to share my knowledge and to let mentees find their way and answers based on mentoring. You can make such a difference in someone’s life through this. It’s a humbling experience that makes me happy and grateful at the same time.”

Jolanda was one of Qredits’ first mentors and later became a volunteer regional coordinator in the Rotterdam area. Her enthusiasm is contagious, she knows her profession well and inspires others within minutes to follow their dreams and become the best version of themselves. 

Jolanda currently heads the Entrepreneurial Training School for Migrants in Rotterdam, a collaboration between Qredits, the Dutch Council for Refugees and the municipality of Rotterdam. This course for migrants is delivered online and relies on the expertise of mentors who provide theoretical sessions to participants and assist with homework. The practical programme teaches migrants how to set up a business (again) in a different environment and overcome difficulties. During the ten-week course, Jolanda teaches and inspires her students to believe in themselves again and helps them understand the Dutch rules of the entrepreneurial game. Contributing to giving refugees new opportunities is something that drives and inspires Jolanda every day – she finds it very rewarding!  

Jolanda believes that the support mentors provide to entrepreneurs is invaluable, especially during the one-to-one sessions, where mentors assist in practical matters. She would like to see more female role models inspiring young women entrepreneurs in training classes.

“I think at this point in time we are in a transition and need more female mentors. You can tell that values are changing. For entrepreneurs and employees, it is no longer just about making money, but rather about having more of an impact, inside and outside of your organisation.”

Jolanda believes that women have a lot to offer in terms of teaching personal leadership and soft skills, which are becoming increasingly important in the changing world of work. While women gladly share their knowledge and experience when given the chance, Jolanda thinks that many are still being held back by traditional gender roles. Many women – whether they’re employed, run a business or are in leadership positions – divide their time between work and family, which leaves little time for other activities. Traditionally, there are more male directors, executives and managers and they progress more easily into a mentor role working with entrepreneurs.

Jolanda has a piece of advice for women interested in becoming mentors:

“Understand and get to the level of development and need of the mentee: here you can make the biggest impact. Move at a pace that works for both of you and seek input from fellow mentors so you will continue to develop yourself in this role.”

Qredits is part of the Youth Business Europe programme, a regional initiative supported by the Citi Foundation to help young entrepreneurs to start or grow a business.

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