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  • Nationality: Syrian
  • Age: 30
  • Field of study: Information Management
  • Current employer: Ernst & Young
  • Current position: IT Consultant

Why I started my career in the Netherlands 
After finishing my master and an internship in the Netherlands, I realised that gaining more experience in Europe for the coming three years would be very important for my personal growth and my career. The Netherlands was my choice because there are many job opportunities available in English.

Even though the Netherlands is a small country in size, it has a strong and internationally-oriented economy, it is the homeland of many companies and start-ups, and many of the big firms are Dutch or have established their headquarters in the Netherlands. Moreover, it was practical and fast to get the work residence permit after graduation (the orientation year visa).

For those reasons I believe it is a brilliant opportunity for me to learn how the Dutch made it like this.

A typical work week 
It is difficult to describe a typical work week in my company, as there is no single one similar to the other, and it depends if I am working at the client site or at the office. However, every week I will have a number of virtual meetings and calls with other colleagues or clients from all over the world.

My main duty is to understand the customer’s functional requirements, translate them into a document and a design, which can be used by the development team to create a solution. After we get the solution, I have to test and validate the software.

Then the best part of my job comes, where I conduct knowledge transfer sessions with the customers to deliver the solution. This always makes you feel good that you have brought something that will make the customer’s life easier.

My job is not the 9 to 5 type and I like that about it.

Consultancy is about keeping growing or you will be out, so you have to be there when you are needed.

Cool projects 
Recently I have been working with a client in the UK who owns a grand chain of retail stores for building materials and equipment. The customer has complex customisation requirements to the enterprise resource planning system (Microsoft Ax) especially in the product pricing area.

This allowed me to enrich both my technical and analytical skills, become more quizzical and customer-oriented. It also empowered me to build industry-specific knowledge of this kind of project which is very valuable for my career growth, to become a subject matter expert. In addition, I will not forget the cultural aspect that I gained from working with teams in four different countries.

What I like about the Dutch work mentality 
The Dutch working culture merges both hard working to accomplish more and collaboration together to go further.

When I started in the company, I had attended an orientation day where I learned about the company policies and procedures. Then I was introduced to the team I will work with and other colleagues in my department. Most of the companies in the Netherlands allow you to follow some training courses so you can pick up the knowledge quickly and get to work more smoothly in the team without wasting time in a trial and error process.

What I like about working with the Dutch people is their directness, which usually works in two ways. For example my manager compliments me on my professional and good work and criticises the lousy ones. This is really helpful for my career growth, in this fast moving world, as I can change specific things directly and do not keep making the same mistakes again and again.

My career advice to you
I can recommend four things:
  1. There is a wide spectrum of events and workshops held at universities, companies or some meet-ups. At those events, you can build your professional and social network, which is very important when you live in a foreign country. It is worth mentioning that I got my internship through a guest lecture at my university and my job by a reference from a Dutch friend. So your network is crucial here.
  2. In line with the previous tip, remember to have a professional and active LinkedIn profile. The job market and recruiters in the Netherlands are relying heavily on this website. It is your public professional image here.
  3. The Netherlands is a country you can learn a lot from. Not for your career only, but also in cultural and administrative aspects. Many issues will rise at the beginning especially with taxes, health insurance, etc. But when you understand the principles you will see that the system is easy and useful. There are many resources that you can use, such as the expat centres (yes, they can help you even if you are a student), the EP-Nuffic career website and your university career centre. Also, when you have many Dutch friends, you can get good advice too.
  4. Last but not least, start to learn the language as soon as you can. Even though the Dutch can speak and are willing to speak English with you, they will admire that you are learning their language. A beginner level in Dutch (e.g. A2) will be so useful in your job application. Finally do not postpone learning the language until you get a job. As a student you have plenty of time and when you get the job your spare time will be more valuable and you will have many other things to do.

Want to connect?!

Linkedin: https://nl.linkedin.com/in/ayhamkawi
Skype: Ayham.kawi
Twitter: @ayhamkawi
Or just drop me an email at ayhamkawi (at) gmail.com.