I had an immediate connection with Anne-Barbara when I first met her at an entrepreneurship event. Her partner, Anju and herself gave a heartfelt overview of the difficulties they faced going back to work and Sparkup career after getting married and having children.
It is hard enough to push a human being out of you, and have endless sleepless nights nurturing your baby. But what happens when you get that itch to go back to business life? While you may have turned into the CEO of life, chances are, you don’t know the latest tips and tricks about job applications, or have the community to help you figure out the path and identify your goals.
After giving birth to two girls and returning back to New York from her home country of the Netherlands, Anne-Barbara found the need to not only help herself with this, but to help other women as well. That’s the mentality of a true Invest Diva, baby!
We sat down and had a wonderful chat one morning after the event to talk about her journey and her company, SparkUp. Here is her story.
Sparkup career | Anne Barbara | Meet an Invest Diva
My story as a woman connecting professional, talented women to companies looking for talent
I have heard many stories of why women find themselves in the midst of a career break, ranging from the irresistible lure of motherhood, to unexpected health issues, relocation, downsizing, or caring for elderly parent. People step out of their careers for many reasons, but few anticipate the struggles in re-entering the workforce. Regardless of the motivation for exiting or even re-entering the workforce, the struggle to get back in is universal.
Both Anju, my business partner and I went through this transition themselves. Anju took time off from her career in management consulting to take care of her sons, while I, an expat from the Netherlands, found myself in transition due to relocation. We know how difficult it can be when faced with an overwhelming feeling of “where do I begin?” We hear stories all the time of how a vibrant professional career, once the source of pride and accomplishment, has faded into a distant memory.
We have the unique privilege of building a company, Sparkup, that is changing the lives of talented, professional women and influencing how companies view women who have taken a career break.
Our interactions with companies have been encouraging. Companies Sparkup career speaks with are realizing the value of these professional women who left the workforce temporarily. They recognize the unique combination of skills these women bring – functional & industry expertise, emotional intelligence, professionalism, multitasking, and interpersonal skills.
What has been your absolute best achievement?
Besides giving birth to and raising two wonderful daughters…significantly changing the lives of 4 women in only 4 months’ time and many more to come. It is amazingly rewarding to find the right job for a woman who might have lost her confidence and purpose being out of the workforce, and to Sparkup career. All 4 women got the spark back and the companies they started working for are so thankful for the talent match-making we did for them.
What is the biggest thing you can improve on?
Being a native Dutchie, I can learn a lot from the people I work with on being patient and less direct. I also realize I shouldn’t change too much because the strength of the Dutch directness is the getting-things-done attitude that is so important in the current fast-changing professional environment.
What was the funniest thing or incident that has happened to you at work? Any cringe worthy or epic fail moments?
Having the famous baby-milk stains on my dress when meeting with an important client….enough said!
Sparkup career | Anne Barbara and Anju Kurian| Meet an Invest Diva
What is your biggest dream?
I’d like to share this quote from yogini; Colleen Saidman Yee. I can’t say it more profound than she did;
“Real beauty comes from the inside – from kindness, love and acceptance. Coming to a love of one’s self takes discipline, diligence and dedication – all keys to being a well-adjusted woman in this crazy world. I aspire for every one of us to be real, to look in the mirror and say: you are the bomb.”
What is your advice for women in male dominated industries who are struggling to get ahead?
It all starts with your mindset. Many women lose professional confidence during the course of a career break. Focus on your accomplishments during your “career-break”. You did not sit still. Think of all the great successes you had: serving with the PTA, fundraising events, leading community projects, and even being the CEO (Chief Everything Officer) of Life for your family. You developed skills you didn’t know you had: project management, financial management, technology, mediation, change management, collaboration. Include these activities in your resume and explain how these skills are transferrable into your next role. Don’t diminish what you did during your career break. If you minimize your accomplishments, so will your audience.
If you are planning to re-enter the workforce or would like to hire a Sparkup “returnee,” you can reach out to Anne-Barbara Lemmens or Anju Kurian at firstname.lastname@example.org.