Khaoula Marzouk lives and works in Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel. A year ago, she was Manager Production at Van Hessen’s selection plant in Morocco. Born in Casablanca, Khaoula studied in Paris before joining Van Hessen Morocco four years ago. When the opportunity arose to come to the Netherlands, Khaoula did not hesitate, though it wasn’t the chance to travel abroad that attracted her: “When I started working, I didn’t find casings particularly exciting. But while working with Van Hessen, something happened to me. I started becoming obsessed with quality and wanted to know more and more about casings. Joining the team in The Netherlands means to me a chance to get exposure to more than just the selection process. As a Product Specialist Hog, working in the Quality Control Department and as a point of contact for Sales and Customer Sales Support, I learn so much every day and get to impact our industry.”
Working as an expat is not easy, according to Khaoula. “You are constantly forced to leave your comfort zone and face linguistic and cross-cultural challenges. You have to build your own social network. Yet, I’ve grown so much as a human being. I’d say to anyone: ‘Go for it! It’s all worth it.’” Luckily, Khaoula did not have to face those challenges on her own. HR helped her find her bearings in the Netherlands.
After completing his traineeship in Brazil, Bruno Rodrigues moved to Toledo, Spain, where he became Project Manager. For the past 8 months, he has been responsible for hog casings and mucosa. “When a trainee changes from traineeship to a regular role within the company, the responsibilities and tasks change, but the mindset stays the same. You continue to ask questions, learn new things, and improve in every area.” Bruno had the aspiration to travel abroad and experience the world. The opportunity Van Hessen offered was, therefore, more than welcome. “Our supply chain runs across the globe, and each country contributes something particular to that process. That international exposure helps me to become a better professional.”
The transition from Brazil to Spain was relatively smooth because “language and culture are rather similar and people in Spain are warm and welcoming. Van Hessen also attempts to help foreigners feel welcomed and comfortable!” The only difficulty he experiences is the time-zone difference, which makes communication with family hard. Considering Van Hessen’s new slogan, Bruno says, “it relates to the products which we provide with added value. It takes everything to create that value. But it also relates to people, since Van Hessen has many people working in big and small teams, and they make it all possible, every day again.”
During his studies, Elroy St.Jago already knew that he wanted to work abroad. The vacancy ad for Van Hessen’s traineeship immediately caught his attention. Why Van Hessen? Because of how excited everyone is! “This passion for the product is actually an important value next to ‘It all matters’,” says Elroy. The past 4 years, he has worked in the Spanish Operations Team. He is now in an excellent position to use his Spanish in his new job as Manager Production of the selection facility in Paraguay. A good challenge to select more casings with the team in Paraguay that are harvested locally in South America and will be sold on the same continent.
Though Elroy loves the international dynamics, he admits that “it is always a challenge to leave your comfort zone again, just as it is a challenge to leave behind the social network that you’ve just built up.” But Elroy receives help with the move and getting settled in South America: “I’ve received a warm welcome from my colleagues in Paraguay!” It makes the expat experience a great one because you feel at home from day one and are fully part of the team. Working as an expat gives you the opportunity to meet, and get to know, different people and cultures. The gained mutual understanding helps time and time again to achieve the best and better together!
Britt Hendriks is from Cuijk, The Netherlands, the location of one of Van Hessen’s salting plants. She knew Van Hessen well before she started working for the company. Yet, it only happened after her study in business administration that she noticed an ad for Van Hessen’s traineeship and applied. Trembling, because the thought of having to travel abroad, far away from family and friends, frightened her a bit. “Now, this is totally not an issue anymore,” she says from her hotel room in Egypt. “I travel on my own without giving it so much as a thought. While others ask: ‘How do you do this?’ I simply take the next step, time and again. Chances are I will soon travel to South America. So, you know, that’s quite far away.”
Coming out of her comfort zone, Britt has faced the cross-cultural experience. “The culture shock isn’t too bad because everywhere you go you encounter that typical Van Hessen culture. I receive a lot of support as well. Initially, it was especially HR that was involved. After some time, I relied increasingly on my tutor and mentor. I’m allowed to call them anytime, even during the weekend, or when I have missed my flight,” laughs Britt who has a clear idea about what ‘It all matters’ means. “As a trainee, I come in as many places as possible. Everywhere, I find people who are proud of what they do - whatever it is. Everyone knows that what they do is important. It’s more than a work attitude; it’s something they’ve made their own.”
Joyce van der Wijst
“Van Hessen has a lot of experience in sending out expats abroad,” says Joyce van der Wijst, Specialist Human Resources and responsible for Van Hessen’s expats. “Yet, we are facing a new situation because Van Hessen is undergoing a tremendous development. We are not just talking about people from the Netherlands going abroad, but also about people from other countries who come to work in The Netherlands or start work in another country than their country of origin.”
Of course, Joyce is more than happy to hear that there is only positive feedback from the expats that have been interviewed for this article, but she insists that there is still plenty of room for improvement. “In the past, we sent out Dutch people to set up a new location. Expat traffic was especially outbound. But with an eye to the emerging markets we work in, there is an increasing exchange between several countries.” It is effective, for instance, to exchange people between countries with the same language or a similar culture. However, Van Hessen also wants to train local talent. Those people we like to place in other countries where Van Hessen is active. “That we call inbound,” continues Joyce, who adds that “Van Hessen understands better and better how the Dutch culture, so often taken as a matter of course, can be a tremendous challenge for expats in The Netherlands.” The trainees in Van Hessen’s traineeship are the up-and-coming expats.
For Joyce, ‘It all matters’ means that care for the expats needs to be as optimal as possible. “The expertise that guarantees Van Hessen’s quality is present in many parts in the world and that’s where we need to get it. Expats are also the starting point for the entry into each new market. In short, expats are very important.”