Andreea Groenendijk-Deveau is an entrepreneur, journalist, writer, image consultant, and book editor. She is the Co-Founder and Vice President of Communications at KindLink, the Editor-in-Chief of KindLink Global, a proud volunteer for Astriid and Asociatia Telefonul Copilului, and the editor of Cronica de Business in Romania.
1. Who is Andreea the individual and Andreea the professional?
It would be so very hard to separate the two – I have always put who I am at the core of what I do and vice-versa. I do realise how incredibly lucky I have always been to be able to choose my career path – and that came through both my resolve and the support I have always received from the extraordinary people I was lucky enough to meet over time.
Knowing myself – and that means not lying to myself – is at the core of how I operate. For example, I am very (painfully) aware of my weaknesses. And that is not because I like to celebrate them, but because those are the main things I will continue to work on. And it’s not easy. But I also know that, with enough ambition, you can overcome anything. For example, I used to be very nervous about public speaking (and that included being on camera). I have been working on that on point for years. Understanding what made me nervous was a great tool in eliminating that stress. Where am I now? This year, I moderated the four panels in our KindLink Conference in front of an audience of 120, and I am now hosting a weekly live webinar. Was it easy? Not even close. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
In both my personal and professional capacities, I am a Spartan. Never retreat, never surrender, as they say. Will this always lead to victory? No. But for me, the journey truly is more important than the destination. Whatever the endeavour, I want to know that I have done everything in my power, that I can look at myself in the mirror and say: you may not have won this fight, but you were the absolute best you can be. That’s why those who work with me – and those in my private life – can tell you that I am someone they can count on. When the going gets tough, I always show up. Whether you need me to be your soldier, to lead you or to comfort you, I will always be there.
2. Describe a day in your life.
I wake up at 4 or 5 am and read the news for about 1-2 hours, enjoy my coffee and the solitude helps me prepare for the day ahead. I go to the office at 9 or have meetings, and then I work until I’m done with the items on my list for the day. I always make sure to not have more than it is possible to do in a day, otherwise it would just feel like a daily Sisyphus uphill battle, and that would help no-one. Depending on the day, I may have dinner with my friends or dinner and a drink with my husband at home (he usually travels a lot, so I’m lucky when I have him at home), while spending some time with our lovely cats.
Because we are now living in strange times, the meetings have now turned into video calls and our living room has become my office. Other than that, it’s business as usual.
3. What is your leadership style?
I want people to respect and trust my abilities. When they do, they will want to work with you and will trust your decisions. You don’t have to know it all as a leader, but you need to surround yourself with the right people in order to – with their support – know or learn as much as you can. I’ve tried many things – and made many mistakes – before I found the right formula for me. And it’s become clear that, as a leader, you get what you give. If you trust your people, they will trust you back. If you empower them, they will empower you. And so on.
And, of course, you have to lead by example. I will always be the first one in and the last one out. That is not something I expect of the people I work with to do, they work the hours they need to be productive. But I will always make sure to join them when they have their morning office coffee and see them go home at the end of the day.
My word is my bond. When I say I will do something, I do it. I expect others to do the same. It’s that simple.
I also believe that each of us should always put their back into being the best they can be in absolutely everything they do – whether that is drafting an email or building a rocket. At every stage, deliver great work for yourself and your colleagues. Don’t do a half-baked job and expect someone else to fix it. Don’t create more work for others, if you can do a better job yourself. Can you check your grammar? Can you attach the right documents to an email? Can you provide someone with a little bit of extra information for something they are working on? Then do it. Even if it’s not your job. That way, you lead by example and everyone else will take responsibility for their own work and provide you with the best possible results.
Then, how you engage with people is key – I was brought up by a military doctor father, who said something that has always stuck with me: it doesn’t matter whom you’re in front of, always treat them as your equal. Once I had met enough people around the world through my job as a journalist, I truly understood what he meant – we are defined by who we are and the good things we do. By looking people in the eye when they are at the height of their success (take any CEO of a big company) or at the worst point in their lives (someone asking for money at the corner of the street – next time you give, look them in the eye and say hello, wish them well – you will be surprised to see their incredible humanity) – they will quickly appreciate you looking at who they truly are, not their context. I do that in my work and in my private life and, judging by the level of happiness I feel when I am around my people, I would say I am on the winning path.
So, I were to summarise, I would say: be competent (and that means always learning about your area of expertise), be transparent, be reliable, be honest, be the example, trust yourself and your people, treat everyone with respect. These are some of the key things to me.
4. Name the hardest challenges you have faced and your solutions to overcome them.
Prioritising things when it comes to my work was one of the biggest challenges, especially over the last year. I am juggling a lot of different things – and I am sure there are many people out there facing the same issue.
The first thing you must become aware of is what your limits are – time-wise, physical, brainpower-wise, etc. Once I did that, it became clear to me how much I can actually take on and be successful in delivering on (and being successful is the key part here).
In order to be able to prioritise, I had to come up with a mechanism to determine what should come first, what I needed to outsource, what I needed to give up. So I looked at what I do and what matters to me. I work in the philanthropy space, so my general goal is to do good in the world. In order to do that, you have to pick your approach. Do you go and help people on an individual level? Or do you find ways to work on a bigger scale, help many through perhaps being a conduit or a catalyst, but then you won’t have the time needed to ever focus on the individuals? Both are valuable ways of helping, but I realised that I am better suited for the second one. So I decided that that was the model I would stick to, no exceptions.
At KindLink, we provide software for companies to manage all aspects of their corporate social responsibility and their sustainability, while donating software to charities around the world, for them to engage with their supporters and beneficiaries, fundraise, and become more transparent. By working in a tech4good company, my impact (while less visible to me), can be on millions of people one day, if we do our jobs right. KindLink is my full-time job and my biggest passion.
I also work with Astriid, a UK-charity helping those living with long-term health issues find meaningful employment. I volunteer and lead Astriid’s communications department, which means their 850 candidates can get their stories out there and companies can learn about this incredible talent pool available to them. Again, while my work isn’t directly with the candidates, I know that what I do can come as a support on their journey.
I work on a wonderful project called Cronica – I write the Business section for it in Romania. It is a media project designed to provide people with daily snippets for them to better understand the world around them, on topics such as general news, sports, law, business (that would be me!), etc. There’s no editorial stance, no fake news, no clickbait. Just a team of people dedicating their time, pro bono, to rebuilding the media from the ground up and, through that, helping society through information and education.
Finally, I have been supporting Asociatia Telefonul Copilului with their communications for about 15 years. They operate the 116 111 free-of-charge line, answering calls on topics such as child abuse, bullying, general children’s rights, etc. To give you an idea on the impact they have, they have had over 2 million calls since they started their activity, and they are the first entity to ever have an anti-bullying campaign in Romania, something I was very proud to be a part of.
I am able to do these things through having an enormous amount of discipline and also the capacity to forgive myself for sometimes having to say no. It’s hard, but the endgame has to always take precedence.
5. How do you define success? What about failure?
I feel successful every time I look in the mirror and think “yes, you’ve become whom you’ve always wanted to be.” And that’s not a vanity thing about me loving my hair on any given day, it’s about being proud of the things I do, of how I am in relation to other people, of the work I do. I am proud of my friends, of my family, of the people I spend time with. I absolutely love the people I work with – at KindLink, at Astriid, at Asociatia Telefonul Copilului, at Cronica. I am in awe of what they have achieved and who they are as human beings. I am incredibly lucky to have had the chance to work alongside them. So that is success to me.
Failure is not the act of losing your job or closing the doors to your company because it just didn’t work out. No. Failure is being scared to act. Scared to be your best self, to achieve your potential or to even realise what that potential is. Failure is reaching the end of your life and being riddled with regret. I would find that unbearable.
6. A piece of advice for women looking to juggle their multiple roles in society?
There is so much that is expected of us. We are so often judged so harshly for every perceived weakness, for what we do, for how we look. The moment I decided to just love myself a little more – and no, I never put myself first; I put the people I love first, always and proudly – is when my priorities became so much more clear. I don’t want to preach to anyone, but if I were to give some advice to my younger self, I would say:
– Find the people and things that matter to you and make them the centre of your existence, unapologetically;
– Many people will need and ask for help along the way, and being needed is an addictive drug. But you need to learn what your limits are, so don’t over-promise, pick the right causes and make sure you choose the right people to invest in;
– When you make a mistake in any of the above or anything else, dust yourself off and just move on. There is no shame in making a mistake, it’s more shameful to not learn from it;
– Once you’ve found the right things and the right people, juggle only what’s tied to them directly – and to yourself. You don’t need to do 1000 things to be happy, successful, and admired. You have to do a handful of things but work towards being very good at them. Once you are proud of what you do, you’ll see success becoming a defining trait in your life.