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How Atie and Wendy keep things calm in a time of transition

Wendy Werkman has been the new Board Secretary since September, following up Corry Donner who will be leaving in December; Atie Breugem has worked at the Institute of Psychology for almost eighteen years, the last two as secretary. The two talk about finding their way in a new job, keeping calm when things are changing and the power of a warm welcome.

‘On Tuesday we’re always in the office together, which is a great way to get to know each other,’ Atie says. That sharing of an office not only gives them a chance to discuss work issues; they also inspire each other with ideas about how colleagues at the Institute Office can stay connected, especially in times of hybrid working. ‘Celebrating birthdays, for example. We do that once a month with all of us getting together and congratulating  everyone who has a birthday that month,' Wendy explains. ‘Corona had put a stop to that, but it's actually quite nice,' adds Atie.

Atie Breugem has worked at Leiden University for 19 years. She started as office manager at the Faculty of Law and then worked for seven years at the Health, Medical and Neuropsychology section as secretary to Andrea Evers, among others. Since October 2020, she has been working full-time as secretary at the Institute Office.

Stress resistant

W: ‘I’m a jack of all trades, so a job with a broad portfolio really suits me. I like having to think hard about things, but I’m also very hands on. Planning a meeting, choosing a location for the Christmas drinks: I like that kind of combination. In my job, the things I do aren’t set in stone; it’s more a matter of how you approach it yourself. I’ve only been here a month, so I’ve still got a lot to find out: when does something land on your desk, and when should I take it on?'
A: ‘Yes, it’s a question of who does what.  We get a lot of requests from the Board. I do more of the practical things, while you, like Corry, are more involved with the content. We take a lot of work off the hands of the Board. I have to say, though, and I think the same goes for you, I work in an organised way, and it’s in my nature to keep a good overview of things.’
W: ‘I really see that with you.’
A: ‘Being stress-resistant is something I’ve always had. I used to work as a manager at the Mercure Hotel in Amsterdam, where you have to be able to stay calm. You want guests to leave satisfied. Earlier on at the University, I worked closely with Andrea Evers in setting up the Health, Medical and Neuropsychology section. There were times when we would come across something very complex, and I’d say, ‘It’ll be fine; I'll take care of it.'”

Wendy Werkman previously worked as BIG training coordinator at RINO in Amsterdam. After a brief move as policy officer at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, she has been working as board secretary at the Institute Office since early October, succeeding Corry Donner.

Breath of fresh air

W: ‘In the coming year, making the Board's new vision and strategy work in practice is what I see as my role as board secretary. How do the Board and the units work together? When we consult on issues, how do we do that and on what topics? I’m doing a lot of listening and participating at the moment. Sometimes I think: hmm..., maybe we could do that differently. Especially now that there are a lot of new things going on in the board, that can be useful.'
A: ‘You coming here like a breath of fresh air is an advantage. Some of us have been here a lot longer, of course.’
W: ‘First, though, I need to understand the history of the institute. That’s really important. There’s no point in coming in straight away and saying, “Well, I think everything has to change.” I want to find the right balance.'


W: ‘On my first day here, I was given a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. It made me feel very welcome. That’s the most important thing, that when you come in, you are included in everything. Sometimes during a meeting I think I have no idea what this is about, but I know I can just ask. A lot of employers say, "There's no such thing as stupid questions", but here it really is true.'

 A lot of employers say, "There's no such thing as stupid questions", but here it really is true' - Wendy

A: ‘When I came to the Institute Office, I already knew a few people from HMN. Everyone was open and friendly.  It’s all about working well together, not just about the bottom line.’  
W: You see people are really committed to what goes on here. We're all working for education, for psychology, for excellent research and we all have our part to play. There’s no need to compete; everyone can learn from one another.’

Side jobs

W: ‘Ha-ha, I don't have any side jobs. With two small children and an almost full-time job, my week is pretty full. But when the kids are not with me, I go to the movies, the gym, have some dinner with friends. The weekends are always filled with the kids' sports, and I go along as a supervisor or volunteer. Having to get up early now and then, like needing to be in Castricum at eight o'clock - that's something I'm not so keen on.'
A, laughing: ‘I recognise that from earlier! My kids are older, so I have a lot more time.   I love cycle racing and taking part in the Alpe d'Huzes. To prepare for that I also do spinning. Apart from that, I did a colour and style course a few years ago, so I’m also a colour and clothing stylist.’
W: ‘See, that’s something I didn’t know.’
A: ‘If colleagues ask me for advice, I’ll try to help. Mardet sometimes asks: “Is this OK?” I usually tell her that it looks good.’

 ‘I hope we keep on asking ourselves: is there a better way of doing this?’ - Wendy

Small improvements

W: ‘I hope I’ll still be working here in three years' time. It's fun to be involved in all these changes that the Board wants to make, but I hope that by then things will be up and running, that everyone is happy, and that it’s all running smoothly. But I don't like standing still either, so I hope we keep making improvements, and that we keep asking ourselves: is there is a better way of doing this?'
A: ‘I agree with that. I hope the transition is in place by then, that Recognition and Rewards is running well, that there’s more openness and transparency. That the way we work together will be different, and that there will still be room for small improvements.’

Each month we hear the story of a Executive Board member: this is what my job is in the board, and these are my personal interests. 
Executive Board - Institute of Psychology


Also, a new Q&A session is scheduled on Monday, December 12, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. in which Institute Council members will provide an update on the latest developments.

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