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Institute managers Marjolein and Wiesje: Ambitious on the work floor, in the restaurant and on the football field

Marjolein van Reisen has been Institute Manager Finance for a year, and Wiesje Zikkenheiner has been Institute Manager HR for two months. This duo job is by no means a luxury in an ever-growing organisation. Marjolein: 'We’re both new to this world, so we have our hands full.'

The new year has started, but Wiesje and Marjolein are not making any drastic resolutions. Marjolein: 'If I want to change something, I do it right away. I've just comeback from a winter sports holiday, where you gain a few kilos. So, I know I have to work on that, whether it's January or March.' Wiesje, her husband and two children are in the midst of a house renovation, and for them, the big sustainability drive has begun. 'Everyone has been forced to do this over the past year, but we are now trying to focus extra attention on it. We 're doing our best to be more aware consumers: not buying packaged detergent but laundry strips, for example.'

At work, they both have a very clear aim: they want to develop further in their roles.  That means finding out what is going on in all six sections and two departments, getting to grips with all the jargon and learning how they can contribute to the strategic direction of the institute: all that is going to keep them busy for the next year.

Wiesje Zikkenheiner
Wiesje Zikkenheiner, Institute Manager HR


Marjolein: I enjoy understanding the financial component and then explaining it in easy-to-understand language to colleagues, taking them through that process. I like hard facts: one and one is two, no discussion. That's why I started studying Business Economics in 1980. The budget has to be balanced, and when we get it right, it gives me a good feeling. Unfortunately, within Education it can be difficult to write a good budget, because unexpected funds are often made available that weren’t known beforehand. To me, that feels like not being in control, which I don’t like. I prefer to know things down to the last digit.' 

Wiesje: ‘We complement one another really well, because my approach is softer. I keep an open mind, and want to understand why things are important to people.  That makes HR is a good fit for me; I need to understand the feeling on the shop floor so I can respond to it properly. I also like to have that conversation with employees; I am very curious.'

‘I keep an open mind, and want to understand why things are important to people.’ Wiesje

Work stress

Marjolein: ‘Our work dovetails well. Ninety per cent of all the institute's costs are staff costs, so together we weigh up what a balanced staff pool looks like and how that fits within the budget. We have to make sure there’s a good balance between the different sections. Some have a relatively high number of young lecturers, while others have more professors.'

Wiesje: ‘It’s important to gain insight into those relationships because they determine the workload. It gets interesting when you look at it together with the different sections. Then it suddenly becomes clear, for instance, that supervision and administrative tasks are the responsibility of only a small number of people. So, if you take on more young teachers, that doesn’t do anything to relieve their workload.'

Marjolein van Reisen
Marjolein van Reisen, Institute Manager Finance

The path to the institute

Wiesje: ‘Before this, I was a manager at an interdisciplinary institute for global health, where we researched such things as the best way to offer medicines. There are a lot of people who don't like taking medicines. You can prescribe a daily pill, but if people don't take it, it's better to develop a pill that they only need to take once a week. I found that kind of intervention from the social sciences really interesting, which is why this job appealed to me. And I just really like the ins and outs of this kind of institute.'

Marjolein: ‘Before coming here, I worked at KLM for 31 years as a financial controller. When the corona pandemic hit, panic struck and people were asked to leave voluntarily. I was approaching 60 and decided to take early retirement, to find out whether it would suit me. It didn’t. I was at home for a year. Exercising, cycling, walking, shopping every day instead of once a week. It felt so aimless. I missed the feeling of contributing to something, having conversations with colleagues, doing something meaningful for other people. I found my way to the institute via via - and I really enjoy it.’

‘I wanted to find out whether retiring early would suit me. It didn’t.’ Marjolein

Rediscovering passions

Marjolein: ‘Even when I'm on holiday, I still answer emails. I find it hard to let go – the work ethic is ingrained in me. When I was a child, my father had a bulb-growing business, and I used to help peeling bulbs there. When I was 13 or 14, I worked in a restaurant after school hours to earn some pocket money: that's the way I was brought up. My mother’s favourite saying was: "You're not going to sit around doing nothing." In the holidays – whether it was Christmas or summer - there was always something to do; I never actually took a holiday. I still find it hard to do nothing, which is why I recently started working two evenings a week at a restaurant close to my home, in Alphen.'

Wiesje: ‘Really? On top of a forty-hour working week?’

Marjolein: ‘Yes, I love coming into contact with people in the evenings as well, particularly after a day when I’ve been working from home, sitting down the whole time. My husband’s job is more physically active, so when he comes home he’s tired. He’s happy watching TV in the evenings while I prefer to be doing something active.’ 

Wiesje: 'Last year I started playing football. I thought: I'm in my early forties, and I’m going to learn to play football. I used to enjoy team sports, but stopped when I had children. I hate the gym; I just can’t drum up the motivation for it. So, now I’m in a women's thirty-plus team and we take part in the Football Association's autumn and spring competitions. The matches are late at night, when my seven- and nine-year-old children are already in bed. They did come to watch one time. 'You're hopeless,' they told me afterwards. And it’s true. We lose almost every match, but that doesn’t matter; I just enjoy the team spirit.'

‘I thought: I’m forty, and I’m going to learn to play football.’ Wiesje

Wise advice

M: 'I can't remember being given any specific advice when I came here. I started during corona and have quite a solitary position. I familiarised myself with it by trawling through Excel files a lot, but it was quite an awkward start. Colleagues did advise me to take my time, because it takes you a year or two to feel completely at home.'

W: 'From Paula (van den Bergh, Head of the Institute of Psychology) I got the tip: choose your own path. The institute and the faculty are so big, if you aren't careful you’ll find yourself being swept along with the general flow. Then, at the end of the year you’ll think: what have I actually done? That’s why I want to focus on where I can make a positive contribution. Steering your own course; I like that advice.'

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.

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