Looking Beyond What Meets the Eye
‘I believe in the power of storytelling. People may be amazed by how much impact they can have on this world by just sharing their stories. At first glance, my career might seem chaotic, but I like to think that there is also purpose to my path. And if my story impacts just one person and encourages them to take a leap of faith and follow their heart, then my story is worth telling.
‘The one characteristic that defines me is my commitment to responsibility. If I own a project or process, I put 100% of my energy and enthusiasm into it. I want to not only fulfil expectations, but to exceed them. I want to see if I can make things better. Or easier. Or faster. And that desire has served me well in my work at NN. Here, potential is more important than diplomas. And at the beginning of my career, potential was the best I could offer.’
Finding the direction
‘My commitment to responsibility started early. When I was 16, I got a scholarship to attend high school in New Zealand, but the scholarship didn’t include living expenses. My parents in Vietnam could not afford to help me. So I made a deal with them: if they paid for my ticket to New Zealand, I would take responsibility for my expenses. I washed dishes every free hour that I had, just to pay rent and bills. My friends called me “stingy” because I never spent money on fun stuff. They didn’t realise that I had to focus on just surviving.
‘I dreamed about becoming a doctor, and got a scholarship for a biomedical bachelor program at Amsterdam University College. And when I discovered that scientific research wasn’t a good fit for me, I still wanted to utilise my scholarship to the fullest. Although my Master major remained Oncology, I added a second major in Business Management in Science, so that I could expand my career options. I had a feeling that I might be more suited to the business world.’
Shifting gears with purpose
‘I started looking for a job before I even graduated. I must have applied for 100 different positions. One of them was a traineeship at NN. And NN was one of only two companies that even expressed interest in my application. I made it all the way through the selection process, but the integration with Delta Lloyd meant that there weren’t any English-speaking positions available. I was disappointed, but so appreciative of the way NN looked beyond my irrelevant oncology education background and saw my potential.
‘Around that time, I started teaching myself programming in the Python language by watching YouTube videos. I was certain that every additional skill could help make me more attractive to the business world. Eventually, I got an internship automating customer service processes at a flower company, and was offered a contract within two months. But I never forgot about NN.’
The space to thrive
‘About a year later, I re-applied for the general management traineeship program at NN. The recruiter suggested that I should do a Finance & Risk traineeship. Even though I’d never worked in finance before, and couldn’t even answer the most basic finance questions during the interview, NN saw my potential and wanted to give me a chance. Right then, I committed to doing the very best job I could for NN, and extract all the learning I could out of the experience.
‘Since then, I’ve worked in Group Risk, in Investment Risk at NNIP and at NN Japan in Finance Automation. Every position has taught me something, and I’ve tried to make an impact on each one. Yes, there are a lot of Excel spreadsheets and long reports in the work we do. But can we make it easier or faster to put those together? Can we find new ways to look at the numbers and come to better conclusions? I am willing to do what it takes – from speaking up in meetings to learning new software and systems – so that the position is better when I leave it than when I arrived.’
Beyond the stereotypes
‘I’m now an Actuary at NN, and part of the team that produces and analyses key financial metrics for insurance companies, like the value of new business, own funds, operating capital generation. Lots of people probably think: “that sounds like a boring job at a boring company filled with nerds in glasses”. I can assure you, that’s not true. The ability to look at old challenges in new ways is what makes NN a success. And that means looking beyond stereotypes.
‘This kind of work does attract a certain type of personality, but at NN, you are free to be who you are. Different mind-sets and new perspectives are not only welcome, they’re encouraged. So if you want to do things differently, you have the freedom to do that. As long as you also do your work well. After all, responsibility comes first.
‘NN also gives me the freedom to pursue my other passions. When I told my manager that I wanted to start an LGBT+ community at NN, he gave me budget to develop it. Today, Pride NN sponsors events and activities, and has been recognised by the Management Board as an important part of our diversity & inclusion programme.’
Committing to the change
‘To those who think that the world of insurance is out-dated and boring, I present a challenge: are you brave enough to step in and make it less out-dated and boring? Isn’t that where you can bring true value by making a change? You don’t need a background in finance or risk to make a difference. NN is a place where you can learn and grow, and contribute your own gifts in your own way. I’ve committed to NN because NN has committed to me. The ability to own my career and develop in a way that works best for me has opened up opportunities for me, for my teams and for the company as a whole.
‘People don’t always feel so connected to – and supported by – their employer. But it’s NN’s standard way of working. And that makes it possible to stand out and create impact.’