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What Keeps Me Coming Back?

By Noor van Boven, Chief People Officer, N26

Noor van Boven, Chief People Officer, N26

I’m a human and a realist. I believe in being open and transparent. I’m Dutch after all! My biggest asset, but sometimes my personal burden, is that I only have one way of operating - being me. With that comes many human challenges.

Working in a start-up is sometimes hard... really hard. It can feel like a never-ending cycle of chaos. It’s completely overwhelming, you get pulled in every direction, and it’s not always for everyone. Yet, I still bounce out of bed with the same energy every day, ready to take on the next challenge. So something keeps me coming back - but what? 

" Something keeps me coming back for sure. But what?” Noor van Boven, Chief People Officer - Life at N26. It’s not just a job "

To answer this question I have to put work aside for a moment and bring it back to what’s really important to me personally: my values.  

So what do I love? What are my passions? In no particular order I’d say people, travel, reading, wine and dining with friends, and having an impact just to name a few. However, ask me over a wine at the end of another big week at N26 and it may change. So what really keeps me coming back?  

The power in people

I am genuinely interested in people and their stories. There is no right or wrong in a person's story, there are only different motivations, key decisions, and sometimes human clumsiness with larger effect. It’s why I’ve been in HR for 20-odd years, because it’s important for me to see people as people, rather than just employees. At N26 I’m fortunate enough to work with and learn from an amazing group of diverse people who come from all corners of the globe with varying professional backgrounds. 

At N26 it’s possible for everyone to be a leader. I love that there are always opportunities to show acts of leadership and have an immediate impact. I also firmly believe that the difference between a good leader and a great leader is the ability to operate and connect with the individual on a human level. By creating an environment that facilitates open, honest two-way communication, and encourages listening without bias, everyone, no matter what their position, can feel truly empowered. That’s what keeps me coming back.   

Being who you want to be

I am not blessed with a poker face nor the ability to transform into a ‘Work-Noor’. As mentioned before, this works both for and against me. However, I am lucky that within N26 we operate in an open and honest way where everyone can be themselves. We lead with empathy and assume good intent, even when an action, emotion, or interaction is unclear.

We have a collaborative environment where feedback is part of our everyday.  Due to this collaborative style of working, team members form and establish relationships that are founded on mutual respect. This creates a safe space where people are not only not afraid to make mistakes but are also more open to learn from them.

Having impact

One of the most exciting aspects of start-ups versus big businesses is that everyone can have an impact from day one.

The culture is set up in such a way that you should speak your mind, bring your whole self to work, and follow through with your passions in the workplace. An example of this is reflected in the activities of our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Examples of initiatives driven by ERGs was our Christopher Street Day bus, a Balanced Work event by Womxn26, and a cleanup day by our Green ERG. And the beauty of our ERGs is that being employee-driven, their initiatives come from them, and not top down. This encouragement to be loud about what you find important has a wonderful impact on culture and community within the company.

And, on a company level, our mission to make people live and bank their way is simply something connected to my own life goals. Who doesn’t want to make the rules on how they do things? Who would have ever thought that banking would become attractive and, dare I say it, fun? I love that I work for a company which is impacting the status quo in the interest of the consumer.

International environment

I have traveled a lot and took two sabbaticals during my career to explore the world. Learning about other people and cultures is exciting. With my current job, there is little time for personal travel, but the world is literally coming to me!

Although, working with over 75 nationalities is not always easy — cultural differences should not be underestimated — there is great learning and insights! There’s nothing quite like that feeling on a Friday evening, or a random lunch with the team, where I can just step back, connect and learn. More often than not the conversation steers to someone’s home country or recent travel. These personal connections, and broadening your perspective, is important for everyone at any time.

So back to the question of what keeps me coming back. By focusing on my own values, beliefs and behaviours, I can align all aspects of my life with what’s important to me, and understand where it is that I feel I belong.

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