Gyzlene moved to the Netherlands from Morocco at the age of nine to live with her mother who had immigrated a few years prior. Up until then, she lived with her grandmother – her biggest role model who instilled lifelong values in her. The lessons continued when she moved to Holland; an entirely new environment where she did not speak the language or had any cultural references. So, she became a sponge. Gyzlene absorbed everything around her and was fortunate enough to have teachers who believed in her and helped her in more ways than she could count.
During her studies, she started a project at school with fellow students to help peers prepare for subjects they were struggling with. Although she first started out in the commercial sector, she quickly realised her heart was in Education. She knew firsthand how much support young people need, so she always felt a calling to help others. Today, she is an educator and programme manager at a vocational education institution. She also serves on the board of several prestigious organisations: The Maritime Museum and VNO NCW to name a few. She is all about making an impact and looks forward to doing this with Roots Inspire.
What made you go into the nonprofit sector?
It was sort of by accident. I was set on a career in sales and marketing. So, I started working at a fashion Brand while I was getting my Masters. During that time, I was offered a lecturing job at my Alma Mater in the evening hours. I quickly realised I was getting way more satisfaction and inspiration from teaching than I was from thinking up marketing campaigns. I saw my students blossoming before my very eyes in a span of only eight weeks! Furthermore, I could see and measure the impact I had in the classroom. Here I was shaping these amazing human beings who would go on to do great things. I wanted to be a part of their journey. That is when I realised the power of investing in education. So, I decided to re-evaluate my priorities.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Learning to pace myself and accept the speed of things. I tend to get a few steps ahead of others in terms of vision. So, I had to learn to pump the brakes and assess my perspective. If others do not understand my ideas, it does not mean they never will. It is up to me as a leader to understand where the rest is and adapt my approach accordingly. So, having the patience and wisdom to not rush the process, but to guide the team or students towards a goal is one of my biggest lessons.
Who is your authentic self and is she always present in the workplace?
I am one of these people with born self confidence. I never had to pretend to be someone else, but not everyone is as lucky. My authentic self is an empath who operates from a place of compassion, drive and integrity. I ask a lot from myself and tend to do the same to people who surround me. Having said that, I am very aware of my outlook on life – and the big influence I have on everything around me. I can be tough and direct, but empathic and loving at the same time. I am an educator, after all, so I always try to approach my work from a place of positivity and love.
How do your roots play a role in who you are today?
My biggest lesson in life is to lead from a compassionate and loving place. I learned this from my grandmother, who was the family matriarch; which is rare in a Moroccan family. She was an incredibly loving, just and kind person whom everyone respected. I was very young when I lived with her, so she taught me many lessons like how to deal with setbacks and being aware of my outlook on life. She was such a beacon of positivity, which imprinted onto me. I saw that I could be my authentic self and still command respect from others.
How do you overcome obstacles?
I am my biggest obstacle. It is easy to blame circumstances or others for your struggles, but how are you going to handle it? We all have the tendency to limit ourselves to some degree; while, the solutions to our problems are often within us. So, when it comes to obstacles and setbacks, I look at my circle of influence. I ask myself things like: what can I do to improve myself, or what can I adjust? What tangible things can I actually control or do something about? I am very critical of my own actions. So, what can I do to change? This is my approach to things and as I have mentioned before, more often than not, I will find the answers within me.
What are some ways talents can succeed in the workplace?
Be aware of what you have to offer and make that your biggest asset; but also be critical of the things you need help with – and seek help and mentors to help you move forward. You might have to take a deep dive inside to really make the necessary changes to improve. Be reflective and at the same time always keep your eyes on your purpose and drive. And be your authentic self, because people can see through you. Some important core values to have are: integrity, trust and authenticity. However, find values that are a reflection of you and be consistent. Still, my most important advice is please give yourself space to learn and make as many mistakes as possible. They will be your biggest lessons, and sometimes the best stories to tell.
What do people need to think about when setting career goals?
Do not limit yourself to career goals, but think about the life you want to create. What is the legacy you wish to leave behind? That is where I personally operate from. Unlike what most people think, I have a very relaxed outlook on life. I do have hopes and dreams, but they are bigger than career goals. I ponder on getting young people more active in society – or think of ways to create a more inclusive country, school or environment. The interesting thing in all of this is that by wanting to contribute to something bigger than myself, I have already created the job environment of my dreams, because I never stop until I make a difference.
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