Alumni

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Joba van den Berg-Jansen

Joba van den Berg-Jansen studied International Economics and graduated in 1986. In 2008, after several positions at Unilever, she became Director of Social Affairs at 'Bouwend Nederland' the Dutch Construction and Infrastructure Federation.

"Consciously engaging in business and science, that's what Tilburg University taught me"



Why did you decide to study in Tilburg? “I wanted to go to the Catholic University, not so much because of my faith, but because I believe it is important to live consciously and to realise science is not without values. In the course Philosophy a lot of attention was paid to assumptions and societal values affecting science. Luckily, Tilburg University also had a good reputation in the area of Economics; otherwise I would have chosen another university.”

Why did you choose Economics?
“After graduating from high school, I first obtained a bachelor's degree at a 'HBO' [polytechnic]. The topics business economics, labour law, macroeconomics, and tax law particularly appealed to me. A teacher told me that all of this would be covered in the Economics programmes at university. Then the choice was quickly made: after obtaining my bachelor's degree, I switched to the study International Economics at Tilburg University.”

Who was your favourite professor and why?
“I was mostly impressed by professor Schouten and his co-worker Jan Donders, who taught General Economics. The course contained a lot of mathematics, which caused difficulties. In class there were three types of students: 1. the super smart students, who only followed the lectures by professor Schouten; 2. the efficient students who were only interested in passing the exam, and only followed the evening lectures by Donders; and 3. the group of students, to which I belonged, who followed Professor Schouten's interesting lectures, and also attended the very clear evening lectures by Donders to better understand the subject matter.”

Do you have an interesting anecdote from your student days?
“During my time as a student, the ratio between female and male students was 1:11. Only six women enrolled in International Economics. The teachers thus knew us by name. This had advantages, but it also meant that we could not hide in anonymity, like the guys…”

"I learned about the importance of the combination of customer orientation, cost awareness and entrepreneurship in Small and Medium Sized Companies (SMEs)"


How has your career been?
“I always knew I wanted to work on the social side of business. During my last study year, I worked as a research assistant at CDA [a political party]. Later I joined Unilever (Unox) in Oss, deliberately not in finance but in human resources. At Unilever I held different positions including corporate personnel manager at Lever Detergents in Brussels and head of HR at Loders Croklaan. I met my husband, who worked in Vlissingen. After a few years, I looked for work in Zeeland region and switched to a smaller company: Budelpack co-packers. I learned about the importance of the combination of customer orientation, cost awareness and entrepreneurship in Small and Medium Sized Companies (SMEs). Several years later, in 2001, I returned to Unilever headquarters after a short period with NautaDutihl. Since 2005, I was Director of Industrial and Employee Relations, responsible for employment and industrial relations in the Netherlands as well as for the European Works Council. Participating in major European projects was an exceptional learning experience. During the autumn of 2008, I accepted the position of Director of Social Affairs & Member Services at 'Bouwend Nederland'.”

What role did the University play in your life and how did this influence your career?

“I feel a lifelong love for my alma mater and I have kept contact with several professors. June 2010 I attended the inaugural address by Nicolette van Gestel, professor at TiasNimbas and chairperson of the Dutch Association for Industrial Relations. I am also member of Friends of Cobbenhagen. Consciously engaging in business and science, that's what Tilburg University taught me.”