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Lenny Berkers

Lenny Berkers studied Business Economics ('80) and graduated as Chartered Accountant in 1983. After gaining years of national and international experience as accountant at Price Waterhouse Coopers, she switched to the healthcare sector as CFO and member of the executive board.

"In Tilburg I was surrounded by great people who encouraged me, that is important."

Why did you choose to study at Tilburg University?
"During my high school years at St. Michiel in Geleen [in Limburg, in the south of the Netherlands] I enjoyed the economics courses and received good grades, therefore the choice to study Economics was obvious. This study program also offered and still offers many and varied opportunities on the labor market. I didn't have to think hard about the question where to study Economics: all Limburgers studying Economics went to Tilburg."

Who was your favorite professor and why?
"I have very nice memories about Joost Groeneveld, MSc and Chartered Accountant. At the time, he was research assistant for the subject cost-accounting. In my second year he offered me a position as student assistant, which I accepted and held until the end of my study program. He encouraged me to broaden my study and participate in the Chartered Accountancy post academic program. I also was very interested in the philosophy lectures full of wisdom by Professor Plattel who taught us to reflect. There is a renewed interest for it nowadays. The course 'ethics in business' is mandatory in the continuing education program for chartered accountants."

"The university can also make use of alumni experiences and expertise in its programs."

Do you have an interesting anecdote from your student days?
"When I studied Economics only 2% of the students were girls. I was the second woman to graduate in the Chartered Accountancy program and at NIVRA [Dutch organization for Chartered Accountants] I was the 5000th accountant and 21st female accountant. Professor Goldschmidt, who lectured on organizations and business economics, always addressed students as 'gentlemen'. When I pointed out there were women in the classroom as well, he charmingly responded the women especially were included en promised to 'improve his life'. It's difficult to change habitual patterns."

What has your career been like?
"Upon graduation I joined Van Dien & Co as an accountant. After various mergers it became Price Waterhouse Coopers, where I gained a lot of experience at national and international companies. After fifteen years I was ready to 'switch sides': from advisor to being responsible for managing a company or organization. My switch to the Executive Board of the Atrium Hospital Heerlen was extremely rare. A very interesting and for many a surprising move. For fifteen years I was a manager at hospitals. Especially the social role that you have as a hospital administrator is very interesting. I held this position in times of enormous changes. Mergers and spin offs, re-organizations, changes in financial regulations and control and even closures of parts of locations I encountered. Well-organized hospitals provide the best quality of care and are also financially sound.

In addition I also filled various positions in supervising and advice. Many years I represented the hospitals in the group Annual Reports in Care, part of the Council of Annual Reporting.

Now I have chosen for an advisory, coaching and surveillance role. Not being controlled by a busy job, but being able to make my own choices. "

What are your future ambitions?
"At this moment I apply my experience to supervise amongst others the 'Bank der Nederlandse Gemeenten' [bank for Dutch municipalities] in The Hague and 'LIOF' [investment company in Limburg] in Maastricht. I also hold various supervising positions in health care and I'm involved as PUM expert in a hospital project in Gambia. That's a great project. I like to pass on my experience to the younger generation, as coach and lecturer/counselor. Based on my financial background and experience as manager and supervisor of large organizations I would like to expand my surveillance portfolio to for-profit companies."

What role has Tilburg University/School of Economics and Management played in your life and how did it influence your career?
"My student days in Tilburg have been wonderful, because of the study program and the student-assistant position, but certainly and foremost because of the many friendships that formed in those days and still exist. I was a member of student association St. Olof and of the oldest still active sorority A Quoi Bon? In Tilburg I was surrounded by great people who encouraged me, that is important."

Does Tilburg University/School of Economics and Management still play a role in your life, and if so, which?

"I'm on campus regularly for the continued education program for chartered accountants and occasionally I attend lectures offered to alumni. The university can also make use of alumni experiences and expertise in its programs.