Melissa over haar ervaring van Trailblazers


Melissa leaves with a surprise she didn't expect

Meet Melissa Maikoe (30) - one of the participants of the first Trailblazers programme. Melissa works at Stichting Present Amsterdam, supporting companies in their CSR operations. Despite enjoying her work, she was looking for more depth, knowledge and personal challenges to put directly into practice. And she succeeded at Trailblazers! After her participation in the Trailblazers programme, Melissa left with an intriguing final report, a new network and a surprise she did not expect herself. In this article, she talks more about this and we discuss her personal experience with Trailblazers.


 Stichting Present Amsterdam

Melissa works at Stichting Present Amsterdam as a Corporate Social Responsibility project manager, ensuring that companies engage in socially responsible ways. Melissa: "With my work, I specifically dedicate myself to Present at Work and visit various companies in Amsterdam. Then we go and see what they need in terms of CSR and how they can engage in a socially responsible way. So instead of going bowling during a team outing, do a volunteer job. Here you can think about tackling a garden, going to do something fun with the elderly or a day out with people who have become homeless. And we hope to inspire people to volunteer more often after such a day." Through her work in the field of CSR, she said she was keen to get a "certain degree". And not one that she could pass with two fingers in her nose, but one that really taught her something. After a Google search, she came across Trailblazers with Sustainable Business School: "I came across the Trailblazers programme on Google and then immediately had the idea that it suited me. After a bit of sleuthing about the content, training material and speakers, I really wanted to go for it."


A clear goal in mind

Prior to the programme, Melissa already had a clear goal in mind. Melissa: "I really wanted to demonstrate something. I wanted to have something tangible at the end and be able to say 'I really learned something about the SDGs, how to set up a business and what to watch out for'". Soon, this goal took even more shape and Melissa had her case clearly written down: "Not much later, I knew: 'I'm going to write a research report on Corporate Social Responsibility and I'm going to walk out of here with a report soon'". 

With her participation, Melissa therefore researched Corporate Social Responsibility in the Netherlands. "I started looking at what Corporate Social Responsibility means in the Netherlands and how it compares in business. This is really a mega topic now and it needs to be implemented in every company," Melissa says. "So with my research report, I started looking at what is needed to activate the business community on Corporate Social Responsibility. So, what information do companies already have? What information is still missing? And in doing so, I also started looking at how my current work fits into this. So, what can I do and where can I still make a difference? And where can I make an impact in the city? I do that in Amsterdam, but Stichting Present is national. So I also thought: if I do it well now, I can explain it to the whole of the Netherlands".


"I am going to walk out of here soon with a report."


A great collaboration between CSR professionals in the group

After starting the programme, Melissa immediately started writing her research report. Melissa says: "Writing my report went very gradually. After the first lesson, I already knew very clearly that I had to start gathering information about the basics and go into the classes each week to see what we were talking about. I could then immediately give this information a place. So for me it helped a lot that the content of the training days matched where I was in my research. As a result, I was able to get something out of each lesson that I used in my research."

Hiernaast heeft Melissa tijdens het programma de samenwerking opgezocht met Laura, een mededeelnemer. “Laura is mvo-manager bij SURF and for me as a consultant it was really cool that she was in the group, because those are really the people I do need to be able to do my job and further optimise my work," Melissa says. "Between our issues there was also quite some overlap, so during the process we helped each other with knowledge sharing. For example, we conducted a survey within Laura's organisation. It showed that the knowledge about Corporate Social Responsibility is actually not there. Someone like a CSR manager really needs me as a consultant, and I was able to demonstrate that with the survey".

"For me as a consultant, it was really cool that she was in the group, because those are really the people I do need to further optimise my work."

“It terrified me”

Besides researching and working on a case study, participants also work on their hard and soft skills during the programme. Melissa says: "If I have developed anything, it is my presentation skills. I remember the first time I really had to present in front of a group and I thought: I have to do this. It terrified me. But eventually I knew it was part of the methodology and the class was safe. That makes it easier to give yourself and just do it. So presenting confidently I did really take away from the programme. But also, for example, how to negotiate, how to tell a convincing story and how many opportunities there are online. I am a millennial, but not that much of a millennial , haha. So I have also improved my online skills."


A surprise

The final product of the programme took a special twist for Melissa. In fact, in addition to her research report, she walked out the door with another product. "To top it off, I was able to link a strategy session to the report as the final product. And that was actually really cool, because we hadn't initially thought of the strategy session," Melissa says. "It was really kind of a surprise that I was able to use the strategy sessions immediately in practice and get a go-ahead right away. While talking to the corporates , I now use the strategy sessions on a weekly basis. I don't always use the presentation I made during the lectures, but I do use the content. So during such a session, we will look at what the company needs in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility and from there we also look at a company's annual plan. So then we look at how we can shape their city's commitment in the annual plan and measure the impact for them. So that does bring together everything I learnt during the programme." 

Besides the practical side to the strategy session, Melissa has also personally developed further in the field. Melissa: "I also learnt to do the call-out just a little differently than I normally did. I used to be quite on a businesslike note and some things only lasted for a very short time. Then I thought: why should it take me 3:00? Now I think: I have those 3:00 hours, so I'm going to use them well and listen to the client carefully. As a result, I see that my growth and the sessions have also contributed to the bit of unburdening for the clients. I'm more on thinking with them, being purposeful and making an impact, rather than being commercial. And that helps a lot."


"I can see that my growth has contributed to the bit of unburdening for the clients. I'm more on thinking with them, being purposeful and making an impact, than on being commercial."


The person behind the participant

When we ask Melissa how she would describe the programme, she tells us: "I would describe Trailblazers as a unique opportunity to grow as a professional, while making space for you, for who you are as a person. Trailblazers taps into the personal character of each and really looks at the person behind the participant. As a result, we had a really cool group. Everyone has their own personality and knowledge of a particular subject in their own area. So whether it was healthcare, business or completely non-profit: that mix was really so nice in the class. In that, we strengthened each other a lot and helped each other a lot. And everyone in the class goes through a learning curve. Through group dynamics, assignments and personal coaching, you learn a lot about yourself and from each other." Besides this, she also talks more about the translation to her work: "As professionals, you can also make a good translation to your own work during the programme. So you also look at 'how do I do that in my own work?' or 'how do I let certain topics recur in the sequel?' This also helped a lot for me."

Melissa over haar ervaring van Trailblazers


Like Melissa, do you want to grow as a professional, immerse yourself in corporate social responsibility and translate the knowledge gained during the programme directly into your daily work? Then contact our coordinator Jan and sign up for the programme.