Kids welcome

While everyone else was putting obstacles in the path of the expectant mother, we reached out to Astrid — profiting from her change management know-how, her dedication and her mind.

I sent out 60 applications, had interviews, received positive feedback — but nobody hired me. After I mentioned that I was pregnant, a contract was out of the question. Of course I told Accenture this, and that I could only work until the end of December 2016. I offered to work as a freelance contractor. The answer? “No, we are offering you a permanent position — welcome to the team.” I almost fell off my chair.

Do nothing? Not an option!

Twiddle my thumbs, just because I was pregnant? I was fine, I was fit and wanted to do something. Before my sabbatical, I spent two and a half years in Tanzania as a freelance consultant helping companies build HR departments and develop HR concepts, or a concept that enabled even garbage collectors to get microcredit. I was able to look after a number of innovative projects in Africa and make a difference. I couldn’t just sit at home and do nothing for months.

By chance, I found this little school together with my twin sister — in the middle of Kenyan no-man’s-land and facing closure. In a mud hut, seven adults tried to teach 250 orphans — without books, without toilets, without electricity or water. So we bought a piece of land, built cabins and the school was able to continue. Now there is even a secondary level at the primary school. Very few of the now 800 orphans there could have afforded further education. They live on less than one euro a day and leave school at age 14. The boys go into the fields, the girls are often married off — which meant all our work was in vain. But this year, for the first time, fifty 18 to 19-year-olds left our school with a degree, a huge success for us!

Now we are on to the next challenge: to help school leavers get a training position. Thanks to Accenture, we have contacts with an NGO that wants to create apprenticeships in Kenya. This is because the students are really good. Our school recently ranked fourth out of 65 in a nationwide rating — a school that was close to closing five years ago, and without a single book.

Searching for change

Apply again at my old employer Accenture after so much time had passed? I didn’t even consider the idea because I really wanted something new. By chance and through former colleagues, I met my current boss, who told me that he was desperately looking for people for his Financial Services team and needed my change management know-how. Five days later, I had two interviews behind me, signed my contract and was already looking forward to an exciting project with a Swiss bank.

So what now? In September, I came back at 60 percent of my working hours. Then I will see if I can maintain the balance, and if so, my working hours can go up slowly. Accenture offers the chance to balance job and family, tailored to my situation.

Go your own way

If I have learned one thing over the last few years, it’s that I should listen to my heart. “Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t go to Africa, it looks bad on your resume. Don’t go on a trip around the world, you’ve just made your contacts and you’re in the middle of working life,” was some of the friendly advice I ignored. I just wanted to do it because I knew I could make a difference and was passionate about it.

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