The American-born Kelsey Sibley studied Management, Policy Analysis and Entrepreneurship in Health and Life Sciences at the VU Amsterdam, and got an internship at Heineken. Kelsey (32): “During my interview, I immediately confessed that I don’t like beer.”
The interview was held in the company’s stately headquarters in Amsterdam, once the residence of the Heineken family. Across the street, a long row of tourists waited to enter the Heineken Brewery.
How did your career take such an unusual turn?
“Since I was a little girl, I’d dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. So I decided to study Biology in Missouri, but gradually the dream faded away. By the time I’d almost completed my studies, I knew that I wanted to do something else with my life, but I didn’t know what. I left for Amsterdam to work as an au pair for three young boys. After a year, I wanted to go back to school, and I happened to discover a Master's at the VU for Biology alumni who wanted to go into the business world. That was exactly what I was looking for.”
What did you think about the Master’s in Management, Policy Analysis and Entrepreneurship in Health and Life Sciences?
“The best thing was the variety in the lectures. One month we learned about pharmaceutical clinical trials, and the next month we learned about human rights. That taught me to look at social issues from a variety of perspectives. The only thing I didn’t like was saying the exaggeratedly long name out loud. I also had to get used to doing so much group work. In America, university studies are much more individualistic. But in the end, it helped me do the work that I do now.”
“In America, you have to spend a lot of time at the office to show how devoted you are.”
You started working at Heineken during an internship seven years ago. What do you enjoy most about working at Heineken?
“It’s still largely owned by the Heineken family, and you can feel that it’s a family company. It has a trustworthy and flexible atmosphere, which is nice when you have a baby, like I do. As long as you do good work, everything’s fine. I never dread the start of a new work day. In America, you have to spend a lot of time at the office to show how devoted you are. In the Netherlands – and especially at Heineken – employers place more trust in their employees.”
“Plus, I’m proud of the company. Whenever I tell people I work at Heineken, they smile. People have a positive association with Heineken. Whenever I order a Heineken beer abroad, I think about all of the co-workers who’ve made that drink possible.”
What lessons have you learned at Heineken?
“The main one is: show initiative. I’ve asked for all of the opportunities that I’ve had at Heineken. Not because they wouldn’t be offered otherwise, but when you show passion or interest, people are happy to help you. Don’t wait until opportunities are offered. If you really want something, then tell someone!”
“When you’re looking for a job, just sending out CVs isn’t very effective. It’s more useful to approach people who do what you want to do.”
“Networking is also extremely important. When you’re looking for a job, just sending out CVs isn’t very effective. It’s more useful to approach people who do what you want to do. Ask them if they’d like to get a cup of coffee with you, and if they have any tips or an introduction. I also ended up at Heineken via-via.”
What don’t people know about Heineken?
“Heineken is so much bigger than just the Heineken beer. I’ll never forget the time I told a guy that I work at Heineken, and he condescendingly replied: ‘I only drink Amstel beer’. He apparently didn’t know that Amstel is one of our brands as well. Plus, the scale is enormous. Heineken is available in almost every country, and we have offices in over 80 countries.”
Do people often have the same replies when you talk about your job?
Kelsey laughs. "Absolutely. ‘Do you get free beer every day?’ and ‘do you get to drink during working hours?’. Unfortunately, I have to disappoint them every time. We only have 0.0% beverages during working hours, and we only have beer after work on Fridays. I can enjoy a beer now, but I didn’t like it when I started working here. In fact, I confessed that immediately during my interview. Since then, I’ve learned that there are plenty of people working here who don’t drink beer, or even alcohol. Fortunately, it’s not a job requirement.”