The family feeling Joa Middelkoop, Manager Team Engagement

At we know: new insights help us grow. Differences in culture, gender, age, interests and perspective increase our brainpower and expand our innovative thinking. That’s why we’re catching up with colleagues throughout the organization in our ‘Talking Perspectives’ blog series. You’ll meet colleagues with inspiring ways of working, noteworthy backgrounds, and interesting views on life. One thing’s for sure: we’re all unique. We have the same goal, but we each approach it differently. And that’s a good thing.

Joa grew up in Schoonrewoerd, a farming village about 25 km south of Utrecht. She has lived in the city for the past 12 years. You’d think she would get used to city life, but not quite. She still misses the close community feel of a village. But she does feel at home in the special neighborhood where she lives now.

It’s an area where people can really connect. That’s what Joa likes about her work, too. Find out more in this second edition of our ‘Talking Perspectives’ blog. Joa gets her energy from bringing people together. It’s what she’s good at and what makes her who she is. As the Dutch like to say: You can take the girl out of the village, but you can’t take the village out of the girl. ?

My own little village in the city

“The place I live was targeted to be demolished. Then, one day, I got a letter announcing a social project here. The neighbourhood always had that small-community feel. It’s why I like living there so much. The new “Majella Wonen” social housing project would grow the community. When I heard what it involved, I was enthusiastic from the start. Of the 66 new homes, half are for socially vulnerable residents, who may have been homeless or gone through debt rescheduling. The other homes would be for people who’d willingly support them. People like me. Helping them find their place in society again is important to me. It’s enjoyable because I have my own little village right here in the city.”

“Homeless people are often housed in neighbourhoods where they’re completely anonymous. It means they can lack support. That doesn’t happen here, because we know who our neighbours are. We chat, organise activities, and much more. It might be a cup of coffee in our community centre, helping out with a tax return, or a large event for the whole neighbourhood. It’s wonderful when you can help people get back on their feet and flourish. It’s very rewarding for me, too.”

Engagement at

“The atmosphere at felt really good from my first day. I walked through the reception Plaza and saw loads of cheerful faces. It’s all very relaxed. Creativity in my work is very important to me. Creating concepts, motivating people, organising events — that’s what I love to do and now I’m doing it for the Engagement team.”

“The coming period will be very busy, our peak. We’ll have 1500 service experts at ten external sites throughout the country. And they need that feeling, too. Our customers should get true people on the line when they call us. That’s where we come in! The culture, vibe and feeling needs to shine through at these locations, too. Some fun and unique initiatives ensure that our culture comes to life. Before the pandemic, we organised quizzes, brought in freshly made poffertjes (Dutch mini pancakes), and had fun giveaways like socks — you name it! Now we’re trying to do as much as possible online. Here, too, it’s incredibly valuable to bring our colleagues together and share that ‘family’ feeling.”

Work-life balance

For me, my work and my private life are intertwined. I bring people together by coming up with fun activities and then making them happen.

“I’m a very social person. And a large city, like Utrecht, is quite anonymous. But I ended up in a really nice place, where the social aspect plays an important role. People need to belong. And that happens here in our little community. If I find I’ve run out of something, like milk or sugar, I really can knock on my neighbour’s door and borrow some.”

“For me, my work and my private life are intertwined. I bring people together by coming up with fun activities and then making them happen. I think this is important everywhere, not just for socially vulnerable people. Being in contact with each other and the neighbourhood can help everyone. It means that everyone can be themselves. That’s what I find so valuable.”

“At, everyone can be themselves. Wear what you like. No one will mind if your tattoos are showing. If it feels right, do it! As long as you work well, that’s what matters. What’s more, I really appreciate the ‘get things done’ mentality here. You might make a mistake once in a while, but nine times out of ten, you get it right. And if you have an idea, you can work it out, make your case, and implement it. My team and I can decide what we want to do. We really do have a lot of freedom in our work.”

The neighbour next door

“When Huub (our CEO) comes and sits with you in the cafeteria, or executives wave to you in the Plaza, that’s truly I know it can seem like we’re all the same here. But each time I walk through the door, I see so much diversity. Everyone is welcome, working at feels like being with your next-door neighbour.”