Stefan van der Spek joined the WUA team in February. As Head of Industry Automotive, his name is on top of industry-related news. In this interview more about his non-profit organization and what his life motto is.
Hello Stefan! It’s awesome that you joined the WUA team back in February. How did you end up at WUA and what will be your role within the company?
“I’ve known Klaas and Henk almost my whole life and I stayed in contact with them both before they founded WUA, and afterwards. At one point, I rang Klaas to ask him to go kiting with me, and he said he couldn’t because he was planning to go to a meditation weekend. He invited me to join him, which I did.
As happens when talking to friends, we talked about work. WUA had a big project going on at an international company and I could provide Klaas with some helpful insights into the mind of the target group.
I’d lived in the Dominican Republic for quite some time, but at that moment, I was planning to stay in the Netherlands, so I was looking for a job here. WUA needed someone to help them with that international project, and after meeting with the team, I was hired as a freelance consultant on the project.
This slowly evolved into more and after speaking with Mitchel Wubben (Business Developer Sales), Henk Kroezen, and the Sales team, I was hired as Head of Industry Automotive. Here everything came together: I’ve always wanted to work with other people, in an industry where you can help someone to grow.”
When you started working here, what was your first impression of the company?
“The idea of putting people first really attracted me. At WUA, everyone is invited to give input, you have a lot of freedom to chase your dreams and find out what really drives you. This really speaks to me.”
WUA’s motto is living dreams. What dreams do you have?
“For now, my dream is to grow. I come from a background where I always had a lot of freedom to explore my interests and organize my own hours. In the Dominican Republic, I lived next to the beach, so my dreams are probably different than others. My dream is to live every day learning something new, being happy, and meeting and working with others.”
In what area are you unbeatable?
“I am a strategist. I am good at thinking ahead, something you would see in games like chess or poker. Analyzing situations, and deciding on the best next step, that’s something I’m good at. At WUA I can combine that while working together with others, something I really enjoy.”
How enterprising are you?
“Pretty enterprising! In the Dominican Republic, I had my own shop (from clothes to bike rentals and souvenirs). While in the shop, I got to talk to an American visitor. We spoke about business, island life, and my experience with locals. At that time I used to invite some of the poorer kids in the neighborhood over to bake pancakes together and while they were at it, they were welcome to swim in my pool.
I told him about how these boys (teenagers) would sell peanuts on the streets for just 10 cents. The island offered some schooling for girls, but these boys had no place to go to. We decided to help these boys, by teaching them proper English. Tourism is big in the Dominican Republic, and if they could speak proper English they would be able to work in hotels, shops and more.
This slowly evolved to more: while teaching, we found out that some kids weren’t able to get anywhere on time, and had some trouble behaving. Next to English, we started teaching values. At InspireDR we offer Aquatic lessons, Computer Literacy, Social Enterprise Screen Printing, Public Speaking, and a workshop for carpentry, recycling and more. We help over 100 kids now and have a variety of donors; Kristen Bell is one of them.”
And the kids you started out with? How are they doing now?
“The 12 boys we started out with, in 2015 are still in the program, but they’re almost ready to start working. I used to be able to lift them up in my arms, but now, some are taller than I am! Funny thing is, those first 12 kids are now like older brothers to the younger kids. Helping us teach them values and skills.”
What do you believe in? What is your life motto?
“I strive to be happy. My life motto would be: find your own happiness and help others find theirs. I try to take life as light as possible, enjoy it every day – it’s too short not to. ”