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Women rock! They just sometimes need someone to remind them

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Virginie

Virginie Lemay-Vriesde is a Leadership Development Coach who helps expert and professionals particularly women in international organizations optimize their potential. Her venture into coaching was borne out of her passion to share knowledge and help people.
Over the last 20 years, Virginie has coached and/or mentored people, men, and women, from different cultures and nationalities. She has helped them overcome the challenges they were facing. She has hired great people, contributed to their personal development, and in some cases, to their promotions.The celebrated coach who believes in leading by example and helping women find their voice again through her “iamazing” initiative shares her inspiring story with me in this interview.

Childhood

I was born and grew up in a small town in northern France. My parents, who were not wealthy and who started to work when they were 14 and 16, always did their utmost to provide me with the best education there was, and taught me to work hard, to make sure I could take care of myself, no matter what the circumstances would be. They always listened and supported me to the best of their abilities. They got divorced when I was 18.

My brother and I then moved with my mom to the town where I was born, and we had to start everything from scratch.

I went and studied at the university and went as far as I could (I have a Master’s degree in foreign languages – English and German – and did another year to get a French diploma (called DESS, which is slightly below an MBA) in trilingual negotiation for international trade).

I never really knew what I exactly wanted to do. I knew I wanted to work internationally, as I love to speak different languages and communicate with other cultures.

However, I never really had anyone around me with some ‘business knowledge’ who I could speak to, to ask for advice, guidance or to brainstorm my ideas.

Meet Me

I’ve been an expatriate for more than 24 years now. I’ve lived in Germany, in the Netherlands, in Italy and now in Luxembourg. I speak fluently 5 languages.

I’ve always worked in big international companies. After Germany, I went to Amsterdam in the Netherlands and was hired as a technical support representative for English-speaking, French-speaking and German-speaking customers.

I then evolved quickly and became mentor, then team manager, then EMEA Quality Program Manager.

In 2007, I got the opportunity to go and work in Italy as Quality and Training Manager.

I came back to the Netherlands in 2008 and started to work for a big international bank to set up a team in India. End 2012, my whole department was laid off and I started to look for another job.

I was then hired by Amazon as EU Customer Service Senior Quality Manager and 2 years later, I became the EU Customer Service Senior Learning and Development Manager. I resigned in 2017 to travel with my husband.

At the beginning of 2018, I decided to start on my own as a Leadership Development Coach, helping expats and professionals in international organization optimize their potential.

Next to my professional experience, I also had a life-changing experience 20 years ago. I had a serious car accident that took a total of 9 months of my life. Doctors thought I would be paralysed.

Then they told me I would probably limp. Fortunately for me, nothing like that happened.

However, I’m grateful I had this experience as it completely changed my perspective on life (I even wrote a book about it: ‘My revenge on life’).

What inspired me to be a leadership Coach

When we came back from our travels end of last year, I started to look for another job but could not find anything that fitted my skills or experience.

So at the beginning of 2018, I coached myself and spent time thinking of what I really wanted to do, what I liked and what my strengths were.

I also re-read some feedback I had received from my previous colleagues, and every time, they had written that I was very good at mentoring, coaching and developing people.

This is when I realized that, even though I never had the official title of ‘Coach’, I had indeed always developed, coached and mentored people, team members or colleagues, men and women from different countries and cultures, to help them move forward and become a better version of themselves.

I have always been passionate about helping people and did everything I could to lead by example, to be a good listener, to provide guidance, to challenge and inspire people. By realizing this, I had found my life purpose!

More than 20 years of global experience in customer service, specializing in training, coaching, learning and development, leadership development as well as process improvement are the reasons why I want to help and support people to the best of my abilities so that they can move forward quicker and become a better version of themselves.

My experience as a Coach.

It all started with my brother. I had been living in Amsterdam for 2 years and my brother was struggling in France (he is 6 years younger than me). He did not know what to do and was ‘stuck’. I told him to come and live with me in Amsterdam.

At that time, he was not speaking one word of English (nor Dutch). I coached him and mentored him. I also helped him learn English.

After one month, he was hired in the company where I was working, and he continued developing himself. He is now an IT architect in the UK, traveling a lot.

During all my professional career, I have helped my direct reports, peers or other colleagues. I have coached them, mentored them so that they could move forward.

Some got other jobs, some got promoted. Some now even have very successful careers.

I now coach people as an ‘independent’ coach. I also give speeches to inspire and motivate people.

Challenges

The biggest challenge I am currently facing is visibility. Since I recently started as an independent coach, I have to show what I can do.

People may be looking for someone like me, but if they do not know I exist, nor what I can offer, they will not come to me.

That is why I’ve been posting on Linkedin and Facebook on a regular basis to show people who I am and where I can help.

I write posts, I comment and I also make videos so that people can get to know better ‘the real me’. I also attend different networking events, and do some speaking events as well to get my name out there.

Project and activities..

Even though French is my mother tongue, I’ve given my first real speech in French a few weeks ago in France! It was a great experience.
I have developed 2 packages to help people:

– The True Global Leader or How to build trust and become a respected leader in an international environment.

– The ‘iamazing’ package for women or How to ignite the powerful and confident goddess in you to achieve your true potential.

I am also in the process of launching some webinars to help people and at the same time show what I can do.

Next to that, I have also been asked to go to Benin and Ivory Coast to deliver some speeches and workshops together with one of the rising coaches over there, Samson Capko

Greatest reward…

Being nominated as a ‘Woman of Rubies’ is probably one of, if not the greatest reward I have ever received for what I do.

So thank you very much! I am truly humbled and honoured.

Having been asked to go to Benin and Ivory Coast to talk and deliver some workshops has also been an incredible honour and I’m really looking forward to being able to help the African people further.

I also often receive very nice comments, messages, encouragements from people all over the world; people telling me they love what I do, that I am an inspiration and that I need to keep on doing what I do

Inspiration

I do not have any one specific person in mind. There are many people who inspire me and who I admire: anyone who has faced adversity (they had a life changing experience, they’re facing difficult situations, or lost everything they had, etc.) and came up even stronger and wiser.

Whether they are famous people or ‘normal’ people like me, everybody who has their own challenging story inspires me.

Without knowing, they encourage me to share mine, they comfort me in knowing that I am not the only one who had to face certain challenges, they reassure me as they prove that failure is part of the journey and that is what actually helps you become a better version of yourself.

I am inspired by people who stay positive, no matter what; people who work hard and do not give up; people who do not take anything or anyone for granted and who are grateful for what they have.

The reception so far…
Outstanding! When I told my friends and former colleagues I decided to start on my own as a coach, everyone told me ‘that’s the perfect job for you!’ Some of my good friends and ex-colleagues even told me they admired me for taking the plunge to start on my own, and are stunned by the content I put on social media.
Since I started to post regularly on Linkedin and Facebook at the end of May, I’ve been amazed at the support and encouragements I received from people. People from countries such as UK, US, Benin, Ivory Coast, Senegal, France, Luxembourg, Spain, Australia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, etc. who send me messages telling me I inspire them or that they want to connect with me because they like what I do. Every time I get such messages, I am truly touched. I had never expected to make an impact on so many people in such a short period of time.

I am a Woman of Rubies
I guess it’s because I’ve been and am an inspiration to many people, especially women. I have been described as a motivating and inspiring leader, always positive and full of energy. I believe in empowering women. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been going outside of my comfort zone. Like that, I’m not only growing as a person but I am showing that if I can do it, anybody can too! We, women, often suffer from the ‘imposter syndrome’. However, we are just as good, if not sometimes even better, than men! In addition, I am a huge fan of cultural diversity. I’ve worked with many different nationalities and cultures when I was working in a corporate environment (US, Europe, India, China, Japan, central America). The best surprise though came via Linkedin, when I came in contact with people from Africa! I have followers from Senegal, Benin, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Togo, etc., I had never really thought of it but I am so happy this is happening. I know Africa is rising with many brilliant people over there. I hope I can contribute and help the African people by sharing my experience and skills.

My project for women
The project I have for women (‘iamazing’) has been designed based on my experience, as a woman, as a senior manager and leader, to make women aware of certain things they may do or say that prevent them from moving forward, to help them improve their skills and confidence as well as to empower them so that they can become the best version of themselves. Women rock! They just sometimes need someone to remind them…

Female coaches & appreciation
I think women are appreciated as they are (in general) better listeners, more empathetic and more nurturers. However, I feel there are not enough ‘big female names’ out there.
When you look for motivational speakers or coaches, you mostly get men. There are many big names out there such as Anthony Robbins, John Maxwell, Jack Canfield, just to name a few, but there are not so many famous women.I’d love to see many more. You do have women who inspire, such as Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, or women who have paved the way for other women, such as Coco Chanel and Amelia Earhart. However, they are a minority compared to the number of men. There are so many great women out there everywhere in the world, I really hope we’re going to start seeing more of them


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