Myrthe van der Erve: “Sometimes I think: am I an excuse-maker?”

Techgirl’s blog – Gadgets for girls!

The Next Web has become a household name in the field of innovation, information and events in a relatively short period of time. The big conference will soon be on the agenda again, but before that, we will speak with CEO Myrthe van der Erve. About her challenges and the question of whether she is a excuse trick is.

Myrthe van der Erve has been with The Next Web (Applied Sciences) since 2018. She was initially recruited as COO, but has now held the role of CEO since 2021. A role that she did not necessarily aspire to as a little girl, but which appears to fit together very well. But Myrthe is also daring: she spent years at Sanoma, then started working for an online agency in the e-commerce and banking world and also moved to Switzerland. “That was very inspiring, but you do have to deal with the dilemma of the expat woman: if you, as a woman, go abroad with your husband, what then? I had young children and I didn’t want to sit at home and do nothing. However, I got a great opportunity in Switzerland and when my partner lost his job, we ended up staying for my job.”

Myrthe van der Erve

That is of course very cool, going on that adventure together and experiencing it together. Although they did not do it alone, but with a child of 3 years old and 10 months old. “After five years, however, we did return to the Netherlands. I noticed that the power of your network is so important and my passion is to connect people. Then you are quite isolated in Switzerland. I thought that I would be able to lose myself more in the Netherlands and I thought it would be nice for the children to grow up in the Netherlands. I was able to start immediately at Applied Sciences.”

She can’t program, but the tech side really attracted Myrthe to the job. “I’ve always found the tech sector interesting: I’m always in it after all. Our mission is to connect the tech ecosystem and that culture of getting things done suits me. Especially in combination with events. Moreover, I have a good click with the founders, whom I know thanks to the power women around me.” Myrthe is referring to friends with whom she regularly exchanges tips: Wendy van Oirschot of, for example, and another friend who has worked at WeTransfer, among other things. They knew that Applied Sciences was looking for a COO and told them to get in touch.

She herself never thought she would go from COO to CEO. “I thought I wasn’t the CEO type. Boris (Veldhuijzen van Zanten, ed.) saw something in me and he thought I should become CEO. I really thought: really, me? I finally thought about it for 24 hours and then realized, damn, I can do that. I was already in the company, which already makes it a more comfortable step. I had also taken over his work for a while when he went on sabbatical and he gave me a lot of confidence.”

On stage

“So then I decided to do it. I also thought: not much will change, ‘you run the place anyway’.” She had misjudged that. “I was surprised that there was more to the position, such as being very outward-oriented. That external role as the responsible person really is an extra dimension.” By this she means that she spoke more as the face of the company at conferences, for example, and that took some getting used to. “You grow into it. As COO I thought: great job, I will arrange everything and let those men stand on the podium.”

But now she has to. ”I found it very exciting and fun, but I also notice that if you are a little insecure, you start doubting all kinds of things. ‘Do I get asked a lot because I’m a woman? Am I the excuse-trick or do they really want to see me speak?’ At the same time, Myrthe firmly believes that we should take a good look at ourselves. “I think feminist is a heavy word, but it is me: how do you ensure that you are more successful as a woman? That’s putting yourself out there. Put yourself on that stage and overcome limits. That way you also inspire other women.”

Au pair

She was able to do such a demanding job partly because she had an au pair. “A friend of mine told me not to go for part-time jobs, but to work full-time. Sure, you want to be at your kid’s play, but you can if you work full-time, as long as you don’t have a job that requires you to clock in or see patients. The world we live in now offers more flexibility. My most important advice to other women is therefore: arrange it for yourself and maximize your help. If you have a position that demands a lot from you, enlist help, such as an au pair and a maid, for example. That costs some money, but it does give you a more relaxed life. It makes me a nicer mother, because working four days and then doing yoga on the fifth day, drinking coffee with friends and tidying up my house, that doesn’t make me happy.”

What about the male-female ratio at Applied Sciences? “We don’t have a quote, but we are an international brand in the media and that attracts other people anyway. Our average age is 28 and we employ more than 25 nationalities of the 100 people we have. The male-female difference is 50 percent and you can see that this has recently come about, partly due to me as a female CEO. I would like to see a little more color in the management team. To make sure we have an international, inclusive team, I think raising awareness is good. And that if we have a position available, we will also look for someone who fits that picture.”

Myrthe thinks we should work harder to make the younger generations enthusiastic about tech. “My eleven-year-old daughter is exactly at an age where I think: we should already introduce those children to tech, so that they also aspire to a career in it and that studies get more women. It really has to do with culture. If you are looking for a system administrator and you find a woman, then the champagne will open, so to speak. While I myself, for example, have always found it very nice that I was special in tech that I was a woman. I wish more women that.”

About TechGirl of the Month:
Every month we interview women in tech. We do this because we think it is important that women are seen and heard. Only 16 percent of people in the Dutch tech business are women. If we want to use technology, we have to make sure that it is made by an inclusive group of people who look at the product or app from different angles. No bias, but a product or service for and by everyone. But also: a working area in which everyone feels welcome. This is one of the reasons why these interviews are so important. Show that it can be done differently. And perhaps: show that things have to be done differently.

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