Women for Women connects talent to Brainport region

“So much untapped talent that it drives you nuts,” says Ed Heerschap, LivingIn program coordinator at the Expat Center in Eindhoven. He and Kavitha Varathan, co-founder of the Expat Spouses Initiative, set up the Women for Women program. Heerschap: “The Brainport region is attracting new talent by making it more attractive for more highly educated expatriate women”. The closing event will take place on Thursday at the TU/e Blue Hall.

A number of influential women who have an exemplary role in the company where they work are participating in the program. Role models for inclusion, Heerschap explains. “They are early adopters,” adds Varathan. “Women who are already committed to more cultural diversity or to more women in the workplace.”

Women for Women links these ambassadors to the internationals who left a good job in their own country for the career of their partner. But that’s not the most important thing, adds Heerschap. The ambassadors are ambassadors of Eindhoven as well. “They not only help the international community in this way, but they also show what inclusion means to the city.”

High potentials

Like Susan ten Haaf, lawyer and partner at HVG Law. “I am a buddy within our organization and a career watcher for female high potentials.” She also set up a network for women entrepreneurs, which meets four times a year. Her goal is for more women to remain active in the business world in the Eindhoven region. “I signed up for the program because I find it very bizarre that talented people especially with a high level of education will at some point vanish. Or stay hidden between four walls.”

Ten Haaf considers it important that she was able to do something for a talent, but that she also meets other women who are working on the same issues as she is. “That inspires me all over again.”

It is Varathans’ and Heerschap’s dream that any international talent will be able to join the business world, that it is considered “normal”. “It is rather strange that a spouse doesn’t have a seat at the table when it comes to discussing a possible future abroad,” Heerschap continues. “We want all internationals to feel welcome and participate in our ecosystem. It really is a huge loss if we let all that talent go to waste.”

Kavitha Varathan, CEO of Expat Spouses Initiative

Varathan knows from personal experience what it is like to build a new life here. In 2008 she left India for her husband’s career, as he was offered a job at Philips Research. She went with him, and quit her job as an architect. She found a job in the legal profession here in The Netherlands. Yet she also noticed that other spouses weren’t able to manage that. With this in mind, she started the Expat Spouses Initiative in 2014. A platform for highly educated internationals that can help them find a job.

The Community

The community, as Varathan calls it, counts about 1800 members after five years. Of these, 97 percent are highly educated and about 11 percent have a PhD, “all motivated and ambitious women.”

During this third edition of Women for Women there will be a total of four meetings where all the talents and ambassadors get to meet each other. This Thursday is the fourth and final meeting where everyone is welcome. Not only to meet the talents, but also to hear the ambassadors’ stories. Varathan: “Two Philips ambassadors reveal how they achieve more inclusion and diversity at Philips. Stories that make you take action too. We want everyone to leave with the idea that they themselves can do something for more inclusion. Right now.”

You can register for the closing event via this link.

Olga from Russia

People from many different countries live, study and work in Eindhoven. Every week, E52 has a talk with an international about what brought them here and what life is like in Eindhoven.

Name: Olga Koltsova
Country of origin: Russia
Work: Russian teacher and writer

Wedged between Poland and Lithuania is a part of Russia. “This is a former part of East Prussia,” tells Olga us. “It was given to Russia after the war. I grew up in this part of Russia in the city of Kaliningrad. It is a really specific part of Russia because of the history and the fact that is it’s separated from the rest of the country. A lot of people in Kaliningrad speak a bit of Polish because they go to Poland a lot. It is only a one hour drive.” We are at the café of the library, one of Olga’s favourite places in the city, and after this short lesson in geography and ordering coffee, we start talking about her life here.

“My partner already lived here in Eindhoven and I joined him. He studied at the TU/e and now he is working in the high tech industry. I have been in Eindhoven for a year now, and before that, I was here frequently. I had to finish my Masters in linguistics first in Russia. During my study, I also learned German and English. Now I’m learning Dutch, but I regularly mix up German and Dutch words. I’m learning the language one on one with somebody who wants to learn Russian. We teach each other. In my opinion, it is important for me to learn Dutch because I live here. It is not ideal to use another language like English.” Olga’s partner is Turkish, so they have a quite international household. “We speak English with each other. For some things like fruit, vegetables, and cheese we use the Dutch words. They are on the labels in the supermarket and sometimes I don’t know the Russian or English word for something.”

“I really love how strong the international community in Eindhoven is”Olga Koltsova, Russian teacher and writer

Olga is a writer for E52.nl and she met Diewke, the photographer of this series, at a meeting at the Van Abbemuseum. “In Russia, the art is much more traditional and figurative. Here you even have abstract art and contemporary art on the street. And I was really amazed to see a Mondrian quote on the wall of the Eindhoven train station. At the Van Abbe, I joined a meeting in the project Werksalon. I saw a call of the museum to attract expats. The museum wants to become more appealing to them. Werksalon is a discussion group, with also presentations about making changes in the collections. It was so interesting and inspiring. It was a whole new experience for me. My best museum experience was in Rotterdam at an expo about surrealism at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum.”

On Sundays, Olga teaches Russian to children. “The children have one or both parents with a Russian background and they want their children to speak Dutch and Russian. The children sometimes come from far away to the classes in Eindhoven, because not every place has a Russian school. For me, it is nice to speak Russian, but I’m really used to English and Dutch now. One thing I miss, besides my family, of course, is the cooking of my mother. I can make her recipes, but it will never taste the same way as when she makes it.”

It is nice to see and hear how comfortable Olga feels in Eindhoven. “I really love how strong the international community in Eindhoven is. Before I came to the Netherlands I did online research on Eindhoven to prepare myself. I found the Expat Spouses Initiative and I contacted them. I was looking for that kind of organizations. The Expat Spouses Initiative supports international professionals locally. I went to meetings about how to improve a CV, there are also meetings about job opportunities, they provide Dutch courses and you will find them at the Expat Fair. The meetings gave me structure. I learned what topics are really crucial to get my life up to speed as soon as possible. The members of the initiative have had the same experience when they came to the Netherlands. It is all about reinventing yourself.”

Read all the internationals stories here.
Photography: Diewke van den Heuvel

Van Abbe reaches out to Eindhoven’s internationals

Werksalon Van Abbe

Van Abbemuseum was created as a cultural offer to the people of Eindhoven with a purpose to elevate them with the beauty of art and to give them an opportunity to be engaged in the cultural life. But what kind of cultural offer could meet the expectations of a culturally diverse, international community of today’s Eindhoven? Looking for an answer to this question, the curators of Van Abbemuseum in collaboration with Expat Spouses Initiative organization opened the dialogue on internationalization between the museum and expats of Eindhoven. This dialogue is the way to select the topics which should be addressed by the museum in its further work in order to reflect the society in museum’s exhibitions and to establish new relations between citizens of Eindhoven and art. Van Abbemuseum, with its collections containing a significant amount of works created by international artists, is the place where the need for the dialogue between a cultural institution and international residents of Eindhoven appeared naturally.

The first discussion session on internationalization was held on the 15th of November, 2017 in Werksalon of Van Abbemuseum. During the first session, the questions on the social issues most relevant for expats were brought up. How do expats view themselves in the community of Eindhoven? Which problems of life as an expat in Eindhoven are the most important to them? What are the challenges that an expat spouse faces? Are expats more politically active as the residents of Eindhoven or as the citizens of their homelands? How do expats identify themselves: do they feel Dutch, or European or maybe they feel being in the ‘grey zone’ of not fully belonging to any particular group? The questions discussed in Werksalon corresponded with the key topics of the exhibition “The Way Beyond Art” – Land, Home, and Work. “The way beyond art” is the exhibition of Van Abbemuseum which in time will represent the results of co-creation and collaboration of the museum and internationals of Eindhoven, conveyed in commentaries, stories told by the participants of the dialogue and changes in the display.

The museum will continue with the internationalization sessions in the near future. It encourages expats of Eindhoven who love art and are open to the dialogue to join the meetings in Werksalon. The registration for the next session is available at Expat Spouses Initiative.

Internationals in Eindhoven: Tamara from Georgia

People from many different countries live, study and work in Eindhoven. Every week, E52 has a talk with an international about what brought them here and what life is like in Eindhoven. Read all the stories here.

Who: Tamara Pharadashvili
Country of Origin: Georgia
Work: Communications Officer at Bambi Medical

Read moreInternationals in Eindhoven: Tamara from Georgia

“Live, Work, Play” – the perfect combination for working parents and their kids

Many working parents find it difficult to combine their duties as caring parents spending enough time with their kids and as efficient employees at their work place. But now the lives of all these parents can change for the better by a perfect combination of a work place and a kids’ place in one building.

Read more“Live, Work, Play” – the perfect combination for working parents and their kids

Kavitha Varathan is Transforming a Talent Gap Into an Asset

It’s almost unbelievable: all the high tech companies in the Brainport region are constantly looking for talents and yet there is an existing untapped talent pool of over 9,000 highly-skilled international workers. What if the key of transforming this problem into an asset lies in overcoming our own mind gap? What if companies and people can unite and bring about a crucial change in these international spouses’ lives?

Read moreKavitha Varathan is Transforming a Talent Gap Into an Asset

Expat spouses are turning the recruitment process upside down

Local internationals and potential employers in the region met this week during ESI Live, a fresh new event for the international job market in Eindhoven.

Against the background of a personal photo candidates climb the stage and share their stories. In a TED-style talk the expat spouses present themselves to a room full of interested companies. The audience can respond to the pitches by holding up a sign with ‘Hire now!’ or ‘Let’s catch up for a drink!’. Later that afternoon there is time for speed dating sessions. “We are turning the recruitment process upside down”, says organizer Kavitha Varathan, co-founder of Expat Spouses Initiative.

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 2.32.33 PM

ESI Live is the first edition of this matchmaking event. Since the founding of Expat Spouses Initiative in 2014 the platform has grown rapidly with a few hundred members. So far forty spouses found a job through them. ESI however likes to take on a broader role than purely matchmaker. It organizes activities with the intention of encouraging more interaction between internationals and locals in Eindhoven. And it trains the spouses for the Dutch labor market. How to use your talents and previous experiences in this new country? To bridge possible gaps ESI organizes workshops in personal skills and lessons Dutch on a regularly basis.

The ESI Live event today in the Lichttoren is also about more than matching internationals to companies. Equally interesting is the discussion that occurs on the importance of internationalization of the labor market Eindhoven. The opportunities that are there and the hurdles that need to be taken.

This region has a few thousand highly skilled internationals who have traveled to Eindhoven with their partner and who are looking for a fullfilling job. They have specialized in finance, marketing or project management but are missing the connection with the local job market. One of the speakers comments: “As an embedded software engineer it will be easy to find a job here, but are you looking in another discipline then you have a problem.” And yet even in this high-tech region there is enough demand for other types of professionals.

And matches have already been made in the last two year. With what kind of companies? It turns out that mostly startups and scale-ups have joined forces with expat spouses so far. Someone in the audience raises the question: how can we connect SMEs with (local) international talent? Because a diverse workforce makes a stronger organization. An expat spouse not only brings relevant knowledge but also an international network that may be of interest to a company.

The same applies for the spouses, says ESI. They too should explore the SME job market. “They are still too often blinded by the big companies, while there are tremendous opportunities with small and medium-sized enterprises.”

The city needs the international – but language remains a barrier

The fact that we really need talents from all parts of the world to solve the challenges we are facing, is now more than obvious. But does the city have enough to offer for the international? Commissioned by the Living In coordinator Ed Heerschap from Eindhoven, a team of the Expat Spouses Initiative (ESI) did some investigating. The most important conclusion: language remains a barrier.

Read moreThe city needs the international – but language remains a barrier

New spouses company fights for dual expat careers

The Expat Spouses Initiative and the Eindhoven branch of EY have established ESI B.V. Together they want to make sure that partners of international workers have more work opportunities in the region, allowing them to integrate better.

Read moreNew spouses company fights for dual expat careers

[High Tech Peak Awards] Kavitha Varathan

This year the e52 High Tech Piek Awards were presented to nine people who made a significant contribution in the high tech arena (or from whom we expect great things in 2016). The award titles bespeak a holiday theme, with one “Piek” award (a typically Dutch Christmas tree-topper with a pointed shape), four “Star” awards, and four “Knallers” (firecrackers, or as we like to call them: Blasts). We’ve been talking to each of the award winners, and featuring one every day.

Today Kavitha Varathan What Awarded one of the Blasts of 2016 Why The jury is impressed by what Expat Spouses Initiative has achieved so far and has even bigger expectations of the year ahead.

These are the 9 High Tech Peak winners of 2015

Kavitha in (slightly more than) 52 words

At first, she might seem to be the odd one out amongst all the “techies”, and she is drifting further away from her technical side the longer she stays in Eindhoven. But even though she’s not a technical person herself, Kavitha is busy making Eindhoven more attractive to technical specialists from all over the world. Last year she and Anne Yianni founded Expat Spouses Initiative (ESI), a network whose purpose is to promote the professional development of expat partners in Eindhoven.


Kavitha is an expat herself – in 2008, her husband landed a job with Philips Research, and she decided to come along. She quit her job as an architect in Chennai, India, and started a new life. Once in Eindhoven, she managed to find a job in her field, but couldn’t help seeing the talent of many of her fellow expat spouses go unused. In the Eindhoven region alone, there are thousands of internationals who have followed their partners here for their work. They’re highly educated, but sadly often end up sitting at home, unemployed.

Scouting for startups

After its founding in 2014, ESI rapidly picked up speed. Kavitha won the Marina van Damme Scholarship for her initiative focused on finding jobs for the expat spouses. In the meantime, the organization expanded its database to include over 500 spouses, and established contacts with dozens of employers. In one year, ESI has managed to place around 25 people in jobs. Kavitha’s story met well with Guus Frericks, managing director of Startupbootcamp HighTechXL. He called the initiative “one of the most exciting developments happening in Eindhoven in the last year”, and immediately started working with Kavitha’s team. The spouses helped Startupbootcamp with the team scouting process, scouring the globe looking for interesting startups. Read about that whole process here.

In late November, ESI announced a partnership with USG People, one of the largest recruitment companies in the region. This is an important step in making ESI a partly profit-based organization.

Focus: the key to job search success

Sometimes Kavitha gets phone calls from people who haven’t even stepped on the plane to the Netherlands yet. But more often, she gets contacted by spouses who have been living here for longer. Many have gaps in their CV and find it difficult to get started in the local job market. Kavitha often hears from people who “really want to do something”, and just want to start anywhere. However, this approach is usually not very effective. “You have to have a specific focus in your search for a job,” says Kavitha. “You have to know what you can do or would like to learn.” It’s exactly in this respect that ESI wants to help. Kavitha and the ESI team have organized dozens of workshops for this purpose, on themes ranging from optimizing your LinkedIn profile to tips and tricks for the Dutch job market.

Support groups

For Kavitha, it’s also about “learning by doing”. Although she has no background in HR, she is starting to see more clearly what works and what doesn’t. For example, she has observed that certain types of spouses tend to drop out after a while. “I saw people who were really active in our network – internationals who wanted to organize everything. Then there was a group that sort of supported the initiators. And then there was a group that wanted to do something, but didn’t really know how or what.” This observation inspired the basis for the communities that ESI wants to work with in the coming year. “A kind of support group of around 10 men and women, who stimulate and encourage each other in establishing contacts and finding a job.” Each group will include a mix of both more and less active people.

Dual careers

Companies are also expressing more and more interest in ESI, often for two reasons. The first reason is that expats who leave the country and terminate their contract early (because their partner is having a hard time settling in, for example) can cost companies a lot of money. The second reason is that companies are constantly on the lookout for international talent. Kavitha is encouraging companies like Philips and ASML to search for talent in the local expat community first, before looking at bringing someone else in from outside the country. Eventually, Kavitha wants to adopt a “dual career” approach. If Philips wants to recruit someone from another country, the spouse can be connected with his or her future opportunity through a centralized Expat Spouses Initiative that provides dual-career services to a network of companies in the region. “If dual career is enabled, then they get the same legal privileges as their partner with the job.”

“I want to scale this up to other innovation hubs”, Kavitha shares. “The Netherlands is fairly segregated when it comes to expertise areas: Eindhoven is for high tech, Amsterdam has a large focus on the Internet of Things, and health is big in Maastricht.” Having a non-technical background can sometimes be difficult in Eindhoven, and your chances of finding a job are probably higher in other cities. Kavitha wants to establish links with other regions and so allow the network to grow even further.

Translation by Kathryn Brunton

Are you a global citizen of Eindhoven?

Global City Eindhoven – 2 October 2015

Eindhoven is on the global radar, bursting with ideas that will define the future, opportunities that attract the best minds from across the globe and energy for more innovation, knowledge and business.

On October 2nd, at the smartest square kilometer in the world – HighTech Campus Eindhoven –  Global City Eindhoven 2015 will celebrate the passion, desire and zeal of the people who make Eindhoven a hotbed of possibilities – the global citizens of Eindhoven.

Kavitha Varathan, CEO of Expat Spouses Initiative
Kavitha Varathan, CEO of Expat Spouses Initiative

“Whatever your nationality, you are a global citizen if diversity excites you, differences define you, you lust for new experiences, you dream big and the world is your playing field”, say organizers Kavitha Varathan and Anne Yianni.

Global City Eindhoven is organized by Expat Spouses Initiative (ESI), Eindhoven, a local grassroots organization run by internationals for internationals.

Read more about the Expat Spouses Initiative


Global City Eindhoven 2015 will launch a platform for the global

Anne Yianni, CMO of Expat Spouses Initiative
Anne Yianni, CMO of Expat Spouses Initiative

citizens of the city to meet, network, enrich and empower each other as a local-global community.  There will be speakers, panel discussion, an exposition, and workshops. The main event at HighTech Campus is built by speakers and has two panel discussions. The panels will discuss Eindhoven as a global city, its global ambitions, global DNA and global talent.

Peter Kentie, Managing Director of Citymarketing, EHV365 // Guus Frericks, CEO Startupbootcamp HighTechXL // Jorge Alves Lino, Director STRP Biennale and Design Huis Eindhoven // Naomie Verstraeten, Program Director, Brainport Eindhoven // Arno Kantelberg, author of “Het wonder van Eindhoven” are among the speakers and panelists.

The Big Draw

Global City Eindhoven is inspired by The Big Draw, an international drawing festival that sees its second edition in Eindhoven from 1 till 4 October, and in the spirit of the city festival around the same time, has creative flair weaved into all the programs.

In this case, the essence of panel discussion will be captured ‘live’ by noted illustrator Harold Hugenholtz, and an illustrated visual manifesto of Global City Eindhoven will be created by the end of the evening and handed over to the mayor.

More information on the program and how to participate here.