As an Executive Coach and Trainer, Saskia helps successful, time-challenged high-level management, directors, and business owners increase their performance and their teams' productivity without the stress and overwhelm. Once a Missionary, working alongside Mother Teresa herself, made her life all around the globe, helping people discover their meaning in life in sometimes heartbreaking circumstances. After leading multiple projects and International communities, she left the missions following her own experience of burnout. Starting her own business allowed her to combine her philosophical and theological research together with her rich multi-cultural experience. She places the human person at its center, allowing it to find its unique place and thrive. In 2016, as a single mum of 2 young children, she moved from Holland to Ireland. She specialized in working with business owners, directors, and managers, showing them how to create a bigger vision for their business and life, freeing up their own time to excel in what they are best at and increase their profit and satisfaction without the stress and the overwhelm.
Mother Teresa played a big role in your life, and she inspired you to become a Missionary yourself. What was your encounter with her, and how did that inspire you to give up everything and serve the poor?
My mother was doing voluntary work with the Missionaries of Charity, where she worked in soup kitchens and cared for the homeless. One fateful year, she was chosen to drive Mother Teresa from Rotterdam to Amsterdam and brought the rest of the family along. That car journey made a huge impact on my life.
I was only 12, and I remember her wrinkled face and her intense gaze. She was so personally present to whoever she would meet, and it was as if the rest of the world no longer existed. Her attention would be the same for each person, whether that person was the president or the homeless.
"I remember Mother Teresa looking at me very intensely, and she said 'you will be one of ours' and as a 12-year-old, seeing someone I greatly admired, I just wanted to jump in and say 'let's do it,' I didn’t have any clue about the consequences."
"I think I was so much intrigued by her presence and her gift in her service to the poorest that at that moment I think it hit home in me that that was something I would like to do with my life."
However, despite my enthusiasm, Mother Teresa insisted that I finish my education before becoming a nun. She even wrote me a note answering my letter when I was 16-year-old, instructing me to stay in school, I could come and see when I turned 18, and so I did.
The Missionaries are present in places of extreme poverty or distress. What was your experience, and what can you do for people in these circumstances?
My first posting was to Zagreb in Croatia, just after the Bosnian-Serb war, a desperate, dark time in European history. However, only years later, when I entered the courtroom where Radovan Karadzic was being cross-examined, I realized the tension and uncertainty we were living in.
When you are right in the midst of it, you do what needs to be done: I listened to the stories, just sat with them in their distress. There are times when you don’t need many words. As Mother would say: ‘the heart speaks…’
I think we can compare it to the current global pandemic: we do what we need to do to survive. It is only later on, when the storm has calmed down, that you can start to see the damage and the impact.
Yet, you did not stay in the missions. What made you leave?
It was while I was stationed in Rome that I decided to change orders. Although I loved the Missionaries and the work I did with them, I was missing an intellectual challenge. So I joined a young congregation in France that was specifically orientated towards the research for truth through philosophy and theology.
There, I was asked to lead several projects and international communities. I trained young girls to introduce them to religious life, their studies and support them in their life choices.
Around age 30, I was on Mission in the Philippines when I hit rock bottom. Physically, emotionally and mentally. I felt completely depleted because I had given so much. As contradictory as it may seem within an environment of recollection and spirituality, I had forgotten to truly resource myself along the way.
Although I was part of a congregation, I felt I didn’t know where my roots were anymore. I had traveled the whole world, but I no longer knew where I was coming from or where I was going…
So I moved back to Holland, searching my roots, rediscovering myself, my core values, and what I desired in life.
How did you start your own business, and how does your previous experience transpire in the work you are doing now?
It wasn’t easy to settle back into the lay world. After almost 14 years, I came back, and the world had changed, everyone was settled in their own lives, and I came with a whole different experience: I needed to rediscover everything!
When I was looking for a job, recruiters said to me: “well, you know, with your background, with your history, with your studies… there’s no job we can find you.” I just did not fit any mold.
I decided to get qualifications as a Counsellor and in holistic, energetic therapies. At the same time, I created my own business, where the human person is at the center. I started helping people with disabilities or mental health issues which needed to go back into the workplace. I worked with employers to recraft the jobs and ensure that "the job description fits the employee and not they need to fit a job description.”
My service then evolved into what I currently do: helping successful, time-challenged entrepreneurs and high-level management to become better leaders, create a bigger vision for themselves and their business, increase their performance and productivity without the overwhelm.
Stress and overwhelm is a big problem I encounter in a lot of business owners. Stress just builds up. And it’s a muscle that slowly and slowly tightens, and we’re not even aware of it. I call it the silent killer.
I create that space where they are heard in their doubts and fears. I support them to understand what they need personally and professionally to make the choices to step up as better leaders in the challenging world of today.