Seada van den Herik

Saeda van en Herik‘When I tell people what I studied, colleagues immediately have more respect for me’

At the age of 38, Business Mathematics graduate Seada van den Herik became director of Regiobank, followed by Reaal Leven, and was then CEO at insurance company Zwitserleven until last year. She talks frankly about her career as we chat at grand café De Bosbaan, of which she has fond memories as a former World Championship rower. “I hope that I can be an example to other women.”

Van den Herik studied Business Mathematics and Informatics (now Business Analytics) at VU Amsterdam. Van den Herik explains that her degree still proves useful at work: “In my position, you always have to prove yourself that little bit more as a woman. When I tell my male colleagues what I studied, I notice that they immediately have more respect for me. They clearly think it shows that I’m capable. Having a good understanding of formulae and calculations is also really useful at work. Last week, I attended a Singularity event in the States that featured a lot of technical and complex lectures, but I could follow it all. In fact, at times I found it actually lacked intellectual rigour. Studying science not only means working with numbers and models, but also abstract and conceptual thought, and it was that in particular that really benefited me. I would definitely advise students who are still undecided to opt for science if you’re a good learner.”

When she was a student, Van den Herik rowed intensively for Okeanos and competed twice in the World Championships. "For that, I had to train twice a day, six days a week. I headed off on my bike at seven in the morning returning home at seven in the evening. There wasn’t much time for partying, but I’m really glad I managed to successfully combine rowing with my degree. I really needed both of them: just studying made me restless, but I was also unable to focus only on rowing. My brain had to be active now and again. I think I was probably almost a model student. I always attended lectures and only had to do one resit. There was no wild love life either, because I’d met my husband just before starting. It was a good choice, but really bad timing, haha!”

Read the interview with Seada van den Herik (in Dutch)