“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”- Helen Keller

I just turned 25 when I started my first “real” job. New to fulltime working life and I learnt the importance of the feeling that you are part of a team.

The team I worked in consisted of 15 men and women in their 50's, 40's, 30's and me in my 20s. Some had children, others did not. Some were single and some happily married. Some had Dutch roots, some had foreign ones. From day 1 my team mates told me “If you have any questions, just ask”. That’s easy to say, but I soon realised it was deeply rooted in their culture. We‘d have weekly meetings with the whole team to discuss difficult cases and hear different perspectives. We had specific times for “open office” where people could ask for advice. And by sharing a room with 2 teammates, we became familiar with eachothers caseload, discussed potential solutions and shared insights with eachother.

This educated me in becoming better at my job learning from others. It showed me that it’s ok not to know everything and how valuable a diverse team is when tackling difficult issues. Studies have already shown this, but I then experienced it first hand.

More than just colleagues

This was not the only reason why I have happy memories of that team. The managers and all teammates showed on a daily basis everyone was part of the team. They expressed this is small things like getting coffee for the whole team instead of just for oneself, asking people to join in lunchwalks and making it a habit to go out for drinks or dinners together. And then there were the bigger gestures: like the fact that we went on several weekend breaks together! It created a feeling of being more than just colleagues. We were a team, taking care of eachother! And funny enough, we we’re well-known for this and were frequently referred to as an example for others.

Being an elephant (see my previous blog) this team culture is something I thrived in. It motivated me and I loved going to work! After such an experience I naively assumed this team dynamic can be found everywhere. In my next job however, the teammates looked very puzzled the first time I knocked on every door to ask what kind of coffee they wanted. Why did I do that — they wondered? Once I started my entrepreneurial journey in the Orange Grove community it offered me an incredible support system that paved the way for my new carrier. Afterwards, working as a freelancer outside of this community, I found myself again really missing the value of a team.

Teaming up

Luckily I was not the only one. Boukje Vastbinder and Thijs Weenk realised that by bundling multiple expertise and networks they could make the impact they wanted. As Helen Keller said: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”. And so Noorderwind was born.

Joining Noorderwind brought me back to my happy place: a team full of inspiring people.. Many of us were trying to better the world as freelancers. We felt alone in our mission and were not able to take on big projects because we worked solo. With Noorderwind everyone gets the opportunity to take on these projects and we inspire eachother.

As one of Noorderwind’s captains the past years I’ve tried to lead Noorderwind as I’ve been led: as a team. Here are some example of how this works in practice:

  • every project we do with a team, rather than working on it solo
  • we have moments when talking about work is off limits, like our lunchbreaks that we take all together (pre-corona) and (digital) drinks.
  • in our Team Check-Ins we ask others for help

I can truely say this team too educated and inspired me. From personal things like exploring the world without a huge eco-footprint (thanks Thijs!) to professional things like learning to see endless opportunities and turn them into paid projects (thanks Boukje!). And it’s not only me that gets educated and inspired, it is all of us!

In a series of blog posts I will share how I put my leadership skills into practice. If you want to reach out based on anything that triggered you in this blog post, feel free to contact me!

Picture captioned by t_i_p_o



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Sanne Mylonas

Sanne Mylonas

Impact entrepreneur & green business case innovator