Desiree Dekker is not just the center of our company, she’s the heart of it too. Officially the executive assistant to our CEO Marlon van der Meer, she helps manage all of our organizational and operational needs. From booking travel to the constant barrage of requests and meetings, she expertly keeps all BagsID employees happy and projects running smoothly – across multiple time zones. It’s a huge job, and she does it with a smile every time.
The pure embodiment of kindness, she radiates positivity no matter how intense the pressure might be. And that compassion extends beyond our own company, too. In fact, Desiree and her partner Jacco run their own non-profit in the Netherlands. The foundation, named Dag met een Lach (A Day with a Smile) organizes fun outings for critically ill children and their families.
“Together with these families, we enjoy great food and do things like driving in sports cars, boating and more,” she beams about the work they do. “Over the last couple of months, because of the impact of COVID-19, we organized summer gifts for the children, put them in a bag and had three to four drivers to help deliver them. These gifts were then left in the garden for the family to find. It was 100% handsfree and safe. We are going to do it again for the holidays. Next year, when gatherings are allowed, we want to plan a big event.”
Desiree is the definition of a ‘people person.’ She really enjoys working with others and connecting on a personal and meaningful level. And that has made her professionally successful as well. “In my career I’ve met so many nice people… and I’m still in contact with almost all of them,” she explains about her fondness for interpersonal connections.
It was that ability to keep in touch with former colleagues that led her to BagsID. Desiree had worked with Marlon previously and just over a year ago he came to her house and told her: “I’m going to do something really great, and I want you to be a part of it.” She was excited about the potential and promised to join the team in a few months. After BagsID became a participant in the coveted the Hangar 51 Accelerator Programme, Marlon said: “Now I really need your assistance, are you available?” And she joined the team. Funny thing was, despite this being her first position in the air travel industry, it was not her first time considering it.
“I’ve been a personal assistant my whole life. I’ve been in this business more than 30 years now. To be honest, I didn’t want to be a secretary, I wanted to be a stewardess,” she remembers. “At the age of 19, I interviewed with the NLM (former KLM Cityhopper). I did a full day of interviews, role-plays, you name it. They told me ‘You are a great girl and are going to be a great woman, but if you could come back when you are 23 you can interview for KLM Airlines. Please come back because you are very service minded.’”
“After the job interview, I went back to school. I also wanted to go to Greece with a friend, so I applied to a temporary job for three months to earn the money to go. I now call it my ‘extended holiday job.’ I became a secretary in 1990 and I’m still one today! My intention was to work for three months then go on holiday and see what would come along my path. I’ve been a personal assistant for many years, and I still enjoy it!”
Since then, she has worked for companies large and small.
“I was at a one company for almost 10 years that only had 40 employees at the start. I worked with everyone and every department. Being that spider in the web really suits me,” she explains with a visual which perfectly sums up how she integrates through the entire organizational structure. She then goes on to say: “You want to do good for everybody, but sometimes that’s not possible.” Which leads us to the most important piece of advice that she has used throughout her career…
“Be the best you can be, be loyal but do not take everything home. I’m a very loyal person and I have this great sense of how people are feeling. But I used to take other people’s problems home, or problems of the business I worked for, but that’s not always good.”
She believes everyone needs a break from the hustle at work and should invest in time to decompress at home. Her favorite way to disconnect is by reading.
“I had hardly been reading and when the pandemic hit, I started again. Now I read almost every evening, but especially on the weekends. Around 3 or 4 pm, I’ll start reading.”
Considering her professional path and desire to work with airlines, ironically the book she’s currently picked up is No More Fear of Flying by Allen Carr.
“I’m so looking forward to traveling again, even though I’m afraid of flying. I have this book about how to get over the fear of flying and I want to do a course at Schiphol next year.”
Despite that fear, she and her partner love to travel. Her favorite destinations are Berlin, Germany and Miami, Florida.
“Florida is always #1 on my list. I love it so much, especially Miami. I love the easiness of the city. Obviously, we don’t stay downtown, that’s too crowded. We instead stay in Aventura… nice restaurants, nice hotels, nice shops. We feel so at home. We also love Orlando and Naples. It’s the Florida feeling that I really like.”
And considering BagsID has a second office and half the team lives in Florida, we love to have her here and hope she’ll be able to travel again soon – this time without that fear of flying! Thank you for everything you do, Desiree, and for sharing your story with us. For more Team Talks articles like this, follow us on LinkedIn or visit our News + Views page.