Everybody is looking for succes. But what is that? What it represents and how we can achieve it? If you’re searching on Google “how to be succesful” you will find same things everywhere. All successful people will tell you to be yourself, to be confident in your forces and to work a lot. Of course, the work, self-confidence or determination are important, I can not deny that, but I’m aiming elsewhere: do you deserve to be successful? Are you strong enough and you’ve worked enough to be in the top of pyramid? I’m not the best, I don’t have a recipe for success, but I’m keep trying, failing and learning; usually the great things require a lot of fails, but that is the major difference between a successful person and a loser: a champion will never give up!

For me, success represents a simple fact. It’s not something that you get at the end. It’s like when you enjoy the adventure, not the destination. Success is when you wake up in the morning, watch yourself in the mirror and you say “I’m proud of myself.”, success is when you pass a hard obstacle, success is when you are beyond your limits, when you get out of the comfort zone, when you climb that high mountain, when you feel that you’re in the top, when you can say “I’m the king of the world.”

You are not supposed to prove that you’re awesome – just simply watch in the mirror and feel a successful person. Trust me, you’re awesome. Don’t waste time, make your plan, be persistent, create a healthy routine and change your mind.

Tom Leene inspired me in that. He came to hold a presentation in my university and I was simply attracted by his attitude. He proved that everybody could be a successful person if they loved what we did. If we’re the best in our field, we will be unstoppable. Just make a list: in what you’re good, what are your weaknesses and check your opportunities and threaths. (search on Google: SWOT analysis).

Tom is the Director of Fokker Engineering Romania at GKN Aerospace and he came from Zwolle, Netherlands. He got a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Management at Windesheim University and then, he finished a Master in Business Administration (M.B.A.)  at  University of Groningen. He also worked for Philips, McDonald’s and Fokker.

Throughout his educational and professional career he’ve always tried to explore different cultures and customs. Meeting new people, but also spending time with great friends, gives him energy and a sense of fulfillment.

However, there is what Tom thinks about success, being yourself and education.

1.      Who is Tom Leene when he isn’t the CEO of Fokker Engineering Romania?

I would say that I’m an active person looking for new things to explore around me. That can be exploring new cities (like Bucharest) but also experiencing new places to eat, go out or just have fun in general. I also try to be active in sports. I love to go snowboarding in the winter and running and mountain biking in the rest of the year. Next to this I am socially oriented and try to meet up with friends and family whenever I can.

2.      How would you describe Romania to someone?

I get this question a lot from friends and coworkers abroad. Not a lot of people have visited Romania yet and they have this picture in their head of an Easter European country. From my point of view this is absolutely not the case and I always try to make the comparison with Italy or Spain. Romania is a really warm country with Latin influences and you can see and feel this in the Romanian culture. Especially when it gets warm again you see people living more outside, going to the parks or terraces. Before I got here I never thought that this would be the case.


3.      Which are the major differences between Romania and the Netherlands?

In general I think Romania and the Netherlands are quite alike. We share many of the same (European) principles and even while working together the differences are not that big. One striking difference that comes to mind is that Dutch people are more direct and say immediately what they think without being held back by who is in front of them. If, in their opinion, the boss has a stupid idea they will say it flat out. This can be beneficial in some cases but we have to be aware that this does not work the same way in other counties around us. On the other side I feel that Romanians tend to put more emotions in their communication. This is quite uncommon for a Dutch person as we focus more on hard content. I feel that the differences between us are similar to the differences experienced between the north and the south of Europe. Frequent communication and constantly memorizing yourself of the differences in culture can overcome these differences. We should not focus too much on how to communicate our message, but more on how it will be received by the people around us.


4.      Which is the major problem of humanity and how we can solve it?

A very broad question and hard to give a specific answer to. My first reaction would be global warming as this is the one single threat to humanity as a whole. Everybody can contribute to reducing this by being conscious about our ecological footprint and actively searching for improvements. GKN Fokker is doing that as a company as well by constantly searching for new ways to make lightweight components to reduce weight and emissions.


5.      How do you push through your worst times?

I am practically oriented and try always look ahead without dwelling in the past. If things go wrong, I try to see what other solution there is still available or what other route we can take. I get feedback from friends and coworkers that I never stop until I have completed what I wanted. This is not always a good competence, but I find it to help me more often than not.


6.      What keeps you awake at night?

Mistakes! I hate to make mistakes in any way possible. If there are issues that have escalated because of my interference, I can be up all night! I start to wonder what I should have done differently to resolve the issue and the impact that action would have on the situation.


7.      Do you have a morning routine?

Yes, I do, and it’s actually extremely strict and in sequence. I am not really a morning person and just try to get ready to get my day started as fast as I can. For some reason, time lost in the morning feels more precious than time lost in the afternoon. I used to be horrible with breakfast often skipping it. Nowadays, I make a smoothie every morning and take it with me in the car. This and coffee at the office really get my day going!


8.      What “easy thing” are you doing too much?

The one thing that really stands out, I think, is using my phone. I am quickly distracted and almost addicted to news. This is a deadly combination for phone use. I do actively try to reduce it, by not always taking my phone with me or putting it out of my reach. They sound like simple solutions but I find that it works for me.

9.      What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

As said, I am practically oriented and really action driven. Whatever I have on the agenda, I really want to finish because it gives me a sense of completion. For me, these can be every little things, like answering an specific email or singing some papers. I get fulfillment out of checking off action lists.

10.  What do you love about your job?

Well, I love the diversity in my current job. I get to be in the middle of many stakeholders and I am actively involved internally and externally. This diversity keeps me interested and motivated. Next to this, I really love working with the people around me in the office. I have come to realize that I am informal and social and need human contact to enjoy my work. Put me in a room by myself and I would go mad after a day.

11.  How do you organize your time?

As said, I am really action oriented and so I constantly have a “to do” list in front of me that I try to work through. The to do list has three options; if I can do it in 5 minutes, I’ll do it straight away. If it needs more time, I either put a meeting/appointment in my agenda or I put it on hold to deal with in a later stage. Most of my actions involve different people or organizations around me, so keeping a correct agenda is crucial for me.


12.  Do you have any message to current students?

I think the most important lesson for any student is to enjoy what you are doing! Whether it is being at the university studying or working your first job, you should be able to reflect and truly feel that you love what you are doing. If that is not the case then actively search what you are missing and try to fulfill this need.


13.  Which is the most important quality for a successful person?

It’s a bit of an easy answer, but I very much believe that you can only be successful as a person if you love what you are doing! This does not just count for work, but also in your personal life. You are not able to be good at your job if you already hate going to the office. On the other side, a job does not define your successfulness as a person and a well-balanced personal life is definitely part of it.

Thanks again, Tom, for your help and lessons. Also thanks to Dana A. for the editorial help.