my personal journey

people often ask me: “how do you become a rebel?”. well, i believe we were all born rebels, but we lose it when growing up – some more than others. we are told to fit in, not to be different. however, we need diverse ideas and perspectives to adapt to constant change. and more importantly, if you cannot be your true self, how can you be truly happy?

i share my personal story hoping to inspire others. below you’ll find some pivotal moments of my (working) life. 

personal journey rebel break out

born a rebel

when i was 4 years old, the dutch santa claus visited my kindergarten. he brought a present for every child: a doll for the girls and a toy truck for the boys. but i also wanted a toy truck! apparently i made a big fuss about it (my mother loves to tell this story). this may well be my first documented ‘rebellion’ against the system 

against all odds

when i was growing up, i wanted to go to the highest level of high school. but nobody believed i could do it. i wanted to achieve a MsC in mathematics, but nobody thought i was capable. i showed them differently. people always told me ‘to take it easy’. no! i knew i could do it. this experience learned me to have trust in myself and it is okey to follow my own path.

my first leadership role

in my early 30s, i got my first role as a leader with a responsibility for a team of 250 KLM engineers and mechanics. this was drinking from a firehose! without any leadership experience and a manager that repeatedly crossed ethical boundaries, i seriously doubted myself. i had to make some really tough choices, but i learned to rely on my moral compass.

rethinking success

in one of my leadership roles, i was threatened by a co-worker for a couple of months. this had a major impact on me and made me rethink my corporate career. i concluded that i wanted to do cool stuff, regardless of whether this would help me climb the corporate ladder. that decision relieved me of a lot of stress and made me much more comfortable with just being me.

it can be done

we designed a totally new laundry process with a team of people from over ten different departments and a very sustainable and innovative supplier. we signed a 10-year contract with the supplier, which was never done before within KLM! we showed that saving costs, reducing CO2 emissions, and contributing to society, are not polarities and can go very well together. it is a matter of being creative and innovative, building a multidisciplinary team, having the guts to stand for what you believe in, and just keeping going.

klm innovation award winner - twice!

klm’s core operational process (aircraft turnaround) was in a deadlock for years. my urge to make things better is very strong, so i (naively) took ownership. i created a team of rebels, no managers allowed, and we pulled it off! 30% improvement, 100+ million euro savings, implementation within a few months, and a super proud team. the team won the award for ‘best innovation’ and i was awarded ‘most inspirational innovator’. being a rebel was not so bad after all.

a bold proposal

in 2014, when pieter elbers was appointed as the new KLM CEO, i took a leap of faith and sent him an email: “hey pieter, free me up and i am going to do cool stuff for you”. he said yes! i founded KLM’s so-called ’SWAT-team’ with another colleague. within 1,5 years we saved millions of euros by helping employees to implement their ideas – from big to very small ones. it gave me once more proof that if you open up to rebel talent in an organisation, magic happens.

feeling stuck

although the SWAT-team was highly successful, i experienced a lot of resistance from middle and higher management. i was in disbelief. how could something so beneficial for the company encounter so much opposition? i felt stuck. my participation in THNK’s creative leadership program was my salvation. it opened up my world in many ways and gave me the courage to follow my heart.

the time has come for 'reBella'

in 2018, after THNK, i finally got the courage to jump ship and start my own company: rebel + bella = rebella. now, i unleash rebel talent in organisations and i am a catalyst for innovation. every organisation is different and has its own innovation journey. i am a multipotentialite; which makes it hard for people to put me in a box. however, this makes me very effective in collaborating with a wide range of organisations and tackle their specific innovation challenges.

barcelona - here i come!

my first big assignment was to supercharge innovation at vueling airlines in barcelona. i got the opportunity to build a diverse, crazy cool team of rebels. we embarked on an unforgettable 2-year journey. with our heads in the clouds while keeping our feet on the ground, we envisioned the future and got immediate bottom-line results. i learned that if we did not get enough pushback from the organisation, we were not dwelling on the edge far enough.

rebels are not troublemakers

organisations misunderstand the power of rebellious people. they see the trouble, not the possibilities. i felt the need to stand up for rebels, and published my first booklet “oh no! we have a REBEL in our team“. the response has been great. many people reach out to me and tell me they identify as a rebel as well. they feel unheard and undervalued, and they are burning or bored out. it gets to me, each and every time.

enjoying the ride

as an entrepreneur, you never know what’s coming next. but i am starting to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. i feel extremely lucky to work with so many cool people from great brands on amazing assignments. i discovered i enjoy writing columns, which i get to do on two large platforms in the netherlands. 

the rebel booklet series is here!

i received a lot of positive responses to my first booklet, but also many questions. so, i felt the need to elaborate more and create a booklet from the rebel’s perspective (“oh no! i am a rebel, now what?!?“) and from the leader’s perspective (“oh no! our rebels are leaving!”). the rebel booklet series is now official and looking forward to creating more titles!

what's next?

so … that’s a mystery, even for me. 

but if my story resonates with you and you feel like we should collaborate in some way or the other, just reach out to me and we’ll explore what that could look like.

rebel research

for my research on rebels, i collect rebel stories. if you have a 'rebel experience', i would love to hear from you!

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