This article is the third of a series on “Berlin’s Changemakers”, people with a passion to drive positive change in their communities by making use of their skills, knowledge, and network. With this series, I want to highlight these people and show that there are many ways to have a positive impact on our society and our planet.
For the third part of the series “Berlin’s changemakers”, I interviewed Rona van der Zander just before the end of 2019. Rona is the founder of GrowbeYOUnd and the host of the same-named podcast. The podcast is dedicated to the topic “future of work and education“, the topic she is most passionate about. Moreover, she is a published author, university lecturer, speaker, and moderator at conferences.
You are the founder of GrowbeYOUnd and you recently started a new position as co-founder at si:cross. How would you describe your work and roles within the two companies?
With GrowbeYOUnd I mainly work with universities trying to bring conversations around ‘the future of work’ into the university halls. What do we still have to know in a time where information is changing so fast? What are relevant future skills? How do we want to work in the future? These are questions I am exploring together with students and university staff. I also work with companies around ‘the future of work’, which for me is ‘the future of learning’ – we all have to become life long learners. What does this mean? How do we do that?
With si:cross, in a way, we are also working on these questions…we are building a SaaS platform (Software-as-a-service) for enterprise internal podcasting. We want to enable a new form of communication and exchange of ideas and knowledge within companies. Even though we also offer in-person services, the key product is the software – so the work is very different and I am learning a lot, alongside an amazing team.
How does a “normal” workday look like for you? Isn’t it difficult to balance the two jobs and the other projects you are involved in?
All my days are very different – from talks, workshops, over to preparing workshop content and pitches. I have to be pretty structured to manage everything but I enjoy the different tasks and variation.
What motivated you to focus on the future of work and 21st-century skills in the first place?
For me, education has always been the key to implement positive change and I have worked in education projects all over the world. Currently, we live in times of rapid change and we finally need to adjust our ‘education’ and learning to these times!
Where do you see the biggest challenges in the education system (in Germany) nowadays? What needs to change to prepare young people better for the future?
Biiiig questions…I would say in many ways with our teaching and learning systems are still stuck in the last century. We ‘teach’ information – but information is constantly updated these days and available everywhere all the time. We still prepare young people for a linear and predictable ‘career path’ – but things have become much more flexible and change radically and rapidly. Therefore we need to become lifelong learners that enjoy exploring and trying and are open to constant change.
Looking back, what helped you the most in your personal and professional journey?
My international experience (lived and worked in 8 countries) helped me for sure to develop an open mind – to be ready to always learn, try and be open to change.
What are your biggest lessons learned (so far)?
Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. The race is long and in the end, it is only with yourself.
If you had to nominate a person that is a real changemaker and inspiration in your eyes, who would that be and why?
Holly Ransom – I met her in the USA and she really inspired me – to become an entrepreneur and to just go out and ‘do it’!
Check out her TED-talk “The future of work and education” for more in depth insights: