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Getting ahead in digital is not a sprint, it’s a marathon   

Female leaders are on the rise. At Philips we strive for equal opportunities for everyone, no matter what background you come from or what gender you have. However, it is still a given that there are less female leaders than male leaders. Why? And what have our successful female leaders done and experienced that they have succeeded to climb the business ladder to great heights? We will be talking to female leaders in the Benelux to get their expert tips on career management and finding the right balance. First up, Sylvie Vermeend, Director Digital Marketing and Ecommerce for Personal Health in the Benelux.


Looking at Sylvie’s resume you cannot be anything other than impressed. Having worked at different companies, studied for years on end, while building an impressive, diverse career in digital. This is a fierce leader. Her trick? It’s quite simple. “My current job does not feel like a job, most of the time. I love the dynamic environment of digital and the challenges I face. There is never a dull moment in this ‘world’, said Sylvie. “Besides, I am lucky that I can combine my passion for digital with managing a young and talented team. The team keeps challenging me to change my management style and our way of working. It keeps me on edge and ensures that not a day is the same. I have found that I need this dynamic to remain happy in a job.”

First of all, a career is not a sprint, it’s a marathon."

Learning skills takes time

Looking at her own career Vermeend has learned some valuable lessons. “First of all, a career is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. When you start out, you want to get that promotion as soon as possible and grow your responsibilities. You think that if you follow a lot of courses, get interesting diploma’s, learn and read as much as possible and work too much hours, this is the holy grail for quick success. It’s not. If you go too fast, you will never learn certain aspects that belong to certain phases in your development. You need to really grow. All the things you learn, you have to practice to make them stick. You need experience to become more senior, make mistakes to become a better and wiser person and also face certain situations, also less fun ones, to take that next step in your career.”


Take time to reflect

Sylvie felt a similar rush when she started her career. In retrospect, this too has been a learning curve for her. “What I didn’t realize was that it is key to look back, reflect on the things you experience. If you don’t, you’ll never learn from them. Most of the time, it is more valuable to sit down for an hour and think about what’s going well, what can be improved, what motivates me and my team and how can I integrate that more in our way of working. Taking time to reflect, also helps me in coming up with innovative ideas. This was really an eye-opener for someone like me, who loves to do too much things in too little time.”  

If you are really passionate and you’re fortunate enough to have the drive to work towards a purpose with a passion, others will see this and want to join you”

Admirable leader skills

When reflecting on the leaders she looks up to and the ones that have helped advance her career, Sylvie can point out certain skills and traits she admires. “It may sound cheesy, but right now I am impressed with my manager Francis Das. I have never had a female manager before and I found that she taught me a lot when it comes to soft skills, but also organizational sensitivity”, admits Sylvie. When asked about a key skill to become an inspirational leader, she is clear. There is no one skill. You need a combination. “If you are really passionate and you’re fortunate enough to have the drive to work towards a purpose with a passion, others will see this and want to join you”, said Vermeend. “What I admire in other leaders is the ability to stay close to themselves. Being able to admit that sometimes you make mistakes. The higher up you get, the more difficult it is to stay close to your own values. You will also experience that these values change, even if that is not your intention. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions and you find yourself in discussions and situations that ask for strong leadership. If you are able to combine this with staying true to yourself, that is something I really admire.”

Sylvie vermeend

Sylvie Vermeend

Director Digital Marketing PH BNL

Sylvie is verantwoordelijk voor Digital Marketing en E-commerce voor Personal Health in de Philips Benelux organisatie. Gestart als digital team lead waar zij de digital change heeft ingezet binnen Personal Health door het aantrekken van digital talenten, Agile te combineren met Lean, automatiserring en een consumer first approach te implementeren. In 2018 sloot Sylvie aan bij het Management Team van Personal Health.


Voordat Sylvie bij Philips werkzaam was, heeft ze gewerkt in verschillende digital rollen bij bedrijven zoals Wehkamp, Noordhoff Uitgevers en Iwink. Daarbij altijd een focus op de ontwikkeling van digital strategieën. Sylvie heeft een Master Degree of Science (MSc) in Communication Science van de faculty of Behavioral Science aan de Universiteit van Twente. Daarnaast diverse trainingen en een Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA), gevolgd aan de Hult International Business School in Londen.


Volg Sylvie Vermeend


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