Once you have found your ‘thing’: don’t hesitate, go for it!

Lonneke Opsteegh

Entrepreneur - Owner of StatStories & ResearchStories

Name: Lonneke Opsteegh
Master’s degree: Human movement sciences and organizational psychology (University of Groningen)
PhD degree: Rehabilitation (UMCG/ RuG)
Current position: Entrepreneur - Owner of StatStories & ResearchStories

Ambition: What was your ambition in terms of career perspective, during your PhD?

I was mainly confused. I knew I wasn’t a true researcher at heart. I didn’t feel the same passion about my PhD topic as I saw in my colleague PhD’s. For a very long time -until even years after finishing my PhD- I didn’t really know what to do, what suited me best. So, I tried different jobs. Employers were happy with my work. But in every job, I realized it wasn’t my job. It was never a perfect fit, which led to frustration and boredom: I wasn’t using my full potential.

Difficulties: Which uncertainties did you face?

It was hard not having a clear goal during my PhD. Not being able to find my purpose in the years afterwards, didn’t make it any easier. Finally, I realized I needed to dig deeper into myself to find out what I wanted.

Five years after finishing my PhD I became an entrepreneur: I wanted to help businesses with better utilizing their data. My ‘specialty’ is data communication. I now see myself as a translator: I translate data into clear visuals in reports and dashboards that support businesses understand their data better, leading to quicker and better decision-taking. I also help with the implementation of more data-driven ways of working.

However, I still felt a strong connection to Academia. I started teaching PhD’s and senior researchers at various universities about data visualization. Together with experts I even started a second company recently in which we teach about science communication, from impact to illustration, from storytelling to making your data physical.

Helping hand: What helped you in taking the career step?

Taking a distance from everyday life. Letting go of all fears and beliefs I had about myself and the world. During my PhD I didn’t like to work alone, while today I love it. I was afraid of the financial uncertainty as a researcher. Being self-employed means you can never predict your income. Through personal development I got rid of these fears and beliefs.

And then… just take the jump. Go for it, give it a try. Go all the way, no old connections to previous employers to fall back to. That would mean I wouldn’t believe in myself and my idea, so then why start at all? If you don’t believe in your products or services, why would a client believe you? So, two days after I decided to start StatStories, I ended my job and went to the KvK to register.

Personal growth: Why does this job fit you?

The personal growth has been tremendous. Of course, I was afraid when I started. I was uncertain, and didn't know where to start. But I got help from various organizations, got a business coach, and rented a working space at a StartUp office space where they also offered an acceleration programme. You could plan meetings with experienced entrepreneurs, and ask them everything. From: ‘do you have an idea how I could market my product?’ to ‘Will you be my client?’. I’ve learned so much, became mentally and commercially stronger. Appeared to be a natural talent at ‘social marketing’, even though I’ve never felt like I did any marketing. It is just me, sharing what I love doing.

The takeaway: What can others learn from your story?

If you’re not happy, leave. Find what makes you energetic, happy and you will find your focus. It can take some time, I needed 5 years to find my passion, but I wouldn’t change a thing. And I think I’ll never be able to work for an employer again. It’s ok to take time. But once you’ve found your ‘thing’: don’t hesitate, go for it! Act fast, otherwise these old fears and beliefs might kick in again…