A Board Year: a Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

Somewhere in January after another day at the office, another traffic jam due to the snow and rain and the fact that it was Thursday, I received an email in my inbox sent by Asset | Econometrics. A smile appeared on my face; that probably meant another Former Active Members’ activity would be organized at short notice.
I was wrong. It was a request from the Nekst committee to write an article about my board year. How could I refuse such a request? Let me go back to April 2008. After being an active member in several committees and almost finishing my bachelor’s degree, I decided to apply for the board of Asset | Econometrics, or TEV as we were called those days. This decision was not really made in the spur of the moment. I remember lots of talks with (study) friends, with my fellow board member Marije, but also with former board members. I tried to consider all pros and cons of a board year and tried to find out which position within the board would suited me best. Would it not be a better experience to go on an exchange or would it not be better to do an internship at a company? In the end the challenge is to learn what it takes to be responsible for both the daily business and long term vision of an association in combination with the understanding that being part of a student association is – in contrast to get some abroad and work experience – a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity, was leading in the decision to apply. I wrote a short email to the board, saved it as a draft, and sent it just before the deadline. No way back!

Wednesday June 18, 2008 was an exciting day for me, since that night the next generation of TEV-board members, or say it otherwise, the first generation of board members of
Asset | Econometrics would be announced. This turned out to be a great start of an unforgettable year. The second milestone took place on Tuesday September 9, the General Members’ Meeting. After months of preparations we were itching to get down to work! However, when we arrived at our location ‘Galaxy’ it turned out that we immediately got challenged: our meeting room was booked twice. A lot of calls and visits to potential replacing locations later, we finally found our new location ‘t Pakhuys’. The second and biggest challenge of my board year followed a few days later, due to medical reasons Sjoerd had unfortunately to decide to withdraw himself and Marije, Mathijs and I were left with the three of us. Luckily we found in Emile and Stefan two other dedicated and motivated board members who made ‘team 2008/2009’ complete.

The life of a board member is hard to describe and to understand if you have not experienced it yourself, since it is so diverse. During the weekly board meetings, which always last longer than the scheduled three hours, you are managing the daily businesses of the association. What is the progress of all committees and to what extent do we as a board have to make decisions or overrule earlier made decisions within a committee? You can imagine that the ideas of a committee are not necessarily always in line with the interest of the association, at least, through the eyes of the board.

Besides the committee related issues we discussed in our weekly meetings the future of the association and corresponding policy. One of the main questions related to this during our year was how to position within Asset. After years of discussion, 2008/2009 was the first academic year in which all economic related study associations were organized together within Faculty Association Asset. As far as I know, improving the way of working within Asset is still an important point of focus of the current board.

Not all discussions we had were that important. I remember a long and serious discussion about the question whether chocolate milk from the dispenser should be, just like coffee and tea, for free for active members and for ourselves. In the end we still did not agree on each other. Of course you always try to find a way or compromise in which everyone is satisfied in the end. However, the fact that this was not always the case shows that everyone in our board was able to formulate his or her opinion and that in case we did not agree on the opinion of the majority, we feel free to say so. This is one of the most important conditions to run an association properly.

Every now and then we also organized board brainstorm sessions, of course accompanied by a nice dinner, some beers and guitar hero. One of the points we discussed as candidate board together with board 2007/2008 was how to avoid that students will continue calling our association ‘TEV’. I mean, we all knew that
‘Asset | Econometrics’ is not an easy name to pronounce. In the end we agreed on ‘Astrics’. As far as I know you all still use Astrics which is nice to see.

Not only those board meetings were an educational experience for me, also the daily tasks of being the secretary helped me in developing myself. As part of the external affairs, I had several meetings with companies in which we talked about the possibilities of cooperation. It was not only a good way to practice and improve your communication skills, it was a perfect way to have a look inside the company as well! I felt really lucky that I got the role of active member coordinator. As an active member coordinator you usually talk twice a year with all your active members in a one-to-one conversation. In September you try to find out which committee will be most appropriate for the active member and the next one-to-one conversation is more like a coaching conversation. What goals does he or she want to reach? What has he learnt and what does he want to do different next time? And not unimportant, we used those meetings to collect feedback from active members regarding the functioning of us as board. This brings me to another important skill which you will certainly develop: giving and receiving feedback.

The aforementioned points are only a few examples of the things I have learned during my year in the board of Astrics. As you might recognize
you will not learn those skills typically from econometric classes. At that time I was not really aware of that, but
during my job as a high school teacher and also at my current job as an
actuarial junior consultant at PwC, I noticed that the skills I developed during the board year are really beneficial.

Of course, there was enough time to have fun in less serious settings than described before. Fun with members and active members in E108/E109/E123. Fun with other fellow board members of other associations. Fun on well visited formal and informal activities. And not unimportantly, fun with the five us. During the year Emile, Marije, Mathijs, Stefan and I transformed into Swa, Allie, Mattie, Buddy and Fox, respectively. We worked hard but also took enough time to relax: played volleyball in the hall, watched
Herman Finkers on YouTube, stole some flags and bowls from other associations and played another game of table football in E109. After one year of intensively working together, we know each other quite well. We still catch up a few times a year to keep memories alive and to have fun again. I am pretty sure we will stay friends for life.

It is hard to mention the most memorable activity of the year. The lustrum week will be definitely one of the likely candidates for this. After a great preparation of the committee it was a fantastic week with the gala as a highlight. I am already looking forward to the seventh lustrum next year. The ‘AvdN’ (‘Avond van de Notulen’) is another activity that I will not forget. A few months ago a picture taken at another edition of the ‘AvdN’ popped up on my Facebook wall. Great to see that what once started as a joke still is being organized.

A year in the board is a perfect way to develop yourself in all the things you do not learn in your study. It does not really matter if you are in the board of a study, sport or student association. Choose the association that feels most comfortable to you, which clearly was Asset | Econometrics for me. And of course it is commonly known that recruiters usually attach more value to experiences like a board year than to high grades. However, if building your curriculum vitae is an important motivation factor for you, please do not opt for a board year. Looking back to my study years, the board year was definitely the nicest but also most busiest year. When you do not have the intrinsic motivation it might be quite a tough job.

Nowadays, the choice for a board year might be an even more conscious choice due to the governmental change of the financial study support system. A board year will most likely cause a study delay, but see it as in investment. An investment in yourself and in your future. As an econometrician we are quite lucky that also in those times of financial crisis it is still relatively easy to find a job. So why not prolonging your study time and develop yourself in several other than technical skills? Looking back I have never regretted the choice I made to apply for the board and to quit my study for a year, it was really worth it!

One week after receiving the mail from the Nekst committee, I received an invitation for the next Former Activity Members activity. And of course I subscribed for another cozy evening in Tilburg to have fun with econometricians who all have at least one thing in common: a weak spot for Asset | Econometrics!
Text by: Linda Vos