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Irene van der Werf: “Remote Working Means I Can Be My True Self”

Irene is truly a people person, and she’s devoted to making Omnipresent - and the world - a better place. Discover her story.
August 8, 2022 3 mins read

Taking a human-centered approach to business

Irene grew up in the Netherlands, in a small town relatively insulated from the outside world. When she hit her teens, she left home. It was rough for a few years, and Irene ended up homeless at one point. Little did she know then that what was a challenging time would later add meaning and value to her life.

The insight she gained from this experience has shaped her into the passionate and empathetic person she is today. Someone headhunted to build the people partnering department at Omnipresent, and a person who works for an NGO in her spare time, specializing in projects for homeless people and refugees.

"Back when I left home, I didn't think the odds were in my favor, so I'm proud of where I am today," says Irene. "I take immense pride in being business-driven but with a human approach. I want to work in a way that aligns with my values. I don't think caring for people and having a business drive have to be mutually exclusive."

The lessons she learned from this time helped drive her determination to complete her studies - which she did - and to travel and see the world - which she did. She has lived in multiple countries, including the UK, Morocco, and Spain, and studied in the Netherlands with semesters in China and the Caribbean. Today Irene loves her life in Berlin with her partner and friends and a job that she genuinely enjoys.

The freedom to be who you are

With a clear passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), Irene believes that remote, global work unlocks opportunities for lots of different people. "It doesn't matter where you're located, whether you're a parent or caregiver, or if you don't feel comfortable in an office, you can get your best work done," she says.

As a fully remote, globally distributed company, that's precisely what Omnipresent stands for. "I like that we're not boxed in or restricted by what's been done before," says Irene. "Instead, we're encouraged to be thought leaders and build a valuable product for so many."

Regarding her experience with remote work, Irene adds: "I get distracted easily, and working in an office is not always the most conducive environment for me. At home, I can have a cat on my lap, put on my headphones, and do much more. As a queer person, I feel more comfortable wearing the clothes that represent me without getting the questions or comments I might receive in an office."

Despite the many benefits of remote work, Irene does acknowledge that there are some drawbacks. Sometimes she does feel the loneliness start to creep in, even though she lives with her partner and sees her friends regularly. That's where her co-working pass comes in handy. "You see, working remotely doesn't have to mean exclusively working from home. I love that we have the option to use local co-working spaces at Omnipresent. I use that perk a lot; it helps keep those feelings of isolation at bay."

Remote work has also allowed Irene to explore more of the world. Since starting at Omnipresent, she's worked in Czechia, Mexico, and Turkey. "I enjoyed working in Czechia the most; I rented an Airbnb apartment in the tiniest, most peaceful village and went for walks before and after work. It was refreshing; it cleared my mind and helped me be more creative without even taking time off. It felt like I had been on holiday, even though I hadn't been," she says.

A diverse team sharing a common goal

Irene’s path to her role today as Head of People enables her to do what she loves most: learning from others and sharing their stories. After moving to Berlin about four years ago, she secured a position in a start-up that experienced incredible hyper-growth. There, Irene specialized in integrating the acquired companies into the main company. She was tasked with preserving each company’s unique identity while adapting them to the new parent company. Once she’d succeeded in doing so, Irene was headhunted to join us here at Omnipresent - and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now she gets to work with a fantastic team responsible for the entire employee lifecycle after onboarding. Together, they work to create an amazing culture, uphold the company’s values, engage with DEI, and design the best employee value proposition possible.

“I love that we have a People Partnering team with diverse skillsets. We have a former engineering manager partnering with the engineering team and a former head of salespeople partnering with our sales team. We learn from each other every day. We get lots done and have the space to make a positive difference and enable the business to succeed.”

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