'I hope that we can grow together'
Interview with Kaikai Jing, chair of the International Alumni Network Netherlands (IANN)
On 4 November 2017, Alumni Association AUV launched a new alumni chapter for international graduates, called IANN. IANN stands for International Alumni Network Netherlands. It is a network that connects a diverse set of alumni from different backgrounds, work fields, interests and ages. Kaikai Jing is one of the initiators of the new alumni network. We spoke with Kaikai about her motivation to start the new chapter and about her vision for IANN’s future.
Kaikai was born and raised in China. “I’m 100% made in China,” she jokes. Kaikai moved to The Netherlands twelve years ago. After an exchange program in Toronto, she went back to Amsterdam and decided to stay. “It’s so amazing to live so close to cultural treasures like the National Ballet and the Concertgebouw, where you can explore world class performances, concert halls and masterpieces within half an hour from my house. I can just book a ticket after work and have direct access to great things!”
Today, Kaikai works at Brunel as a financial and strategy analyst. She received her bachelor's degree in Economics and her master's degree in Finance from the University of Amsterdam in 2008. It was a difficult period to find a job in finance. “I had a permit that allowed me to stay for one year. I was referred to my first job through a UvA network. And through the network I built at my first job, I found a job at my current employer.” Kaikai believes that she was lucky. “I had help. I was part of different networks. But not everybody has this kind of luck. So, I thought, why not start something to support people like me, the international alumni?”
Kaikai met Mirjam and Christina, who work at UvA Development and Alumni Relations, during a career event for international master students early 2016. They mentioned that they had the intention to start a platform to support the development of international alumni. “I was happy to meet more people who shared my thoughts,” Kaikai says.
Through her experience in building networks, Kaikai learned that networking is not about exchanging business cards. “It’s about cultivating relationships and building trust. This means that you build a relationship where you benefit, but where you also give back. From there you can build long term, meaningful relationships. That’s what I imaged IANN should be.” Through a survey, Kaikai found five other international alumni who aligned with her thoughts on IANN. Together with Kaikai, Ally Dragozet, Stanislav Nikolov, Birute Aleknaite, Sunil Behera and Anissa Jousset are the board of IANN.
Four pillar framework
The people that IANN wants to reach are not just fresh graduates, but people from all ages. “At different stages of your life, you have different interests and can share different valuable experiences which increase the value of the network for everyone involved. We want to include this diversity as much as possible,” explains Kaikai. The board has developed a four-pillar framework to guide IANN. The four pillars are personal development, professional advancement, integration into Dutch society and giving back to peers and community.
“We hope to organise different types of events around these pillars,” Kaikai expresses. And although officially IANN just launched, they already organised their first event a few months earlier. This event was about personal branding and it was attended by more than 40 guests. IANN is planning two more events this year: a Stargazing Tour in November and a Pubquiz in December. “These events have different themes, because we wish to reach a broad group of audience. In the first year, we want to develop our brand. We’re working on a promotional video and we are looking for organisations that share our vision that we can collaborate with. At the same time, we want to raise awareness among the international community.”
Kaikai sees a bright future for IANN. “We have enthusiastic people on the board, who work hard for it. And so far, we have received very positive feedback from alumni. People have similar struggles and want to have a place where they can talk about it and share ideas. We know that we’re doing the right thing.” And although IANN’s primary audience is international alumni, Dutch UvA alumni are also welcome. Kaikai: “Everyone who fulfils our mission is welcome. If you have an international mindset and want to be connected with a more diverse group of people you will find IANN a very interesting network to participate in. I hope that we can grow together.”