17 Feb 2020

“Having a long-lasting job in an innovative company means that you keep developing yourself”

One is never too old to learn, an old saying goes. Joska Dekker, Advisor Learning & Development at Rijk Zwaan, couldn’t agree more. She is involved in the RZ Academy, an internal academy offering courses, training and daily inspiration. Her colleague William Brombai Peres, Managing Director at Rijk Zwaan Brasil, gives a unique twist to that by organising a monthly TED-breakfast.

Tailor-made training

In recent years, Joska has been intensively involved in the further development of the RZ Academy, which is in place for around 6 years now. “We offer a wide range of learning and development opportunities, varying from skills training to professional courses, on different levels and for different target groups. Although in principle employees are responsible for their personal development, as an employer we want to fully facilitate them. This is why we do not work with fixed training budgets, instead we offer a customized program to all colleagues.”

Keep asking questions

The RZ Academy includes more than a 100 courses now, mostly in-company. But personal development is more than education alone. “Learning also entails that you stay curious, keep asking questions. Discuss with each other what interests or bothers you. We stimulate a ‘learning culture’ within our company, a safe environment where you may try, make mistakes, and learn from them.”

Enjoying your job

That employees continue developing themselves is equally important to both the company and the employee himself. “Employees who continue to learn, are usually better in what they do and are better able to keep up with new commercial or technological developments. Basically the point is that you enjoy your job and that you can fully deploy your talents.”


Being able to develop yourself doesn’t automatically imply that you will always need to achieve a management position. “On the contrary,” says Joska. “A colleague once had the ambition to become a manager. During his personal development program, he discovered that it was not so much managing he liked the most, but digging into a specific topic that gave him the greatest satisfaction. Happiness isn’t always related to vertical growth, one should do what he (or she) is good at and what makes him happy.


Apart from e-learnings and courses, the RZ Academy offers podcasts and TEDtalks on various topics. This led William Brombai Peres to organise a TED-breakfast session for his RZ Brasil colleagues. William: “The idea is quite simple. We share a TEDtalk movie with our colleagues in advance, with some questions to be discussed during the breakfast. For example on how we’ll achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. What should government do? And, above all, how can we contribute ourselves?

Practicing English

“While having breakfast, we then share our ideas with each other. All in English. This is how we create a double win. We have a discussion about meaningful subjects and in the meanwhile practice our proficiency in English.” The TED-breakfast has taken place a few times now, and the feedback is positive, says William. “In this way, we create an atmosphere of openness, in which we don’t judge each other on our language skills. These sessions make us feel free to express our opinions, listen to one another, and understand that we’re all different. In the end, this also makes us a stronger team.”