Follow-up Friday: International Women’s Networking Group

Previously I wrote about the International Women’s Networking Group in Rotterdam, and how they’ve helped me find my way here in the Netherlands.

On January 25, 2019, we hosted a networking event for women to eat, learn, and most importantly, make meaningful connections for both their professional and personal aspirations.

left to right: Ria van Doorn, Yustine Alvares, Sterling Schuyler, Kristina Jackson. Photo by Sharon Salerni

What Women Want: Women Who Get Shit Done


The day of the event, I realized I was truly supported by women who knew how to get things done.

I previously found myself managing events because most people involved simply didn’t care, or were too afraid to take responsibility. No one was willing to commit to solving a hard problem, but they were eager to take credit for any aspect of success.

I’m not a big fan of failure, and I will do my best to prevent it. I am a person not only willing to take the credit for a successful event, but also to take the blame for a bad one. Someone has to get it done, right?

But for this event, it wasn’t necessary for me to carry the whole burden. None of these women were afraid to take responsibility, and none of us were willing to let it be a bad event.

In fact, I found that I was able to enjoy the event because we had all the pieces in place from the start. Early in the evening, I said to Kristina, “I’ll be running around during the event. There’s no way I can just sit down and enjoy myself. That’s just part of managing an event, right?”

Turns out it doesn’t have to be when you have the right team.

Motivated to Create Me-Time and Meet New People


We had two program blocks – Achieving Success and Personal Branding – as well as a networking activity prompted by Ria van Doorn. This was my favorite part of the evening because during the 30 minute break, I never saw a woman alone.

Ria van Doorn leads an exercise about establishing Me-Time. Photo by Sharon Salerni

Meeting new people is hard, especially in a roomful of strangers. But it became clear that these women were ready to start relationships, and the questions Ria provided were a comfortable way for women to initiate purposeful conversations with each other.

Have you ever been in a room with that kind of energy? Where everyone present wants you to walk up to them and introduce yourself? By the time the event had well-passed its conclusion, there were still women connecting and getting to know each other.

We had attendees asking how they could get involved with the next event, eager to continue making meaningful connections. I’d say my only disappointment with so many people attending was that I didn’t have a chance to meet them all.

Our Support Team: The People Who Make the Event Memorable


While we worked hard to make this event happen, we also had incredible support from both inside and outside the International Women’s Networking Group.

The Event Planner

Anna Gallo came on board at the last minute to help us create the ambience. I’ll admit: I was nervous about bringing on an event planner a week before the event who hadn’t seen the event space, and hadn’t been part of the event planning process.

But she was truly professional. She arrived with an armful of fresh flowers and a suitcase packed with magic, and she transformed that space from a co-working paradise to a cozy experience.

Attendees break the ice at Business, Bubbles, and Bites: A Women’s Networking Event

Again, I hate that my previous experience with event management has made me so jaded. But Anna truly restored my faith in working with professionals.

The Location Manager

And speaking of the space, Leon and his team at Progress Bar were simply amazing. Progress Bar is a co-working office that offers space to gather with like minded peers, so that members can achieve progress together. It was a great environment to host our first IWNG networking event.

Cintia Taylor talks about the power of storytelling. Photo by Sharon Salerni

We didn’t give Leon much guidance for a menu, other than a general ratio of veggies, fruits, cheeses, meats, and breads that we wanted (i.e. more veggies than meats). We also knew we wanted red and white wine, as well as a welcome drink.

It was a bare amount of information, but Leon transformed our request into a varied spread of snacks, beverages, and cocktails. He even made guacamole from scratch to go with the tortilla chips.

And beyond just our food and beverage needs, he made anything and everything we needed easily available to us, from kitchen equipment to music streaming. It was such a delight to not stress about these seemingly small components.

Nigerian meat (and veggie) pies by Kajose Culinair

The Featured Chef

While there wasn’t a full kitchen available for Ediri Sobotie of Kajose Culinair to warm up her meat (and veggie) pies, Progress Bar still offered everything they could. Speaking of those meat pies though, if you’ve never had Nigerian food, it needs to be on your bucket list.

It may look like an empanada, but the spice profile is unlike any other cuisine (at least as far as I’ve encountered). If you have an event to be catered, consider hiring Kajose Culinair. Not only will the food be a crowd pleaser, but you’ll also have Ediri’s bubbling personality to accompany it.

Final Thoughts


It was heart-warming to see my notifications full of praise for the event, the group, and all the women who attended. I am so proud to be part of this team, and I’m humbled to know such incredibly inspiring women.

This was the first large event that IWNG has hosted since its founding in November 2017, and I will say it’s the first of many. I can’t wait to see what we come up with next.

Follow Friday: International Women’s Networking Group Rotterdam

One of my biggest reservations about moving abroad was how difficult it would be to meet people.

First of all, as a freelancer, I’m not interacting with many people (if anyone) on a daily basis. I may occasionally meet with clients, but as it stands now, most of my work is remote.

And second, even if I do happen to leave my house, most of the people I interact with are Dutch. Don’t get me wrong – the Dutch are lovely. But I don’t speak Dutch, and even though they speak English, sometimes it’s nice to speak with people who have similar experiences.

International Women’s Networking Group Rotterdam

Like most people, I turned to Facebook to find people I may have something in common with. The International Women’s Networking Group Rotterdam was one of the first I found.

As I mentioned in my previous post about Vierde Vrijdag and Susanne Pieterse, networking can be nerve-wracking. It’s not easy to walk into a room full of people you don’t know but seem to already know each other.

Meeting the women of this group was different, primarily because the first time I met them was at a café, and every person that attended the event seemed to awkwardly approach the table and say

“Is this the International Women’s Networking Group?”

As a result, the conversation would break in order to welcome the newcomer and conduct a round of introductions, and then conversation would continue with this additional person.

And that’s how almost every event has been: anywhere between 6-10 women will attend a lunch or dinner to socialize and network. It’s been such a pleasure to meet women who work in different industries than I do, and to learn about their experiences moving from their home countries to Rotterdam.

Recently, we shared our stories about doctors and hospitals in the Netherlands, and we found that our experiences – good and bad – were not unique to just our individual selves. We all agreed that doctor visits are much easier in our native languages, but we’ve all accepted the inconvenience as part of living abroad.

There are also Dutch members who, in addition to being great company, help us navigate cultural customs, correct our pronunciations, and broaden their own horizons in our interactions.

I’m extremely thankful for this group of women who motivate me not just to leave my apartment, but to push the possibilities of friendship and professional opportunities.

Starting the New Year with a Strong, Driven Network of Women

As much as I praise my personal experience, making the decision to attend an event can be difficult for many people. Beyond simply collecting business cards, people want meaningful connections in all aspects of their lives.

At the end of January 2019, the International Women’s Networking Group Rotterdam is hosting an event at Progress Bar to help women network in order to achieve growth. Unlike other networking events, we hope to learn as much as possible about our attendees before they arrive in order to jump-start their networking process.

click on the image above to visit the Facebook event, or purchase your ticket here

We will provide a low-key ice-breaker activity to help attendees start conversations with each other, with the goal of establishing at least one meaningful connection.

There will also be speakers covering topics such as personal branding and capitalizing on the “A-ha!” moment. There will also be a chance to win goodie bags. And, of course, beverages and snacks will be provided to help ease every introvert into this social situation.

And on top of all that, guests have this unique opportunity to see what Progress Bar offers as a co-working space. Unlike others in the city, Progress Bar’s intimate space encourages members to interact, as well as enjoy meals or coffee together (at no additional cost). Their mission is to promote progress, and they believe that interaction with like-minded people outside of your normal circles is key to success.

I highly recommend you join us, not just because I want this to be a successful event, but because I believe we can all benefit from meeting new people (but in this case, women).


Are you looking for a strong, independent woman to get shit done? Let’s talk!