'It’s important to me to give back without expecting anything in return'

Despite her mom being a Human Resources Manager, Ilham El Khayari never really understood what HR was all about. That is, until she chose to study HRM and it all started to make sense. So much sense that, in 2016, she was awarded the HR Talent of the Year Award.

Ilham El Khayari is Senior Learning & Talent Development Advisor Benelux at Accenture.

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‘I grew up in the Watergraafsmeer in Amsterdam. As it’s essentially like a separate small town within the city, I’ve never considered myself a true “Amsterdamse”. I come from a non-traditional Moroccan family. I say “non-traditional” because my mom was the parent who worked full-time, while my dad stayed at home to look after me and my three younger sisters, who are two, seven and nine years younger than me respectively. My dad was the one who took us to school, picked us up and did all the cooking and cleaning at home. For me, that was normal - just the way it was.’

‘I always felt very responsible for my younger sisters. While the eldest is more like my best friend, the two younger ones really look to me as their big sister, in every sense of the word. Above all else, I have always wanted to be someone my sisters can look up to and learn from. I am not sure if I’m the role model I hope to be just yet, but I do know that my family is very proud of me and where I am today.’  

Rather than being confused by my mixed heritage, I now consider it one of my greatest assets.

‘I went to a predominantly white primary school. So when I went to high school, which was far more culturally diverse, I was faced with quite a culture shock. For the first time, I met other kids who shared my Moroccan cultural background, but who had grown up in completely different environments. For one, their families were more traditionally structured, but I also benefited from a better economic situation than most of them had. Some of the kids used a lot of “slang” that I had never heard before. On top of this, I think the rest of my class considered me a “goody-two-shoes” - for instance, it bothered me when teachers were bullied. These disparities made me feel quite disconnected from my Moroccan peers - more “Dutch”, so to speak - and so I battled with some uncertainty around my identity. But today, that struggle is far behind me: now I proudly refer to myself as a Dutch woman with Moroccan roots. Rather than being confused by my mixed heritage, I now consider it one of my greatest assets.'

More about Ilham's passion, life-changing moments, and surprising facts are awaiting you to discover. Read her full story and explore the opportunities to join us and share your own stories at: www.werkenbijaccenture.nl

Author: Inge Abraham