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Building a Career at C4T: Sjors Vonken

Tue , 20 Apr 2021 | Customs, customs4trade, work environment, jobs, career

Sjors’ internationally focused education and experience prior to joining C4T made him a natural fit. He went to school in Maastricht, a university city uniquely located on the border of the Netherlands and surrounded by French-speaking Belgium, Dutch-speaking Belgium, and Germany. There he earned his Bachelor’s in European Law, which covered everything from criminal to civil law, not just for the EU but for a variety of legal systems. In his Master’s studies, he specialised in trade and investment law.

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“Maastricht is known for its international character,” shared Sjors. “The University has students from 65 different nationalities. The majority of students are non-Dutch speaking and my department consisted of about 300 students, only 10 of whom were Dutch. In Maastricht, you quickly learn that there can be differences in culture and mentality across the street, not just across the pond. It was loads of fun and I got to know so many different people and backgrounds.”

Two years ago, fresh from University, Sjors got a job offer from a consultancy for a traineeship in a law and IT programme in Amsterdam. Based on his strengths, they offered him a placement at an insurance firm in Brussels, where he spent the following year working as a bridge between IT and legal.

Due the pandemic, however, Sjors lost his job, a circumstance that he made into an opportunity. “It gave me time to reflect on whether I truly liked what I was doing, and I came to the conclusion that it was too IT related for me. I really wanted to get back into legal more.” Not long after, a friend came across a job posting for the Legal Content team at C4T and passed it on to Sjors. “The Legal Content department is all about bridging the gap between IT and legal, which my previous job prepared me for. My background in international and trade law also really fits the job description. During my first interview, there was an instant connection. After talks with the founders, Pieter and Ilse, I felt really good about the company. It is a place where you get treated for the person you are and not a number in a really long list.”

Sjors joined C4T in early December of 2020 as the second addition to the Legal Content team, a knowledge hub within C4T tasked with keeping up to date on legal changes that must be integrated in CAS. This requires fluid communication, which can be a challenge when everyone is working remotely. “Starting at the ground level is really exciting, yet it has been doubly different. Onboarding when everything was virtual was odd. Everyone on the team has really tried their best to get me up to speed, but without being able to just tap someone on the shoulder, answers take more time. Also, we are a newly established team so we are finding our own way.”

This is a great fit for Sjors, who is always up for a challenge. “Before the pandemic I always thought, for example, going out with friends or buying specific things made me happy, but it is actually something completely different. Namely, making progress in everything I do. Whether that progress is training for the Amsterdam 10 miles or building brand new professional relationships or increasing my customs and legal affairs knowledge, they all spark positive thinking and happiness in me.”

In the short term, Sjors’ objective is to get to know everyone at C4T and become more acquainted with the core business and how the Legal Content team can best contribute. “People know our team exists, but they don’t quite know how to utilise our expertise yet. We have started a newsletter to begin getting information out and will adjust it based on feedback.”

One of Sjors’ favorite parts about his job is not knowing in the morning how his day will play out. “My day starts by checking the news to see if there have been any changes to European legislation or UK customs. It’s adventurous! On Christmas Eve, when I was sitting at home and just about to start eating dinner, I found out that the EU and UK had arrived at a free trade agreement! Details had to be communicated for implementation in CAS and we only had one week until Brexit.”

Sjors’ job at C4T is about 70% legal and 30% IT, which he says is a perfect balance for him. “In my free time, I do a lot of running and am looking forward to joining C4T’s running group when we are able to get together again. In the meantime, I make sure that I take the time to go for a run because it really helps me to focus on my job.”

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