Mindfulness journey

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf! Josta takes us on her mindfulness journey, the challenges of learning to be kind to yourself and conquering her fear of public speaking.

Josta Kolkman

L&D Manager for EMEIA FSO, Lead Trainer for the EY Mindfulness Network Talent


“Mindfulness really helped me... It’s changed the way I look at things and the way I respond to whatever comes my way.”


What is your role at EY, and what led you to working here?

I joined EY just over 10 years ago. Back then, I really didn’t think I would last that long. It was supposed to be a job that paid the bills after I had quit my job in the hotel industry, as I was planning to open a hostel in my home town - Leiden.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been a very people-oriented person. I made connections easily, had tonnes of friends and, when away from home, I was the spokesperson for my siblings as they were more shy and didn’t dare to ask where the toilet was, or if they could have another apple juice! It was a logical choice for me to pursue a career in hospitality... even though both my parents worked in finance.

When I joined the Netherlands Learning & Development (L&D) team, my plans for starting a hostel moved further and further out of my mind. Until they ended up “in the refrigerator” as we would say in Dutch. I really enjoy my work in L&D; working directly with current and prospective clients to enrol them onto our client curriculum of trainings.

Although I loved my role, I didn’t hesitate at all when I was approached to support the creation of an EMEIA FSO Learning & Development team. I joined the team in July 2010 and I have been with the ever-growing team since then. Sometimes I jokingly call myself the “team dinosaur”.

In 2014, I was going through a turbulent period in my personal and professional life. It was through an old friend that I was introduced to Mindfulness. Being raised by a father whose interest reached from crop circles to mantra signing, and a mother who practically lives for science, I didn’t think I would be attracted to it. However, I attended a workshop and loved it from the start! The trainer was able to memorise all 40 participants’ names: I was so amazed! The angle of the session – a combination of (neuro) science, psychology and Eastern philosophies – psychology and Eastern philosophies.

Mindfulness really helped me get through that difficult period and is helping me on a daily basis. It’s changed the way I look at things and the way I respond to whatever comes my way. Being human, it doesn’t mean that I am forever stress-free or emotionally stable, but it does allow me to be kind to myself in any given situation – as much as possible.


What challenges have you encountered since working at EY?

In 2015, I joined the EY Mindfulness Network, as a Champion and in summer 2016, I got the opportunity to become lead trainer. Having developed a fear of speaking in public since working at EY (it’s the world’s number one fear – can you believe it!), I had never thought I would want to become a trainer but I loved my eight-week Skype series so much that I decided to enrol onto the Teacher Training with Bangor University early 2017.

In my role, I speak to a large number of colleagues from across the Globe in various ranks and roles and it’s become clear that no matter where someone is based, or what they do, anyone can use more awareness and focus on the job. The work ethos in EY is very high, and it’s not always easy for most of us to manage that. Mindfulness teaches us to better take care of ourselves and to have a different relationship with our thoughts and emotions – which are actually the two things that cause us most stress!


Do you have any advice for others to lead a happy, healthy working life?

I would encourage everyone with a dream that could be implemented in EY to raise their voice. If you speak to enough people about your dream, I am sure that someday about your dream, I am sure that someday you to the right person!

For those looking for a happy, healthy working life, I would like to offer Jon Kabat-Zinn’s quote “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Life is always going to have ups and downs, and so will our working life. For me it’s all about approaching the good and the bad with an accepting attitude