Ria Yetsenga
‘I don’t believe in coincidence’

My tip: hire someone who enriches your team

Refugee Talent Hubs partnership with TomTom has been stable and inspiring for a number of years already. We recently met up with Essam Dawood, TomTom Business Analyst, and his manager Enrique Bentue-Arantegui, TomTom Manager Maps, to talk about D&I, the meaning of work, ambition and talent.

Passionate about D&I

Enrique – originally from Barcelona – moved to Amsterdam and started working at TomTom seventeen years ago. Driven, passionate and authentic, he clearly enjoys his work and TomTom as an international and innovative organisation. Next to his job, he is a volunteer on the D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) team, “making sure D&I is not just an item on the agenda. It needs to be everywhere in the background so we are able to recognise and tackle unconscious biases and we offer our colleagues tools to be more inclusive,” Enrique explains.


“TomTom really supports us in becoming more diverse and inclusive. And it’s already such an international organisation – even in my business analytics team we have 6 nationalities!” he adds. “I’m personally quite proud of our partnerships – with Refugee Talent Hub, with TENT (internationally) and with myGwork (a global networking hub and job board for LGBT+ professionals & students). But maybe I’m most proud of the six volunteer confidants we have: people who are there – confidentially – to listen and support anyone in the organisation. It’s anonymous, safe and global.”

“I don’t believe in coincidence”

Essam, an ambitious, open-minded and talented young guy from Syria, recently joined TomTom. His story oozes determination and self-direction. After nearly completing his Project Management & Economics studies in Aleppo, Syria, he fled the country and worked in hospitality in Istanbul for three years. When he came to Amsterdam, as soon as he could, he also started to work in hospitality. “And then I reached a moment when hospitality just didn’t satisfy my ambition anymore.” Essam moved to technology, studying computer science, programming and development. He had just joined a fintech company, when – by coincidence – Enrique came across his CV through Refugee Talent Hub. “In all honesty, I’d kind of forgotten I’d registered at Refugee Talent Hub a while before. It just wasn’t on my mind anymore at all, ” Essam says. “But I don’t believe in coincidence! And it’s incredible – I’ve only been at TomTom for about half a year and it feels like home. It’s a safe and energetic environment – a perfect fit for my ambition!” Enrique adds: “I knew immediately that Essam was a very talented guy. He is many things. Only one of which is that he happens to be a person with a refugee background. So my tip to other companies and hiring managers is: you need to hire someone who enriches your team: look beyond the person’s story.”

Pep talk

Any tips for other people with a refugee background? “Absolutely,” says Essam. “Firstly, don’t sit down and do nothing. It’s awful! It makes you depressed. Try and take control – restart your life. Secondly, follow your gut. Deep deep down, we all know what we’re good at. We all have an internal compass. And thirdly, my experience is that in the Netherlands, every quality matters. You have the power to assess your own capabilities. Find the right place for your potential. Plus, learn new skills and create your own opportunities; create your own destiny. Make choices, improve yourself and take small steps.” Would you like to join Essam and Enrique? TomTom is currently hiring! Have a look at all open vacancies here.