From a very long distance and together with her two adorable daughters, we met another inspiring Kaai woman. Julie Borré moved to New York a few months ago to continue her career at the United Nations. She embraces her life with positive energy, love for her family and her new home.
Can you tell a little about yourself?
I am Julie Borré, 35 years old, mother of two children and currently breadwinner in our family. A while ago I was offered a very exciting job by the UN in a very exciting city, New York City. In August 2020, our great adventure began, and I became co-responsible for ensuring that all of our employees -there are more than 200,000-, their families and our retirees have access to health care. In the meantime, my husband writes down our New York experiences in De Standaard and, of course, our two children have also jumped on board. I am also an extrovert who goes through life with an open mind and has an enormous passion for skiing.
How do you experience New York, and does it feel like home?
Yes, the city was admittedly not unfamiliar to me. For my previous job, I traveled to New York up to four or five times a year. Of course, because of the pandemic the city is not what it used to be: there are no concerts, musicals or crazy impulsive events, but on the other hand, a tourist-free New York is nice for a family to get used to the city. We still feel privileged when we are the only ones to visit Alice Island or stand at the top of the Empire State.
The city remains beautiful and for us 2020 has been one big exploration, unlike many others, unfortunately. What I personally find the coolest about New York is that it's actually a very inclusive city, regardless of the problems in the rest of America of course, I certainly don't want to minimize anything. But we live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and here you can safely walk around in the snow in your boxers without receiving one disapproving look.
New Yorkers have a reputation for being harsh, and in many ways, they are, you're bound to run into a sour-faced New Yorker on a crowded subway, but at the same time they are tremendously friendly and helpful. For example, twice I've found myself in a cliché romcom scenario where a beautiful man came to rescue me from a clumsy stumble. People here are truly there for each other. My children began their adventure at a public school in Brooklyn where they were welcomed with open arms. I find it incredible how much effort and time is put into helping us newcomers settle in as quickly as possible. For example, through the school, our children received special guidance from language counselors to quickly master the language.
I believe that the integration system in New York is the opposite of that in Belgium. You feel that the city here is built on migrants and that just about everyone realizes what it is to be a migrant in New York. So, does New York feel like home? Yes, definitely.
What did you used to dream about, and does it correspond to the position you hold now?
I am not a dreamy person; I live from day to day and let everything come to me. That way I never have expectations that are not fulfilled. But I am definitely where I had hoped to be. I have made some great leaps in my career, with some luck of course.I've always had good colleagues and managers that I could rely on. And yes, the first time I visited New York I thought to myself 'I could live here one day'. If something comes my way, I don't hesitate to go for it. Because if it doesn't turn out the way we envisioned, we just go back and never have to wonder: What if we had done it anyway?
I can also count myself lucky to have a partner like mine. Even in 2021, it's not a given that your partner will drop his job to allow his wife to thrive; I'm immensely grateful for that. And of course, I am proud of my two beautiful daughters.
What does it mean to you to make a career and what role do you prefer to take on?
For me, making a career has nothing to do with money. I notice that there is a big difference between men and women. In my previous job I was in a team with twelve customer managers where the gender distribution was fifty-fifty. I then noticed that the men were mainly concerned with what kind of car they had, when the bonus was paid out or when there was a chance of financial growth. These are things I have never placed much value on. Of course, I need enough to live, but I really only see the rest as nice perks.
Currently I lead a team of eight people. I get the most satisfaction when they show me their gratitude for the fact that I empower them, believe in them and support them. I am driven by people management and the appreciation I get from my colleagues when I have been able to teach them something. I think it's a challenge for any novice manager to believe in your team and not push all the work on yourself out of fear of losing quality.On the other hand, it is also difficult to put together a team that works well. Everyone has his or her own skills, talents and character traits and it is not easy to complete the picture. As a manager, you lie awake wondering whether your team is in good shape.
I also think it's great to be able to do all this as a woman. At the UN, equal treatment is very important. No matter who you are, you get the chance to work for us. I'm very grateful for that appreciation you get as a woman within our organization. In the past, I often struggled with the so-called limits of being a woman. For example, during a job interview I was asked if I still intended to have children. That was enough to turn down the job offer.
For me, making a career is about being happy yourself and making other people happy.
Both personally and professionally what are you proud of?
Personally, I take pride in being a good mom. I get all excited when I hear from teachers, friends or family members that they have been polite and helpful, then I really am a proud mom. Professionally, I find it a little harder to pick out certain moments. But my work gives me the opportunity to have a huge impact on people's lives, and every week I get at least one phone call from a UN colleague crying because I was able to save her life. And of course, I'm very proud of that.
What advice would you give your eighteen-year-old self?
Believe in yourself. You will always need enough self-confidence to thrive. What's also important is to become positive. I really had to learn this myself because I used to tackle life in a much more negative way. A positive mindset just helps you move forward faster and more smoothly. I know it sounds cliché, but these days I can much more enjoy the smallest things like the snow, or the sun and those smallest things give me the energy to tackle everything with a positive mindset. I also notice that this mentality is much stronger in NY, people here are more cheerful and grateful for what they have, also because they live more often in grim situations of course. While I know people in Belgium who have been whining for months about not being able to get a haircut. Then I really want to say, 'I understand, but now just enjoy that nice piece of cheese on your plate because there are really much worse things going on'. Be grateful, be positive in life and have faith and then a lot will be fine, I believe.
What Kaai bag do you have and what is your experience with it?
I have the terracotta Pyramid and I just love it. Very sturdy and beautiful of course. But what I especially like is that I often meet up with my girlfriends after work and then I can put extras in the bag besides my work stuff, like a sweater for the evening or a reading book for on the subway. Each time I am amazed at what I can put in it. After half a year, it is still in perfect condition and I appreciate, as many do today, durability. What is also nice, of course, are the many compliments I get on it when I walk down the street.
"Even in a fashion city like New York where you run into the hottest bags every day, a Kaai bag stands out."