”“Champagne literally saved my life. My friends and I escaped a life-threatening drama thanks to a glass of bubbly.”
Two things make Kelly Tuerlinckx stand out at Mediabrands. One is slightly more mundane than the other. First of all, she belongs to the rather small group of employees who have been working at Mediabrands from the early years. The second, sadly, is bathed in drama and tragedy. In 2017, Kelly narrowly escaped death in a terrorist attack in Stockholm.
Tears well up in her eyes as she begins to tell her story. “I was on a city trip with my best friends Nadia and Vanessa. Nadia is a friend of 25 years, she’s also working at Mediabrands,” says Kelly. “The plan was to go shopping as soon as we’d arrived at the hotel – which was located on a busy street. But luckily our room was ready earlier than foreseen and we decided to pop the cork and treat ourselves to a glass of champagne first.” Unfortunately, a very different kind of bang followed. A truck had driven into a crowd in their street and then rammed into the nearby Ahlens supermarket. “It felt unreal,” says Kelly. “One minute we were giggling and toasting our friendship and a second later there was an attack in which people were killed and wounded.” The center of Stockholm was sealed off and for the next few hours, Kelly and her friends were not allowed to leave the hotel. She continues her story with a lump in her throat. “The situation was chaotic. At first, we didn’t really know what was going on. The Red Cross brought us food. It was only much later that the seriousness of the situation dawned on us when the street was filled with people who had come to lay flowers, and complete strangers flew into each other’s arms weeping, wanting to hug us too. I hardly dared get on the plane after that to fly home,” Kelly continues, “I was so scared.” Since then, a glass of champagne has special significance for her. “Champagne saved our lives. Literally.”
Toasting the future
Kelly is happy to be here today to celebrate a great career spanning 25 years at Mediabrands. As Account Executive Digital, she ensures that there is a good flow both internally and towards the customer in terms of digital follow-up. She collects data and works her magic to make the digital process run smoothly. “Online is a complicated, constantly changing world,” explains Kelly who, before stepping into the digital world, worked for many years as a buyer for radio and TV. “At some point I felt the need to do something else,” she continues. “I had just gone through a divorce and wanted to get out of a rut.” Kelly is glad that she was given the opportunity to experience the digital world, which she knew nothing about at the time, and thus further develop her career.
Kelly has been lucky over the years with her direct managers. At present, she’s part of Melissa’s team. Melissa immediately understands where the difficulties lie, she carefully listens to the team. “You can discuss anything with her and I think that’s very important. She values her team members and tries to provide training and opportunities.”
Since Kelly has been around from the outset, she has experienced quite a few upheavals and management changes. This has its advantages and disadvantages. “25 years ago, I worked in a much smaller group,” she continues. “Back then it was still a company with a family atmosphere, everyone knew everyone. Now we have several divisions and more than 180 people under the same roof. Management does its best to promote contact but it is almost impossible to get to know everyone personally, let alone to have a close relationship with them all.” Over the years, she has also seen colleagues with whom she had worked happily and for a long time cast aside by new management. “And that’s always painful. Luckily, Michel, our facilities manager is still around.” Just like Kelly, Michel is old school. “He’s our jack-of-all-trades, a stable and reassuring presence in the company. We can ask him anything, and he continues to demolish and build walls, move desks, solve car problems, with the same enthusiasm and kindness. I sometimes wonder where he gets the energy.”
Kelly is pleased that they’ve now added an HR department. “It has benefited us. They’re genuinely committed to us, they listen and are understanding. For example, if I need to leave early to pick up one of my daughters from school, I can. It’s even encouraged, as long as you do your job well. It doesn’t even matter where and when you work. Before Covid-19, working from home was already encouraged in our company. So, I have relatively few problems combining my work with a family.”
Nevertheless, Kelly believes it’s important to be able to regularly clear her head and recharge her batteries. “During Covid, we had the opportunity to follow online exercise, but that course was too challenging for me. I prefer something less strenuous and benefit more from Pilates classes. I started them recently because I felt I needed to put other muscles to work. After one of these classes, it feels like I’ve had a massage,” she laughs. Walking is also Kelly’s ultimate remedy when she feels out of balance and completely absorbed by work. “I put on my walking shoes and go hiking for a whole day by the sea. It really uplifts me every time, as does singing along with my daughters to the songs of the Ketnet series LikeMe. That makes me really happy.”
”“You can talk about anything and I think that’s very important at work.”