Passion To Profession: Women in the Run Industry | Tineke Meeuws
This interview is part of an ongoing series with Backpacker Magazine featuring careers in the active-outdoor industries.
Tineke Meeuws works for Brooks Running Company as a Trade Compliance Manager. We learned about her career journey, her relationship with running, and how encouraging others drives her both personally and professionally.
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Did you ever have an “aha” moment in your career? What was it and how did it inform your career path?
Tineke Meeuws: Early in my career, I kept myself open to new projects and work experiences to develop myself professionally. My “aha” moment came when I finally took the time to reflect on the different projects I was working on and identified the type of work and environment that I felt passionate and personally motivated to do my best on a daily basis. At that time, I found that working in a small team on a diverse portfolio of work related to customs compliance was enjoyable for me, and if I could find work related to my personal hobbies it would be even better. I took that inner reflection and that drove me to search for a role at a different company that could provide me those opportunities, which eventually lead me to my current role at Brooks Running.
Tell us about a teacher/mentor/role model who has impacted your life as a career woman or outdoorswoman for the better.
There has not been one specific person but a combination of teachers and role models who have shown me how to feel comfortable in my own skin and be authentically yourself as a leader. I am passionate about the idea of a servant leader, which several role models of mine have introduced me to, and valuing the relationships you build in life and in your career. As I continue to advance in my career, I find it is best not to seek out one specific mentor to guide you to your future but rather a board of advisors that can provide you with insight, guidance, share their experiences, and encourage you to be a critical thinker. I strongly feel that diversity of thoughts from various mentors is advantageous to make your career journey successful.
What drives you – what’s your “why”?
Encouraging others to be active and to continue to grow into the best version of themselves and pursue what makes them happy. I strive for the same myself.
How did you get involved in outdoor activities? What have they taught you about yourself?
Running has been a powerful force in my life. Before I worked for Brooks, I thought I would never be a runner. I honestly thought running was torture. Every time I tried to run, within less than half a mile my muscles would cramp up and I would have a hard time catching my breath. I had concluded that it was not for me.
When I began working at Brooks Sports, the people I worked with inspired me to try again. I found the running community to be incredibly supportive, coaching me on how to get better, what gear to wear, and I fell in love with Brooks’ Run Happy culture. Run Happy to me is an inclusive message for people to run for whatever reason that makes you happy, whether it’s for stress relief, health, weight loss, competition, etc. Running with family, friends, or in a relay team has given me such a powerful boost to push myself further than I thought was physically possible.
Before I worked at Brooks, if you would have told me I would be running a half marathon within a year, I would have thought the idea was crazy. I am grateful I tried. Running has provided me with dedicated time in my life to get outside, breath fresh air, release stress, be healthy, and enjoy the beauty of nature.
What do you see as the most prominent/important active-outdoor industries trend of 2018?
The trend I have noticed most is the diversity of activities that people are getting engaged with in their active life; people are choosing his or her own combinations of running, cross fit, cycling, yoga, hiking, rock climbing, etc. to fit their need to be fit and lead a healthy lifestyle. I have also found there are more visible role models of strong women pushing their physical limits and inspiring other women to be bold and take on new active adventures, whether it be in the gym or outdoors.
What is one piece of advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
For me, there is no one piece of advice but rather a collection of thoughts:
- Don’t be afraid to try new experiences or listen to new ideas and perspectives;
- keep your opportunities open even when you cannot see them, your current state will not last forever;
- do not worry yourself about things you cannot control;
- do not stop learning;
- you are stronger than you think – you can do anything that you set your mind to;
- and finally, focus on what makes you happy.
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What was your first outdoor memory?
Tineke Meeuws: Growing up, my dad was a mountaineer. He led a lot of hikes up the peaks of the Pacific Northwest, so the outdoors were part of my household. I remember climbing up Mount Hood in Oregon, sitting there having lunch with my parents and seeing the view up above. I felt really fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest, with so much fresh air. I loved the sense of freedom I felt—there’s nothing that compares with being able to smell fresh, unpolluted air.
What was your most defining outdoor moment?
I was running the Ragnar relay race through the Northwest Passage, starting in Bellingham, Wash. It was a huge challenge for me. I was new to running and after the first two legs, I didn’t know if I could keep going. But at the last minute, I found strength to power through. The first few minutes of the leg were really painful, but I was surprised by the adrenaline and support from the team, and I felt super strong. I was surprised at what I could do, and I was determined to be there for the team and do my part. Remembering this pushes me as I train for other events—if start to think I can’t do it, I say “no,” and I keep pushing.
What the best perk of working for Brooks?
I think it’s the flexibility to be able to go for a run or go to the gym during the work day. Every day during lunch, I go for a run depending on the weather. It’s great to have that piece of my personal life. We do a lot of fun things around running, like scavenger hunts, and for Pi Day, we ran 3.14 miles and then ate pie afterward. It makes for a really fun work environment.
How did you get into the outdoor industry?
I went to Seattle University to study international business and finance. When I graduated, I got a job at an accounting firm and gained a lot of experience in customs compliance. I liked the type of work it was, and through being a consultant for many other companies, I realized I could find a way to tie in my passions outside of work into my job.
What’s your super power? Critical thinking
Outdoor adventure of choice for daily release? Run along Alki beach
What’s in your thermos? Chammomile tea
If you had an intro song, what would it be? Stronger by Kelly Clarkson
Your number one outdoor hack? Having lots of pockets
What’s your favorite outdoor/adventure book? Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
One word that you think of when we say outdoors? Tranquility