Poetry At The Heart Of Business with Arend Boersema · ShiftWorkPlace

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E62 Poetry At The Heart Of Business with Arend Boersema


“There’s so much richness behind every individual”: A USA-residing dutch national born in Indonesia who grew up in Haiti, lived in Belgium and met his wife in Ireland, shares about the people in his life.

Bio for Arend Boersema

Arend Boersema is a Human Resources and Organizational Development (HR/OD) Leader, writer and certified coach. He has a Bachelor’s in Social Work, a Bachelor’s in Teaching, and a Master’s in Human Resources Development and is PHR/SHRM-CP certified.

Arend has experience leading HR departments and providing executive leadership coaching in various healthcare-related settings. Arend has taught graduate HRD courses as an adjunct professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Episode highlight

Arend Boersema has had a diverse cultural experience that helps him understand people and cultures from a unique lens. Listen in on how he combines his academic training with his real-life understanding of people in his career as an HR professional.



  • “As a teenager, that’s a huge part where your identity is linked to your setting and not just you; you’re still forming your own identity. “
  • “Learn: not just… those things you see but also all of the other cultural habits and norms that are below the surface – the bottom part of the iceberg.”
  • “People have different perspectives… What you see on face value, there’s so much richness behind that.”
  • “Your mindset, in my opinion, is way more impactful to that experience than the actual setting… than the actual environment.”
  • “The opposite of an absolute value could be another value and I think if we only get stuck on the fact that they are different, we are losing a lot of opportunity to find common ground and to pursue things collectively.”


Childhood Incidents

Moving around a lot with his missionary parents, Arend learnt to embrace change as a child, and now looks to find ways to be excited about change. As a teenager, the discomfort in moving from the Netherlands to Belgium forced him to understand what constitutes his identity and to recreate it.

Influential groups

Arend has 2 older siblings and 2 younger ones adopted from Haiti, which made him learn empathy and value the stories behind people’s actions. Religion was the center of his missionary family, and he learned to explore the similarity in the values of different religions.

Teenage years came with their challenges of wanting to fit in and be popular in school, family and other social networks. However, moving taught him that “even though there are going to be a lot of things being done to you, there is still freedom to choose how you want to make it.”

He considers being an HR/OD leader as a big part of his identity. Connecting with leaders in organizations to learn their experiences and coach them on those by being a sounding board or providing additional perspectives has helped him become a better listener and supporter in life.

The spiritual aspect of his religion has become important to him over the years. He enjoys learning languages and uses spoken word poetry as a way of making sense of the world. He shares a poem, Small Talk Big Impact, about how small conversations matter in building big companies.

Temperament and Personality Influences

Arend claims to have always been a passionate person but has learnt to tame that passion now, from being vehement about opinions to being deeply interested in new people and perspectives. “I love people contradicting me and disagreeing with me; it fuels my passion”, he remarks.

He used to identify as a social justice warrior and feel overwhelmed at the responsibility of changing the world, but now recognizes the impact of simply his presence in the movements. He also thought he needs to speak up if he feels strongly about something, but now finds other ways to express it.

Cultural Epiphanies

When Arend went to study in Ireland, he interacted with the Irish students as well as many international students, learning about how different the cultures were. He studied the causes of social inequity in those cultures to better understand countries through their conflicts.

Advice to an Employer

Arend appreciates honesty in conversations and disagreements about a topic. He always clarifies first that he is going to be honest in the spirit of learning and healthy challenges. He is also mindful of the spectrum of differences in cultures when he converses with people.

More Great Insights!

Grab a copy of Arend’s book, Poetry at the heart of business: Spoken word poetry exploring the concept of company culture & belonging, available on Amazon in all countries. You can also visit his website, www.levelupcoachingconsulting.com, for more great insights!


Arend Boersema is currently leading organizational development and culture change efforts by working with emerging leaders, senior executives, and teams. As a seasoned HR and OD expert with a footing in both education and social work, his formula for success relies on identifying the tension and reflecting on ways to combine business logic with art, the mind with the heart.


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