In the Spotlight: Angelica Reitsma

For OrganoVIR’s Personal Developmental Programme BeyondU, Ingrid Valks interviewed project manager Angelica Reitsma. During the interview Ingrid asked about Angelica’s life during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of COVID-19 on Angelica’s passions. Read the full interview below.


Angelica Reitsma inspires to unleash multiple talents  

Zoom is a well-known videoconferencing tool, but nowadays also used as a common verb. I Zoom with Angelica Reitsma, project manager and driving personality, who is at the centre of the OrganoVIR project.

Young researchers from around the world have been selected for this EU project and are not only trained to become top scientists in virus research with organoids but are also offered a personal development programme. The power of time off designed a state of the art programme for PHD students and guides the Organovir ESR’s towards confident and resilient 21st century leaders. An important pillar of the personal development programme addresses ‘Purpose and Passion in Life’.

We talk about the impact of the corona virus on Angelica’s life and passion(s).


What does your day look like during quarantine?

Workwise not much has changed for me. As I mainly work on the non-scientific tasks of the OrganoVIR project, and I don’t have to be in the lab, I can do most of my work from home. What I am not able to do at this moment is organize OrganoVIR’s MidTerm Review, which was supposed to take place in April. Due to the corona crisis a lot of planned events such as face-to-face meetings and ESR secondments need to be adjusted and postponed. Because our network couldn’t get together for the MidTerm Review, we decided to organize the OrganoVIR virtual research sessions in April. These sessions provide a great platform for our network members to stay connected and stay up-to-date on the ongoing research projects. Also the live masterclass for PDP pillar II will be offered to the ESRs as an online workshop. By providing meetings and workshops online we can still continue OrganoVIR’s work, as well as stay in touch with each other, as much as possible.

What else I do during a day? The thing about me is that I always want to do a lot – I’m quite ambitious. Besides my work for OrganoVIR, I also work on different personal projects. I’m interested in a lot of different things, such as film, theatre, acting and writing. Some of those things I do outdoors, such as going to the movies or get together with my theatre group. Since that is not possible at the moment, I finally have the time to focus on those personal projects that require me to sit at home. The project I am currently working on is writing a film script.

So, nowadays I normally get up at around 06:30 AM. I usually start the day with working on my script. I had already finished the idea and structure for the script a while ago, but I hadn’t found the time yet to actually write the thing – until now. I started the writing process about a month ago and I’m quite disciplined when it comes to writing: I write every single day. In order to function well and get the most out of my day, I do need a routine. Normally that routine was getting up in the morning to catch my train so I could get to the office on time. Now that I am working from home, I can schedule things differently. These days I wake up early and start the day with something I really like to do, in this case writing. After I finish my writing for the morning, I start my work for OrganoVIR.


The importance of journaling

I noticed that I have a lot more energy during the day if I start my day doing something that I like to do. I find inspiration in the creative writing process – I really enjoy thinking about stories and how to bring them to life. My script actually focuses on personal life experiences – it centers around my relationship with my husband and us being an interracial couple. I am Dutch and my husband is Singaporean-Malay. My husband and I met in 2012 while I was living in Jakarta, Indonesia. The script I am writing focuses on things I’ve experienced in Indonesia, Singapore and the Netherlands. But in the script I also look at my family background as my grandmother was born in Singapore and my grandfather (he’s an Indo – half Indonesian, half Dutch) was born in Indonesia. My past and my present are connected and this is something I would also like to highlight in my story.

I love movies and I’ve done several script writing courses during the past two years. So writing this script doesn’t come out of nowhere. It would be great of course if the script would eventually get made into a movie – it would be a dream come true if it did. But for now I just focus on the writing process.

No, I am not afraid (anymore) to ask for help or to say that I don’t know something. I always try to do my best at everything I do, but if something doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out. I was always trying to over-achieve and make sure that everything was perfect. Throughout the years I learned to stop doing that, because it’s simply not possible to do everything perfect. It doesn’t help you, or the people around you, in any way. When I was close to getting a burn-out I told myself ‘you have to stop what you’re doing and change course’. I had seen many of my friends get a burn-out and the state that some of my friends were in was quite alarming. I started thinking about what was important in my life and what I wanted from a job. When it comes to jobs, it’s not only about what you can offer in terms of your skills and qualities, but also what the job can offer you. In my job I look for the following four things: inspiration, freedom, responsibility and opportunities to grow. When I applied for the project management job with OrganoVIR, I wasn’t quite sure if I would be the right fit for the job. I have a background in human rights law and absolutely no background in science whatsoever. I had also never worked as a project manager before. But when I met Dasja and Katja for the job interview, I felt an immediate connection with them. They are both strong, smart and inspiring women and I knew that I could learn a lot from them. They also offered me a lot of opportunities to learn and to grow, which is so important to me.

Alright, back to my daily routine. After I get up at 06:30 I take a shower and get myself ready for the day. I try to make my day feel as ‘normal’ as possible. At times I wear my sweatpants, but I often just wear my regular work clothes to get into the ‘work zone’. I have a quick breakfast, I write until 09:00 AM and then I start my work for OrganoVIR. I make a realistic to-do list, so I can focus properly. If I put too many things on my to-do list I have the tendency to do a little bit of everything, which isn’t very productive. I then check if I have any Zoom meetings – if I do, I make sure to look presentable. I work eight hours a day. I do go for a quick walk around lunch time, so I can get some fresh air and have some time away from the screen. After dinner, I either watch a movie or play a game with my husband, or I’ll do something creative. I love arts & crafts and I like to make cards that I can then send to my loved ones. I’m also writing a lot of letters these days, because they are more personal than a text message. I am not doing as much sports these days. I used to go swimming every week, but since corona I haven’t been able to go to the swimming pool. I do a few exercises at home now, but that’s about it. I really miss my standing desk at the office. I tried recreating it at home, but that didn’t really work out. I also miss the morning yoga sessions at the office.


How does the quarantine impact the relationship with your family and friends?

What I am very thankful for is that I am not at home alone. My husband is working from home as well, so I always have someone to talk to and do fun things with. Working at home together with my husband has been pretty good – normally I have my colleagues around, so it’s nice I have at least one person around me.

I do visit my parents once in a while. When I visit them, we keep distance from each other – we don’t hug or kiss each other anymore, which feels really strange. Because of the corona crisis I am much more aware that my parents are older and that if they do get infected with the virus, they could get very ill. I am confronted with their mortality by something we cannot see, but that can have bizarre consequences. This is something I also talk about with my parents – if they do get sick, do they want to go to the ICU or not?

My sister had a baby late March, but we haven’t been able to visit the baby yet. That’s really weird and also sad, because the birth of a baby is something you want to share together as a family.

There is an information overkill regarding the coronavirus, including the scary stories. Some of my friends are scared and really won’t go outside. Then there are friends who are much more relaxed about it. Sometimes arguments do arise between people about what you should and should not do, mostly because people are on edge because of the situation we are in. As the lockdown period is extended, people are really being tested. Some people get frustrated  or sad – understandably so, as we are not made for social distancing. Social and physical contact is so important for us humans. There’s one person that died from the coronavirus that is closer to me – that’s the aunt of one of my best friends from Indonesia.

One of the positive things for me during this quarantine period is that I can chat and watch movies with my friends in Indonesia. Normally, I wouldn’t be able to do those things much because of the different time zones, but now we have the time to do those things together. Last week I watched a movie with my  friend in Indonesia – we would start the movie at the same time and after we finished it, we’d call each other and talk about it.


Does the Corona virus have an impact on your purpose and passion in life? 

Some things have changed. Of course there are some passions that haven’t changed (like writing a script), but other passions such as acting and theatre, have changed. Things that seemed important before the virus outbreak don’t seem so important anymore or have taken a back seat.

I look forward to different things now, more simple things, like having a conversation with a friend. I also really enjoy seeing our neighbor’s kids play in the garden together and having a good time as a family. It’s those simple things that you can see and experience in the moment that have become important. What’s most important to me these days is that my parents and loved ones are healthy.

To me passion is about doing something that you really love to do and that you can learn and grow from. I want to be the best project manager I can be for OrganoVIR and I would also like to play in another movie again. The combination of my work as a project manager and creative activities such as writing and acting is ideal for me – it gives me a lot of energy. I had always dreamed of being in a movie and my dream came true when I got a role in the Indonesian movie Bumi Manusia. After that happened, I didn’t think ‘well, my dream has come true, that’s that’. No, I thought ‘what’s next?’ I will continue to look for interesting acting projects I could get involved in. I don’t do that at the moment, because all acting projects are put on hold. That does give me time to do things that are important now, like staying connected with the people I care about.


Wisdom you want to share with us?

If you want something, just go out there and do it. Don’t hesitate, but just try. When something beautiful comes your way, grab it with both hands and give it your all. If it doesn’t work out, then that’s OK, because at least you tried. Throughout our lives a lot of beautiful things will come our way. But in order to catch them, you have to see them and be open to them. Make the most out of life and let your multiple talents evolve. You don’t have to choose – you can combine those talents.

If you want to be good at something, then you have to go out there and do it. You might not be great at first, but the only way to get better is through actually doing things. As Aaliyah once sang in one of her famous songs “if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again”. Don’t give up and you might be surprised by the beautiful things that could come out of it. Because dreams can come true.


NOTE: For those who are interested – Bumi Manusia, the movie Angelica played in, is now available on Netflix.



With many thanks to Angelica Reitsma, April 2020

By Ingrid Valks, BeyondU Personal Development Programme coach

BeyondU is a state-of-the-art personal development programme with live masterclasses and online interactions, guiding key talents to discover new paths for personal growth. Your projects, your company, the people around you can only grow if you grow.

 BeyondU is part of the power of time off.  

Are you also interested to guide your key talents towards resilient and confident leaders of the 21st century? Please do contact Ingrid Valks at +31651097805 or


Photo by Luca Tschabold