PROFILE: Sandra Van Vreedendaal, 3Com - As technologically advanced as you go. Sandra Van Vreedendaal has swum with the current on her IT career path

From Crewe to Winnersh, via Watford and Slough, doesn’t sound like a blueprint for a successful career in international PR, but that’s the trip made by 3Com’s Sandra Van Vreedendaal. The 31-year old came to the UK from Holland for a year in 1986 and has been climbing the technology PR ladder here ever since.

From Crewe to Winnersh, via Watford and Slough, doesn’t sound like

a blueprint for a successful career in international PR, but that’s the

trip made by 3Com’s Sandra Van Vreedendaal. The 31-year old came to the

UK from Holland for a year in 1986 and has been climbing the technology

PR ladder here ever since.



’I’d dreamed of being a creative in an advertising agency, but I was

looking during the recession, when those jobs were really hard to

find.



My first job with IT analysts the Yankee Group was a gamble, I knew

nothing about technology, but thought it would be a good bet,’ she

says.



None of her career moves - from industry analyst at Yankee Group through

consultant at Brodeur A Plus to in-house PR manager at Cisco - was

planned.



Instead, Van Vreedendaal has found her niche by chance. A planned year

doing communication studies in Crewe stretched to three and was followed

by a diploma in advertising and marketing in Watford.



Technology PR was a good bet for her - she’s just been promoted to head

of international PR at data networking giant 3Com, having spent the last

18 months as its head of PR for Europe. Van Vreedendaal’s brief is to

increase the company’s profile from the boardroom right down to the

living room. It’s a prospect she relishes. ’Technology has been getting

more sexy since I started working in it. Now even my grandmother has

bought a computer,’ she says.



As head of PR for Europe, based at Winnersh, near Reading, she is

credited with developing a pan-continental PR programme. She hopes to

now blaze the same trail internationally. 3Com’s desire to spread the

word across its entire customer base will be well met by Van

Vreedendaal, who appears expert at dealing with people from all levels.

She is smart but relaxed, efficient yet charming, organised and open.

’Holland is a small nation, we have a history of co-operation with

others,’ she jokes.



Her ’international’ role means she will be heading up PR everywhere

except the US. She enthuses about the prospect of dealing with different

cultures, including Latin America and the Pacific Rim countries, and

says she enjoys learning what works communication-wise for different

nationalities. The Finns, she notes for example, use fewer words than

the Italians, and pause for thought a lot.



’She is very sensitive to the way people in different cultures work, and

understands what it takes to push the right buttons in different

countries, moving people on different levels at different paces,’ says

Greg Levendusky, executive vice-president of global accounts at 3Com’s

PR agency the Weber Group.



Following a tough year financially in 1998, one of 3Com’s aims is to

rebuild the company’s image. Van Vreedendaal is hoping to use existing

customers as promoters of the 3Com systems, and is looking to target the

consumer press with her messages - a move away from the company’s former

focus on news-driven, reactive PR.



As a manager, she claims to be able to talk about both corporate policy

and boyfriends, reiterating her egalitarian approach to life. ’She is

very fair,’ says Levendusky, ’Everyone bends over backwards to get

things done for her.’ She once had to ask a London cabbie to drive from

Heathrow to Richmond and back in 40 minutes to collect some vital

forgotten tickets for a PR jaunt, and he did. Not many people could

achieve such a feat of diplomatic persuasion.



’We are still friends,’ says Audrey Mandela, who, as senior

vice-president at Yankee Group, gave Van Vreedendaal her first job. ’She

is fun, energetic and creative. She is the type of person who will look

for a better way to do things, and find it. She is capable of both

having the great idea and following it through.’



The amount of travel she does means she crams her social life and her

cello practice into two weeks of the month, but she keeps up with

Geordie husband Steven via e-mail. ’It keeps our relationship fresh at

least, it means that when we are together it is a really special time,’

she says.



But the travel bug has bitten her, and despite her husband and the new

house they’re renovating, she says she gets itchy feet if she’s on the

ground for too long.



She claims to be a perfectionist and admits to finding it hard to

delegate, but the up-side to the resultant long hours is the drive home

from work.



She confesses to being a bit of a speed freak, and must be one of the

few people that finds commuting relaxing. ’That’s the advantage of

Winnersh,’ she says, ’I commute the opposite way to most people, so I

can just get in the car and put my foot down. By the time I’m home I’ve

completely unwound.’



HIGHLIGHTS



1990: Industry analyst, Yankee Group



1994: Consultant, Brodeur A Plus



1996: PR manager, Cisco



1999: International PR head, 3Com.



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