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Wittenborg lecturer fights to top after burnout

''I thought my energy was unlimited''

Wittenborg lecturer Taoufik Samaka has seen much of the world. Born and raised in Morocco, he has studied in Russia and France, in addition to having worked in Senegal, Nigeria, Sweden, Luxembourg, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, the USA and the Netherlands.

He has held management positions in the telecom sector with assignments focusing on emerging markets. Throughout his professional career, he worked at different levels, such as coordinator, manager and CEO. Despite his busy work life, he manages to strike a healthy balance between his work and personal life. This balance is very important to him because he has experienced the consequences of too much workload with little time left for leisure. In 2012, Samarka suffered a burnout, which took him more than two years to recover from. ''I thought my energy was unlimited.'' he recalls.

The term, “burnout,” refers to a long-term form of exhaustion that can occur after a long period of stress with little relief. It is normally related to one's job or profession but can also be experienced as a result of other factors, such as prolonged financial instability or sudden and dramatic life changes. When a person experiences burnout, they may feel listless, empty or irritable and will generally find it more difficult to concentrate, as well as nearly impossible to complete normal tasks.

"Your defence system is basically gone."

Before experiencing a burnout himself, Samaka says he had trouble believing that such a phenomenon existed. In Morocco, he explains, burnout “does not exist.” That all changed when he found himself at breaking point years ago. "When you have burnout, your nervous system is completely broken. You cry and get depressed about basically everything. Your defence system is basically gone," explains Samaka. He credits his former supervisor – who had supported workers with burnout in the past – with helping him create a better work-life balance by instructing him to take time off to relax and recover.

During this time, Samaka realized he needed to look at life differently. "I felt I needed to spend more time with my wife and three daughters, instead of sitting at a computer for 12 to 16 hours, preparing meetings and heading committees. I decided I wanted a job where I could balance work and personal life."

Coming back swinging

He found that balance at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences, where he holds the position of Senior Lecturer, teaching Management modules to MBA students. Throughout his career, Samaka recognized the importance of teaching. Due to his background, he is required to develop training practices and manuals. "I thought it was a normal thing, but I got feedback that this is something very important and rich and my knowledge should be shared with other people. I thought I could start consulting or lecturing in addition to my full-time job.''

‘’What I like best is that it's not just about teaching, but about collecting, sharing ideas, participating in other working groups and so on. This is a more integrated position and I feel like a full member of the Wittenborg team and not ranked differently because I have a part-time position.''

In his spare time, he has found ways to avoid another burnout and stay fit. "I started boxing and running. I started running in Pakistan in 2008 and boxing in 2014. For boxing, I have a personal trainer and it helps me get rid of stress and negative energy."

He advises current students at Wittenborg to stay on their own path and find their own way. "When I started studying at my own pace, I started enjoying college because that was what I needed at that time. Everyone is different and has different needs.''

WUP 20/10/2022
by Niels Otterman
©WUAS Press