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The KINETIC Conference 2022 was an event ripe with celebration.

Barcelona provided the perfect backdrop for K2 Corporate Mobility employees to come together from all over the world, giving the ideal opportunity to recognise those in the K2 Family who have applied themselves during their careers at K2. Among those being awarded for their loyalty and dedication, was Consultant Bernie Hillewaert, of K2 France. We caught up with Bernie to talk about her first memories of K2, the amazing Friday night of celebration that saw her receive the first K2Q award, and everything in between. Continue below to read our interview:

“Without that post-it note with an unknown phone number on it, I would have never received the award on Friday.”

Picture this: it is November 2009, and Bernie has finished her last sales meeting for a company she has just decided to leave. A colleague of Bernie’s at the same workplace is Paul Fitzgerald (now a Corporate Surveyor and Account Manager at K2 New York), who has reached the same conclusion. Between them, they need something new.

“We both decided after that meeting that we needed to move on. I had no idea what my next venture would bring, where I would end up, or what I would be doing. That was until Paul Fitzgerald gave me a post-it note with a random phone number on it. ‘Ring this’, he said.”

It was only after ringing the number that Bernie found out that she was talking to K2 Co-founder and CEO Nick Plummer.

“I didn’t know who Nick was, or what K2 did, but Nick invited me to their office to have a meeting. Without a job and wanting to take a chance, I agreed. It was Monday 30th November 2009, I had just met Nick in-person for the first time, and half an hour into our first meeting at Queen’s Gate House, Nick wanted me to meet someone else from K2. He left the room for a moment, and returned with Richard Rutledge, K2’s Co-founder and Business Executive. An hour later, I was offered a job, which I accepted immediately.”

On the 10th January 2010, Bernie joined K2, employee #13 – her lucky number. Almost thirteen years later, there is much to look back and reflect on:

“I already had 20 years in the industry before starting with K2 in the January, but I knew straight away that the ethos here was something else. My whole career, I have given it my all: always going over and above, and it felt like it had taken 20 years across multiple companies to finally start to become recognised for the effort that I had put in. I treat K2 like it’s my own – I would’ve loved to have been there at its inception in 2002, yet I could not be more grateful to Paul, for handing me that post-it note when he did.”

For Bernie, 2016 is the finest example of K2 looking out for their people, encouraging personal pursuits and making a positive difference to the community around them. From 2016 until 2019, Bernie volunteered at a hospice, splitting the week up between her role at K2, and being there for those needing end of life care. Over Christmas, Bernie also volunteered at Crisis, a charity for the homeless.

“Happiness is being able to give without expecting anything in return. Being present; sharing your time, experiences and your knowledge… that is what inspired me to take some time out of K2 and focus on helping those less fortunate. I’ll forever be grateful to Nick for allowing me to do that.”

KINETIC Conference 2022 provided Nick Plummer and Richard Rutledge the opportunity to reciprocate that gratitude back to Bernie. It was Friday 14th October, the global conference had come to an end that afternoon, and the evening promised a night of celebration. Unbeknownst to Bernie – who was unable to make it to Barcelona so was tuning in via online call –  she was the K2 colleague nominated by Nick to kick off the awards.

“I did not expect anything at all. I said to Julie (Bernie’s K2 France colleague) I was going to watch in my pyjamas with the camera off. ‘No!’ she said. ‘Wear at least a proper top and keep your camera on.’ From there, I suspected something.”

But it was only when Bernie saw herself on the big screen in front of 240 K2 colleagues that it really sunk in. Nick and Richard had just started their speeches, where they reflected on everything K2. They had chosen to recognise Bernie as the individual who is the perfect example of hard work and positivity.

“I just couldn’t process any of it! It happened so fast, and I was completely taken aback by the kind words of Nick and Richard. They then said there would be a knock on my door in exactly 2 minutes… what made them think that? This is Paris at 9pm, I’m on the fifteenth floor, nobody knocks on my door! But sure enough, a package was delivered to my apartment just a few moments later. Unboxing it in front of my laptop so all of K2 could see, was a gift from Nick and Richard.

“It was the most beautiful jewellery box made by no less than David Linley, cousin to King Charles III. So, I knew it was extra special. In fact, the box is more valuable than all of the jewellery that I own!

“Without that post-it note with an unknown phone number on it that Paul gave me thirteen years ago, I would have never received that award on Friday. It was all so overwhelming. My head was spinning as many kind messages were coming through from my colleagues. I couldn’t sleep all night!”

During the conference earlier that day, K2 introduced a new employee recognition initiative, called K2Q. It is designed to regularly highlight and reward those who have been going over and beyond for their work, fellowship, and ‘can-do’ attitude.

Personally chosen by Nick, this award was the very first, presented in front of all of K2.

“The qualities that come with every member of the K2 Family have been there from the start, and definitely since I started, thirteen years ago. K2Q is merely putting a name to that. Both innovation and transparency are integral to the company, and I believe K2Q to be a natural progression, stemming from the seed that Nick and Richard planted back in 2002.”

Find out more about the KINETIC Conference, or the K2Q initiative.

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