ACCESS Volunteer Profile of Stefaan Lepoutre

By Adrian Lancashire

Stefaan Lepoutre took a leap of faith leaving his native Belgium behind to start a new life in Canada, arriving just as the global COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold.

“I sure wasn’t expecting any shutdown. I moved from Belgium to Toronto because my wife is Canadian.”

As a corporate treasury professional, Stefaan’s job involves a lot of software, so when his appetite for fresh challenges led him to ACCESS, he volunteered his skills in implementing a new Client Relationship Management system (CRM).

“I liked the idea of ACCESS’s mission, and I had a little bit of previous expertise using Airtable,” a spreadsheet-database hybrid for linking and organizing information efficiently.

The first phase started with a workflow of the different CRM data, then designing and building the tables, followed by testing. Next, additional applications were introduced, along with securing the system and then user training. The third phase involves developing a database to manage Board and donor information.

“This helps me connect with people, since I’m new in the city. And the new software involved expands my problem-solving skills.”

In Belgium, Stefaan worked for Deloitte, as a manager for large manufacturers’ treasury departments (such as Volkswagen and Sanofi), responsible for cash position, foreign currency exchange, and many other complex operations.

And then along came romance.

I met my wife Janet while on assignment in Germany, where she was also working. After marrying in July 2019, we decided to go live in Toronto, and I applied for immigration.”

Although he grew up mostly speaking Dutch (in the Flemish part of Belgium), Stefaan is also fluent in French and German, as well as English.

“Since I was working for large manufacturers, nine times out of ten, everything is done in English, even though at school we’re mostly taught British English.”

And so some everyday Toronto phrases took a little getting used to, but now they come out perfectly naturally. Stefaan signs off with, “Take care, have a good one!”

As a newcomer himself, Stefaan shares his experience with countless other individuals who have turned to ACCESS.

“I think it’s great what ACCESS does in terms of helping people seeking opportunities, not just for business purposes, but also people looking to improve their life by coming to Canada and having their credentials recognized. It’s great that they support the human factor.

“I’m really happy to be a part of it. I think it’s important for a volunteer to feel you contribute something. But it works both ways, and you can get something back that you weren’t expecting.”