Interviewed by Hajar EL BARAKA & Nadège SERRERO
Meet our Talent, Martina Kavanova, Marketing manager at Lenovo Czech. In this interview, Martina shares her passion for managing teams, the positive impact for her of an international personal and professional life, and why she wishes she had learnt German!
Prior to embarking on a career in marketing, you obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a business certificate and a master’s degree in work and organisational psychology. What inspired you to study Psychology, and how has it been useful in your current role as Marketing Manager at Lenovo Czech?
People have often come to me asking for my advice. So, I concluded that psychology might be a good area for me. I chose a Psychology major during my bachelor’s studies because I wanted to understand how people think and how can I help them out. Later on, I realised that, although it is interesting, this was not the path for me and so I chose marketing instead. However, I use psychology every day. It is a great tool to understand people, to assist them and it also gives you a new perspective on how people might think or react in different situations and to different topics. I use it when I manage, when I talk to my peers, and when I interact with my bosses. You can use psychology to help you go in the direction you want to and to shape your perspective.
“I use psychology every day. It is a great tool to understand
people, to assist them and it also gives you
a new perspective on how people might think
or react in different situations and to different topics”
You worked briefly in HR before taking up your first marketing role. What motivated you to make this career change?
The first time I worked in HR was during my bachelor’s studies in Psychology. I thought it would be interesting to see how business and psychology fit together. While I was working as an HR professional, I decided that this area was not creative enough for me, even though I really love working with, helping and managing people. Marketing is much wider and more varied and allows me to be creative; at the same time, I still get to use the HR part as a manager. It is the perfect work combination.
A recent webinar by Deloitte explored how the current health crisis is changing consumer behavior and marketing approaches and highlighted the importance of marketing technologies in this context. In your opinion, what are the benefits of digital marketing technologies, and how do they impact your work?
I believe you have to look at it from two perspectives. The first is the professional perspective, which is marketing based; the second one is personal, which is management based.
When it comes to the professional perspective, these days everything has changed. We have moved from meeting each other face-to-face to online conversations and events; we are now targeting our customers online only, which is much better because you can learn more them and track their interests. On the other hand, you have to be more sensitive about what people are saying and how they are saying it because you cannot interact directly with them. You have to be much more observant. This is why I tend to prefer to make sure people’s cameras are turned on as I want to see their expressions and how they are reacting, something which you cannot tell just from their voice.
This way of living and interacting is becoming the “new normal”, but I don’t wish for it to continue forever. I believe the right way is to have a mix: some part-time working from home, and some part-time working from the office to give people the chance to interact.
Coming back to the personal perspective, online interaction and working makes our lives easier because we don’t have to travel as much. Therefore, although I would say that “new normal” shouldn’t be forever, there is a need to accommodate new ways of doing things.
What I miss the most in the way we worked before is definitely the face-to-face interaction. Having calls is not the same. I really miss the team I work with because my management approach is to have a personal connection with them and that’s much better-established face to face.
Currently, I am bringing two new employees to my team and I wonder how I can do it most effectively. It is not an easy task, since you need to give them the same attention as you would in normal times!
“This way of living and interacting is becoming the “new normal”, but I don’t wish for it to continue forever. I believe the right way is to have a mix: some part-time working from home, and some part-time working from the office to give people the chance to interact.”
You have experience not only working in international environments but also studying in both the Czech Republic and Germany. What have you gained from working and studying in different locations around the world and what has been the biggest challenge?
My family and I moved around a lot. In the beginning, I had a limited English vocabulary. Then we moved to Germany because my mother was offered a job there. It was difficult at first and people did not really understand me! Later, however, because I used English so much during my high school studies, I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree at an American University in Prague. Afterwards, I moved to the Netherlands for a master’s degree in work and organisational psychology. This experience taught me a great deal. For starters, it taught me to be self-sufficient because I had no one else to reach out to. I am also still in touch with many of the people I met even 15 years ago. We have a group with people from the master’s degree in Maastricht where we discuss work-related issues. If someone needs help, wherever they are, we are there for them. That’s something I learned from having an international experience and mindset: if you ask different people who have different opinions for their advice, this gives you a new perspective.
As for work, I started in a Korean company which was a shock for me because I was used to the American style of management. Koreans are quite strict and have a completely different cultural background and they expected me to abide by the same rules even though I was based at the time in the Czech Republic. Then, I started working at Lenovo, which is a Chinese company originally, even though I am part of the EMEA team. So, I switched from a typical Czech background to a typical American culture, to a Korean company and now I am in a team with people from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. My current situation is the best for me because I already have enough experience to manage it well.
You are taking part in the 6th edition of WIL’s Women Talent Pool Programme. How do you think such programmes can encourage more women to take on leadership roles in Europe and what do you expect to learn from being in this year’s WTP?
I think the WTP programme is going to encourage me and the other participants not to be afraid; show us that it is ok to think a certain way. Just because your opinion is not shared by everyone, you can speak up. As was mentioned a few times at the programme kick off, without engagement, it is difficult to learn - information goes in and goes out. It is so important not to skip over things when we’re trying to develop ourselves, but to go deeper into certain topics. I hope I will learn a great deal within this programme. My goal is to be more comfortable in a man’s world because at Lenovo, the management team is composed of more men. Moreover, I am the youngest there. I want to be perceived on the same level as them. I do not think that I am any less competent, but I need to make them realise that as well.
“I think the WTP programme is going
to encourage me and the other participants
not to be afraid; show us that it is
ok to think a certain way. Just because your opinion
is not shared by everyone, you can speak up.”
We always end the interview with a question from the Proust Questionnaire: If there is one thing you could say to your younger self, what would it be?
Study German! I moved to Germany when I was 16 years old and went to an American school there. I didn’t need to learn German, though, even though we stayed there for three years, it would have been the perfect chance to learn it. I think learning German would have been great and it was a missed opportunity for my development. It would have been easier to learn while living there. I would have used it when I travel, work and talk to my friends in German.
I would like to add something regarding to my management role. I used to be in the student body, and I learned how to manage people there. Then I moved forward in my work life and at Lenovo, after a year working there, they gave me the possibility to become a manager. I really appreciated it because that has always been a dream of mine to lead a team. I think I am good at it: I am empathetic, I listen to people and enjoy helping them. I am still young, and, since I have no prior management training, this is an opportunity to learn on the go. I think every company should take a leap of faith. So far, I have had only positive reviews from my team and I definitely want to thank my Lenovo general manager for CZSK, who gave me this opportunity.