Making a debut from Iceland is Ólöf Kristjánsdóttir who is the Marketing Director at Tempo. With a career in International Relations in her sights, the marketing bug bit Ólöf when she worked for a software company. As they say, the rest was history! Let’s learn more about her story on this segment of Women In Marketing.
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, Ólöf. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in Reykjavík, Iceland and grew up there and in Sweden. As a child, I have a lot of memories of being outside playing with other kids from the neighbourhood. One of my favourite childhood memories is coming home after a day out playing with friends to watch a show on TV while waiting for dinner to be ready. That freedom was such a great feeling.
Now that I am an adult and a parent myself, I’m starting to appreciate some of the things my parents had me and my siblings do that maybe weren’t as much fun. These were, travelling around Iceland to learn about the history and culture or doing chores around the house. Those tedious things will prepare you better for life and build a stronger character.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
I was very shy!
I had a tight-knit group of friends. I was pretty much comfortable around them only. I was a hard worker at school (and I still am). But thankfully, I have opened up a bit more; I am more sure of myself than I was at that time.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
So many things come to mind. I love a plate of shrimp scampi with a glass of dry white wine. For the main course, nothing beats a lovely steak with potatoes and Bernaise sauce. And for dessert, I would always go for a slice of a rich, dark chocolate cake.
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I would do three things:
1) Provide for my family
2) Donate to charity
3) Invest in new and exciting companies
WHAT IS THE ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T FIND ON YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE? ANY HIDDEN TALENTS PERHAPS? PREVIOUS WOMEN IN MARKETING CANDIDATE, ANASTASIA HAMEL SAYS THAT SHE CAN BREATHE FIRE!
I studied the violin and harp for many years. During my studies, I got a chance to play with future award-winning musicians. And although I didn’t choose to pursue a career in music, I feel incredibly honoured to have had the opportunity to play.
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
Like many marketers, I landed in marketing almost by accident. I studied business administration for my undergraduate and figured this wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. So I studied international relations and wanted to become a diplomat. But after landing a job at a software company as a sales and marketing rep, there was no turning back. Twelve years later, I still love the industry, the job and last but not least, the people.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I’m one of those rare people that doesn’t drink coffee!
For some reason, I never got used to the taste of it and by now it simply seems too late to start. My caffeine-free morning routine can vary from day to day but, one thing is consistent. I love breakfast.
Whether it is cereal, oatmeal, French toast or pancakes, I start every day with breakfast. Once I’m at work, my routine tends to be to respond to emails and Slack messages and to write a to-do list for the day. I have a hard day concentrating on my tasks until I complete a list of everything that needs to get done (also known as the Getting Things Done method).
THE PANDEMIC DISRUPTED OUR ROUTINES AND DAILY COMFORTS. HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
It’s been hard to maintain a work-life balance since the pandemic started. It has been so easy to slip into a terrible work-life balance. So I’ve had to be hard on myself. I’ve done that by turning off Slack after my workday is done and by taking a long vacation this last summer.
I also allocate time for exercising and creating the boundaries I want between my work and life. An important step is then to communicate those boundaries with others. I’ve seen people create “user manuals” for themselves. Maybe I should create one of those for myself.
YOU HAVE A MA IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND AFFAIRS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF ICELAND. TERTIARY EDUCATION, AS WE KNOW IT, TOOK A DRAMATIC TURN DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. HOW DO YOU FORESEE THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION CONSIDERING THE INCREASING POPULARITY OF ONLINE EDUCATIONAL SITES SUCH AS COURSERA AND GOOGLE SKILLSHOP THAT HAVE DISRUPTED THE TRADITIONAL MODEL OF LEARNING?
I sincerely hope that the availability of good quality online education continues to be available because it benefits so many people that before didn’t have an opportunity to attend because of their circumstances. The future will hopefully offer a combination of in-person tertiary education options and online courses and diplomas.
Even for someone like me who has higher education, adding to my skill set with online classes and training is invaluable, especially in an industry like mine where changes happen quickly and often. When I was studying, there was no digital media strategy or search engine optimization so I’ve had to add those skills by other means. And for anyone who doesn’t have the inclination or opportunity to attend higher education, there are plenty of careers that value online courses and I hope the pandemic shows that their value is just as good.
WORKING FROM HOME/HYBRID MODEL OF WORKING MAY SOON BECOME A REALITY FOR MOST ORGANISATIONS GLOBALLY. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON REMOTE WORK AND WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR CHALLENGES AS WELL AS WAYS YOU’VE MITIGATED THESE?
Throughout Covid, we here in Iceland have been very fortunate. We’ve had periods during the pandemic where we have been able to go into the office. And meeting your colleagues in person brings a kind of energy that is hard to replace online. However, working from home can bring the focus that you need for certain types of work. I believe having the possibility to choose is crucial.
For office workers, I believe a hybrid model will be the future. The challenges for companies will be to find a good balance for providing a framework for employees to follow without being too restrictive. For example, one of the benefits of going into the office is to meet other people. But if people are mostly working from home or if there are no specific days when you can count on people being in the office, then coming in won’t bring you the benefits you are seeking.
But if the company has strict rules about in-office attendance, it might discourage employees. Also, companies will need to have the right amount of office space to accommodate all their employees, whether they are full or part-time based workers working from home. Providing flexibility for your employees requires flexibility in office leasing that may be challenging for companies to provide.
I think that for a lot of companies it will be extremely difficult to navigate these challenges. I am interested to see how it all turns out.
ACCORDING TO A REPORT COMPILED BY MCKINSEY, THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS HAD A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE. THE REPORT FURTHER ILLUSTRATES THAT WOMEN HAVE INCREASINGLY BECOME MORE EXHAUSTED AND SUFFER FROM BURNOUT AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS PROVIDE THE NECESSARY SUPPORT FOR WOMEN AS WELL AS MOTHERS?
Having a diverse management team is crucial.
Having people of all genders and different backgrounds is not only proven to be better for the business but, it will also directly impact how women will feel in their role. Ensuring that working hours are flexible, vacation time available and sick time ample will create an environment where not only women with children can thrive but everyone.
2021 AND BEYOND
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN SINCE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC? ANY PIVOTAL MOMENTS IN YOUR PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL LIFE YOU CAN SHARE WITH US?
I have been so lucky to live in Iceland where the pandemic has been handled quite well.
But the uncertainty of work, constant changes in government regulations and the threat of getting sick did take their toll in the end. Around the middle of the year, I realised I was feeling less motivated and less creative than usual, and feeling a lot more stressed. What has helped me was taking a break this summer and spending it with my family travelling.
But I also had a conversation with my manager to discuss possible ways to have more focus at work and clearer boundaries between work and personal life.
Realizing that I was feeling unusually stressed and that I needed to take care of myself was a pivotal moment. What I try to do now is make sure to have time for myself.
Whether I read a book or exercise, it is so important to have time for me. Meeting with friends is also crucial. I try to do that regularly. And then it is just about being more strict with myself to fully log off when work is over at the end of the day.
KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY AND IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Don’t be so afraid!
You are doing incredibly well and everything will work out. Don’t worry so much about what others think because at the end of the day, what you think is what matters the most.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
See more of the world. Eat healthier. Try out new things. Enjoy the little things in life like a hug, a good book or a new song. And eat as much dark chocolate as I want.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
One that comes to mind is Michelle Obama.
I read her biography and I follow her on Instagram. Her life story and activism are so inspiring. I wish I had half the energy and courage she has. The first female president of Iceland is also someone I look very much up to. Her name is Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and she was also the first woman to be elected president in a democratic election in the world. She is a trailblazer and taught many women in Iceland to not accept the status quo and to believe in themselves and their capabilities.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I prefer paperbacks but will occasionally listen to audiobooks as well. I’m currently reading a novel set in Manchester, but I love a good thriller. I am also reading a great business book called ‘The Visual MBA’ which I would recommend to all marketing leaders.
Having that mix of reading for pleasure and professional development is the perfect combination.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I lean towards easy-to-watch comedy shows and am currently making my way through New Girl and a great Canadian show called Working Moms. The lead character in Working Moms is a marketing and PR executive who also has a family. So easy to relate to.
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
I think I would have become a teacher.
I love the part of my job that allows me to train and mentor and following my sons’ journeys through school has made me think more than once that I would have loved to be a teacher.
WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE HOW FORBES CURATES THEIR MARKETING-CENTRIC CONTENT. HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO READ THROUGH THEIR CMO NEXT 2021 FEATURE? WHILST ON THE TOPIC OF GREAT MARKETEERS, WHEN YOU RETIRE ONE DAY, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED AS A PROFESSIONAL?
One of the best ways to learn is to learn from other great marketers. The list from Forbes highlights some impressive executives; I can only wish to accomplish a fraction of what they have done. But one goal I always keep in mind is that when I retire, I would like to be remembered as someone who always gave her best and who did everything in her power to protect and provide for her team.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
I have former colleagues that I have lost touch with; I think about them often. I wish them all the best and hope they are flourishing in their professional and personal lives.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
You deserve to have a great leader and work for an awesome company. If you don’t feel happy in your role, it might be time to look for new opportunities.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME Ólöf. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
I try to be active on LinkedIn and you can send me a connection request through there https://www.linkedin.com/in/olof-kristjansdottir/
My company Tempo is also pretty active on LinkedIn and we share a lot of fun content on Instagram. See the icons below: