Learn from the experts in Public Affairs – Blogger #1 – Jernik Vernik, Public Affairs Director at Johnson Matthey
Dec 1, 2022

Learn from the experts in Public Affairs – Blogger #1 – Jernik Vernik, Public Affairs Director at Johnson Matthey

At which time do you wake up in the morning?

My morning routine is defined by my kids. They wake up at 6.20am, first thing is to get them ready for school. At 7.00am they leave the house to catch the school bus, then my day starts.

What is the first thing you do?

Still in pajamas, I turn on my computer. There is always something that needs (to my assessment/morning motivation) immediate attention. What is supposed to be just a quick scan of emails and a daily calendar, usually becomes an hour or more.

Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?

My day typically starts with scanning my topics at Ulobby on my computer, CEFIC morning brief and CNN news.

At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?

When in Brussels, I work from my home office. The company doesn’t have an office in Brussels, but I regularly travel to our HQ office in London. As the HQ office is located close to the main train station in London, I usually need 3 hours door to door (-1h time difference) from my home.

How many times a day do you check emails?

The frequency of checking my emails depends on the number/type of meetings I have. If I’m in online meetings, I’m too often distracted and I’m checking them all the time on my second screen. If my meetings are face-to-face then I check my emails on my phone during breaks. If not urgent I don’t respond immediately, but rather when back in the office.

When is your first meeting?

A lot of my meetings are related to UK time zone, therefore my meetings usually don’t start before 10am. As we are a global company, my end hour is not clearly defined, but I try to give the focus to my family at 5pm latest. After kids fall asleep (around 8.30pm), I might still finish things off.

How do you plan your meetings across the week? (spread them or concentrate on certain days and times?)

A lot of my meetings are fixed over the week. These are regular catch-up meetings with my colleagues in different departments to track progress on different files and define the next steps. They are very much concentrated on Monday and Friday mornings. Due to the large variety of different company departments that I support, there are several meetings every week that come in spontaneously and often require immediate attention and short reaction time.

What is the split between internal and external meetings?

In terms of absolute numbers, there are certainly more internal meetings, but in terms of hours spend it is equal. The representative nature of my work requires external presence, communication, and networking, the more the better.

How do you follow news development between meetings?

I try to avoid that. Only notifications turned on are MS Teams from my colleagues in different teams, but I guess that is not news, but rather urgent debates. Sometimes I scan Twitter.

How do you organize your calendar?

Except for most Mondays, where the day is mainly used to catch up with my colleagues across the organization, my calendar doesn’t have a very structured format. A lot also depends on meetings related to business organizations, ongoing advocacy campaigns, and networking events.

How do you take notes?

iPad and apple pen in Notability. I also have a backup (paper) notebook and a pen on my desk, just in case.

What is your relationship to Excel?

In the past, I’ve spent a lot of time using Excel, today I use it only for mapping out horizontal advocacy strategies and monitoring progress on priorities. Due to the size of the company and different businesses (and people), Excel helps me to keep the full overview at one place.

What is your favorite app & why?

Working in a large organization in transformation, I try to engage my colleagues to use MS TEAMS for direct communication and update activities within the different teams. That allows for a quick information flow, direct update and often finding a quick solution to the issue at stake, so the issues doesn’t drag on.

How many external lunches do you have a week?

With the post-COVID 19 situation, it is getting more and more, due to the nature of my work. Usually, 1-2 lunches and 1-2 dinners a week. The company I work for is quite unknow and I use direct in-person communication to a boost the image and recognition of the company.

Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?

I keep up to date by keeping and maintaining close contact with my peers. This includes also contact beyond my primary priorities and main topic of interest. I’m also a member of a professionally facilitated club of senior public affairs professional, meeting regularly at different events addressing key issues our sector is faced with.

What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?

It is important to keep priorities in the right order (for most of the time). Family and health are my number one priority. COVID 19 pandemic opened a lot of new ways of collaborating and helped me a lot in how I spend/organize my time. It also allows for “location flexibility” which often helps to combine private and work-related priorities in more flexible way. I’m lucky enough that my company allows for full flexibility.

What do you do to unwind?

Running with my wife, sauna, and fencing. Teaching young people, the fine art of fencing and seeing their motivation and interest keeps my brain away from other distractions. Camping in spring, summer, and early autumn with family.

What is your favorite collaboration tool?

MS teams and Yammer.

How does your desk look? (tidy, mess)

Working from home and sharing the desk with my son makes my office desk rather messy.

Do you answer emails on your phone?

No. I try to systematically avoid this. If there is an urgency I prefer direct phone call, otherwise answers can wait.

Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why

My mentor and a first person introducing me to the word on industry and PA – Marco Mensink.

When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?

I try to avoid that. But I scan the emails every day.

Who is your idol?  

Vaclav Smil and his fact-based approach to the challenges around us, not specifying how to address them, but rather waking up the interest to start thinking and connecting different dots to get (to) an objective picture (as far as that is possible).

Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?

Audio book – How the world really works.

Do you read anything before you go to bed?

I either listen to the audio book or Persuaders podcast, when new episode is published.

Which time do you go to bed?

I go to bed around 22h, have a closing reflection on the day with my wife and then listen to the Audio book for and hour or two.

Do you use LinkedIn and/or Twitter for work?

Yes, both. In my current function more in an observer position only with targeted interactions occasionally, which are often due to my personal interest in specific topic/debate.

How big is your PA department (PA employees)t?

Johnson Matthey is relatively unknown company, but a key supplier of auto-catalysts, industrial catalysts, hydrogen production technology and platinum. As the company is in big transformation, we are just building up the team, currently we’re two at the corporate level and approximately 5 other people sharing their time for PA activity in different segments of the company.

Where is the PA departments placed in your organization?

We are part of the Corporate (supporting) function. In the current structure this also includes / involves sustainability department, which is a very important part of our PA focus and corporate positioning.

The idea of the blog is to invite a new Public Affairs pro each week to answer a battery of questions about their daily tasks, habits, routines etc. and thereby provide readers with a more realistic view of what Public Affairs is really about: honest and hard work! So with this blog we want to learn from all the good or bad habits from our peers in the industry. Small things, as well as bigger things.

The guest bloggers are chosen because they are the best in the industry and they each day contribute to make our discipline better.

If you are interested in contributing to this section, feel free to reach out.

Visit the blog and read all posts here.

Learn from the experts in Public Affairs – Blogger #1 – Jernik Vernik, Public Affairs Director at Johnson Matthey

Anders Kopp Jensen is the co-founder and CEO of Ulobby. Anders has an MA in political science and has over ten years of experience in politics and Public Affairs both on the consultancy side and in-house. He is the host of ‘The Persuaders’, a podcast about Public Affairs, and he is the author of ‘The Public Affairs Engine’, a guide on how to build and fuel the PA engine in your organization. Fun fact: Anders has a dog named Allan, who doesn’t like postmen or people wearing orange clothes.

Anders Kopp Jensen

Co-founder & CEO

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