At which time do you wake up in the morning?
Most often I get up around 7 – either I wake up by myself or the alarm on my iPhone does the job. If I am flying to BRU or CDG, which is usually a morning flight, then it will be around 5AM.
What is the first thing you do?
I have gotten into a really bad habit of checking my emails in the morning before getting out of bed, and this is something I really want to stop doing. By far, there is usually nothing that cannot wait until I open my PC. Rather, I get up, have breakfast and then I take our 11-year-old dog, Pippa, out for her to read the latest news (for non-dog owners, this is sniffing leaves, and if she is lucky, saying hi to her four-legged friends en route).
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
While getting ready for the day, I like to have the Danish Radio program P1 on which has a variety of general news and latest political news. When I have opened my emails, I skim email headers for importance including news from EUR-Lex, Cullen International and Politico.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
My nearest colleagues are in Paris and Brussels, and I work out of Copenhagen, so most days I work from home. The office is set up on the dining-table Monday morning and I start the PC around 8.30/9 and come Friday end of business, I pack the office away.
How many times a day do you check emails?
I check them often, because they serve different purposes; exchanges of ideas internally; exchanges of public policy draft responses with peers in GSMA and ETNO [business associations]; formal requests from policy makers and not to forget policy news.
When is your first meeting?
I like to start early with meetings, preferably around 9.30 when my head is clear, and no later than 5PM. However, working in an international organization and with business associations spanning globally, this is not always achievable.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
I have a number of recurring meetings with the team I am in and external working groups that I am chairing/vice-chairing. I like to keep meetings fairly short to the extent possible. During the week, the number of meetings can vary a lot typically corresponding with the intensity of policy proposals and developments within the EU institutions. When it is more quiet there is more time to dig deeper into topics.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
I would say 1/3 internal meetings and 2/3 external meeting.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
The major part of my news consumption is in the morning. During the day, I will only do it on a push-basis if there is a piece of major news, and pull if seeking specific information.
How do you organize your calendar?
Deadlines for deliverables come in flowing stream and I update my calendar on a continuous basis with information on deliverables and deadlines
How do you take notes?
If I am going to share notes directly from the meeting, and the meeting format allows for it, I write them directly in an email and then sanity-check the content before sending off. If it is not possible to use a pc, I still take notes in an A5 Moleskine notebook.
What is your relationship to Excel?
I use excel to keep track of contacts on specific files and for presentation of specific business cases.
What is your favorite app & why?
Professionally, I use the Concur app for travel expense purposes and Twitter to follow specific policy contacts.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
Going out for lunch to have an exchange on topics is a bygone era for me. Today, exchanges are almost exclusively on the basis of online meetings. I would prefer to have a mix of meetings in person and on a hybrid-basis. To build new relationships a physical meeting is better. Once the contact is established, hybrid meetings are fine.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
I learn from others, especially on LinkedIn, but also from my peers in other organisations as well as from colleagues. In addition, I read up on articles on the topic, which can be found on LinkedIn.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
The proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” says it all. My best advice is to be realistic, prioritize important tasks, and if there is too much on your plate, be clear with your manager about what is prioritized and what is not. I aim to close down at 5PM. In that way, our dog is excellent at keeping the clock – around 5, she gets restless knowing that now it is her time with me for a walk in the neighborhood.
What do you do to unwind?
I used to go for a run in the morning, which was fantastic exercise also when you do a lot of travelling. A knee operation put a stop to that, and today, I take my dog for a walk around 30-45 min. before I open my PC and the same thing at the end of the day. In the morning, I listen to the news as I walk, and in the afternoon, sometimes a podcast. If I am travelling, I still go for a walk.
What is your favorite collaboration tool?
I mostly use emails, but from time to time, I also use Teams to exchange chats and make calls to colleagues.
How does your desk look?
I have changed my behavior in the last years from printing everything, to printing as few documents as possible. I make notes and comments in the documents electronically, and it ensures that when I am travelling, I still have my notes and don’t have to carry unnecessary weight.
Do you answer emails on your phone?
It very much depends on the urgency and to which degree the answer can be short. As I work also when I am on the go, I don’t want to delay other people’s work by a late answer, so if possible and needed, I answer emails on the phone.
Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why
I highly respect my colleagues both internally and peers that I work with through the business associations. Working in this area, topics are often highly complex and we constantly have to see how the future legislation will impact our separate businesses. I don’t want to name specific persons, but the qualities that I value the most are their intellectual capacity, ability to express positions on complex topics, as well as their ability to foresee challenges and propose solutions.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
I am fully off and as a general rule I neither check or answer emails while on vacation. To cover for emergency situations, I always leave an out of office message with my mobile number.
Who is your idol?
I have never really had an idol as such, but I do pay more attention when certain people speak or express themselves in writing. A group of women that I admire on this account are; firstly; Bodil Nyboe Andersen, who became Denmark’s first female central bank director in 1995; secondly; Margrethe Vestager, EVP of the European Commission who is relentlessly working to ensure a higher degree of competition within the EU, and thirdly, the founders behind Female Invest; Emma Due Bitz, Anne Hartvigsen and Camilla Falkenberg with the mission to make investing inclusive especially learning women how to start investing.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
The latest books, I have read are “Warren Buffett and the business of life” by Alice Schroeder which tells the (continuing) life account of Warren Buffet and how he accumulated his wealth from his earliest years, and the book “A woman makes a plan” by Maye Musk who recounts her lessons learned throughout her life from struggling to make ends meet for her family as single parent to becoming a global success at a mature age.
Do you read anything before you go to bed?
Lately, I have gotten into the bad habit of being on Instagram before going to bed – it is highly entertaining and highly time-consuming.…
Which time do you go to bed?
I like to go to bed around 10PM – and then then typically check-up on social media before sleeping around 11PM.
Do you use LinkedIn and/or Twitter for work?
I use LinkedIn to read the occasional article and to create and follow professional contacts. I use Twitter only occasionally to track statements on specific regulatory topics. It is a good way to find out how MEPs in Brussels are expressing and positioning themselves on topics they are working on.
How big is your PA department?
I am part of the regulatory department of Orange Group in Paris, which covers both France and beyond. For EU related topics, we are around 8. In addition, our public affairs department has a team placed in Brussels, which we work closely with.
Where is the PA departments placed in your organization?
We are placed as part of a support function to the General Management of Orange Group.
About Elin Nielsen:
Danish nationality. Started in the telco sector as a product manager in 1997 when France Telecom received their Danish mobile frequency license. Later she changed position internally and became regulatory affairs manager. In 2005, she moved to London to start working as Head of EU Affairs for the Orange Group. Now reporting into Orange Group in Paris (working out of Copenhagen). Chairing the Digital Economy and Society Working Group of ETNO, and Vice-Chair of the Digital Economy Group, GSMA.
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.
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