As onboardings go, it’s not been the most traditional one.

Two weeks ago, we were delighted to virtually welcome Hillevi Lausten to our DCMN family. Hillevi comes to us after a spell as CMO at Flightright, as well as a long period at Jimdo working in paid marketing. She’s a familiar face to everybody at the company: Having worked on the client side with us for many campaigns, she has also been a speaker at SCALE and SCALEup. Her appearance on the latter, in a discussion regarding female leadership, is well-worth a watch.

Starting a new position while everybody is working at home brings all sorts of challenges, especially in a leadership position. We spoke to her about how she is doing after her first two weeks, finding out about her own personal and professional tactics she is using, in addition to her thoughts on the future of the marketing world post-Corona…

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Welcome, first of all! What brought you to DCMN?

That’s a good question! If you’d have asked me six to seven years ago, would I work for another agency? I would have definitely said no! I started my career in public relations agencies in Germany and I wasn’t super happy there for several reasons, so I moved towards Jimdo and other companies. Then, I always thought I would stay on the client side, but then I worked with DCMN while at Jimdo.

As well as the service discounts being nice, I really liked the vibe. Culture at Jimdo was a super important topic, and it seemed the same at DCMN. I’ve now been working with DCMN for almost seven years on the client side and have seen firsthand the expertise across the entire operation, from media planning and buying to creation and production. Even though it was an outside view, I came to realise how DCMN works and its huge potential to support businesses in achieving 360° growth. This was something I could then see for myself and the future.

So, when I saw the COO position I felt that me and DCMN could be the perfect fit.

Joining any company is a big challenge during a global crisis like this. Would you say this is your biggest leadership challenge to date?

Undoubtedly so. I’ve been through a lot of leadership challenges over the years at many different companies. But this is different. This is not an internal, company crisis this is a worldwide crisis. This is challenging for everybody right now. Everything has changed…for everybody.

The issue now is that I can’t really interact with anybody. My leadership style thrives upon seeing the little things, the interactions and understanding to a minute detail how people work. Obviously that’s more difficult when you are behind a screen. I’m lucky to know some people already, which is a big plus, but this is definitely one of the biggest challenges. 

What about your goals for the position as COO?

Hillevi is beginning a new leadership challenge at home

First of all, obviously COVID-19 has changed everything! The important thing now is reacting and staying agile, as this is such an uncertain time in so many ways. Even the government doesn’t know what things will look like in one or two weeks, or one or two months – and that’s the same with us. In a perfect world I would have had a plan to understand what’s going on, get the vibe and slowly adapt to the uprising challenges. Instead, now for me it’s about jumping into the deep end and rolling with the tide. 

However, my main goal is still to empower all our teams around the world, to help them deliver the best service and excellent consulting for our clients in all relevant areas, from brand strategy to creation and production. Exceeding our clients’ goals, too!

How are you getting to know everybody?

Well, we can’t follow the onboarding plan as I need more time than I would in-person, obviously.

What I have been doing is meeting everybody I’m working directly with via Zoom, where we talk personally. It’s about asking “how are you?” and understanding how everybody is really doing, so I know what’s going on. Only after that do we talk about work. So far, there’s a bit of understanding, a bit of socialising and a bit of job.

For most people, these changes have felt extremely negative. Do you see any advantages to this whole situation?

It’s not awful. But honestly, especially in this role where so many different departments come together, it would be easier in person.

However, in general, before COVID-19, I realised that I’m more productive in home office. So that is definitely an upside. I think I have never been this productive starting a job in such a short time.

With regards to building relationships, do you think Zoom makes things less professional?

DCMN’ers are finding fun ways to liven up their Zoom calls.

Is this a problem? I personally love the merger of personal and private one of the reasons I started at DCMN is that I didn’t feel like my privacy would be invaded.

My leadership style is a personal one it’s crucial to understand both character and context. And our personal life is always connected to that. One of the pros is that it would have taken me time to be able to ask the more personal questions: “where do you live?”, “do you have a partner etc?”. Whereas in this situation, one of the first questions you ask is this and it feels normal. Parents have to be more adaptable, which is a topic from the beginning on right now. The current situation gives me much more context and I can understand where people are coming from. 

But what about other factors? I’ve heard of people feeling insecure when video conferencing.

This is what I’m really missing. These tiny things are not there…you cannot transport that! I’ve also had those moments where I asked a question and no one answered. Then you think “what’s going on…”?

In the meeting room, you would understand the situation. But it’s not as natural as regular analogue situations, instead you see yourself on the screen. That’s something that doesn’t happen in interpersonal meetings, there’s no distraction. Here there’s this tiny mirror, and makes you double check how you are reacting, how you look or your facial expressions. So the person on the other side does not always react the way they would in person. 

Do you think the age of business travel is over?

I have to admit, when I think about climate change, I hope this will change the way we look at business travel and reduce it to the necessary minimum. One thing I heard from international colleagues is now they feel more integrated, that they are not the only ones. You understand the value of everybody being on the screen. 

Now everyone in home office understands what it’s like to be behind the screen and not being in one room. I think this will also change the way we will handle those situations in the future, when we can go back to the office, but when we will still have colleagues on screen. 

From your angle, how will this change the marketing industry moving forward?

The winners are the ones who are agile, digital and can easily adapt. An example is DCMN (and other companies), who can easily switch from in-office to home, and can quickly adapt their services to the changed needs of clients.

For companies like DCMN, there may be some fundamental changes, in regards to client segmentation and broadness of clients. I think a situation like this shows that even the big clients are not a certain bet in times of world crises.

Plus, I think now there will be an extra push towards widespread digitalisation especially in Germany. We already had some initiatives here, but now people understand more about the why. And hopefully home office will become (even) more accepted.

Of course, life is not just about work. How are you dealing with social isolation at home?

I moved to Köpenick (on the outskirts of Berlin) last year, which used to feel like the end of the world! Now I appreciate even more not being in the city. There’s lots of green and water – when I walk out of the flat, I’m in nature immediately. There are far less people here. For that reason, I don’t need to worry about social distancing, or the so-called Hamsterkäufer (a German word for panic buying or hoarding during times of public concern). 

On the activity side, I do a lot of sports, which keeps me sane. I have great connections with my neighbours, too. And my partner and I aren’t done with renovating our place there are many home projects to be done. Lest I forget, then there’s the games night with my Hamburg friends every Wednesday!

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