Alumni Stories: Klaudia Półtorak-Misiura
"The work looks exactly as I dreamed it to be. We discuss a lot, brainstorm, and every day I have contact with different cultures, different languages, accents and customs. It was also my first direct contact with strong women in high places. It was extremely inspiring! I will never forget my first day in this job - everyone greeted me kindly. (...) "
Name: Klaudia Półtorak-Misiura
Place of residence: Hamburg, Germany
Job position: Regional Manager
Field of study: Culture and Media Management
- What is your best memory of studying at the Jagiellonian University?
All memories of people are best for me. They really create a very nice and unforgettable picture of my studies.
Let's start with the fact that I am, unfortunately, a late person. There is a very funny story connected with this not very positive feature, thanks to which a beautiful, friendly relationship was born. I remember the first lecture (it was already Master's studies) where I ran in late, as usual. As an excuse, I can say that it was Friday and I had to travel to the other end of Cracow from work. There was a girl in the last row. I asked her what happened in those 10 minutes. And she says she just got in and that she's late. I sat down with her - we didn't talk much that day, we didn't exchange phone numbers. But the next morning we met on the tram late again. We burst out laughing, exchanged numbers, started talking and it connected us. We have been close friends till this day.
I have very good memories of the academic staff, mainly my BA and MA thesis supervisors: Dr. Rafał Maciąg and Professor Emil Orzechowski. Professor Orzechowski gave great lectures and invited interesting guests. It is thanks to him that the degree programme I completed had been opened. Dr. Ewa Kocój took us on various unusual journeys and anthropological research trips, including to Romania, and her lectures were also very memorable. And, of course, the workshops with Dr. Michał Zawadzki, who talked about crisis management, where we analysed business cases, discussed and considered various solutions in the field of management. All of this was very helpful for my work.
- How did your career start? What were the turning points?
I knew already during my undergraduate studies that I wanted to work in a dynamic team and a growing company. I didn't quite like the monotonous work that I got to know thanks to a few odd jobs during my studies. In addition, I did voluntary work at film festivals in Cracow, where a lot happened during one day, and we, as volunteers, could participate in it all, the dynamics of such events was amazing for me - I liked it. But a serious career began right here in Hamburg. While I was finishing my studies, my husband got a job on a research project. In Poland, I didn't have any obligations, so I literally quit everything and went. I'd never thought about living and working in Germany before. It was never my dream destination. I also did not speak German. But I was very curious about Hamburg...
After a month of searching, I got a job where I had to look for information about a leading German car brand. And it was my favourite too! The project was very interesting, but the conditions were very corporate. Every day was more or less the same - procedures, reports ... So I started looking for something else and found an additional job in a startup. For some time, I worked over 12 hours a day. The truth is that it was autumn, the weather was very bad, it was rainy. I didn't have much to do, I didn't have many friends here yet, and thanks to this job it changed. Some time later I found an internship with an online marketing company. I started working there in April 2016, on April Fool's Day to be exact. This day turned out to be the beginning of my life's adventure and some great friendships. And that's where I work until this day. The pace of work is very fast. I myself still cannot believe that I managed to get used to something like this. But it is all thanks to great and supportive people without whom it would be impossible to achieve what I am doing now. The job looks exactly as I dreamed it to be. We discuss a lot, we brainstorm, every day I have contact with different cultures, different languages, accents and customs. It was also my first direct contact with strong women in high places. It was extremely inspiring! I will never forget my first day in this job - everyone greeted me kindly. Lots of conversations and a great atmosphere, and the view is so beautiful from the office ... I knew that I had to do everything to stay there longer after the internship. I tried very hard and it worked.
- How has your education contributed to your career development?
I really loved my field of study. The combination of management, culture and media issues was a bull's eye and was in line with the new trends on the labour market. I have always been interested in painting and cinema, so on the one hand it was developing my interests, and on the other hand, learning how cultural and media institutions operate and are managed. One of my dreams back then was (and still is) having my own art gallery. In addition, management has helped me a lot in my daily life. At work, I use knowledge about, for example, planning, setting goals, crisis management or creating strategies. I remember a lot from my studies, so using this knowledge in practice is very easy for me. I also often return to the books we used in our studies and which are still relevant today. I have very good memories of my studies and what I got to know thanks to them. In my case, studies are a very significant component of my professional career, but I believe that how much a young person will gain from their studies and how to use this knowledge later is a very individual matter.
- Tell us about your current job. What are you doing now?
I am a regional manager. Projects from Germany, Poland and Russia belong to my region. Previously, my region also included a project from the Netherlands, which I decided to end. I do not hide that my work consists of many challenges related to, for example, maintaining project development, crisis management in the event of downturns, cooperation with external business partners, but also challenges related to cultural differences and people management, e.g. Poles and Russians work completely unlike the Dutch and the Germans, for example. As for team management, I set goals, help solve problems, control the workload, collaborate with other teams and I could go on and on like that. But it also is very important for the employees to set goals themselves. We talk about what is achievable and what is not, what we can do to get closer to success. I support my entire team as much as I can and each one individually. One of my favourite moments of work is individual discussions with members of my team, the so-called 121s that give them and me a lot of energy, motivation and drive to further work. I really enjoy working with these people. I can influence their personal and professional development, I can help, I can, for example, improve their day at work so that they do what they are good at and what they like. These are very talented, ambitious young people. I am so proud of each of them.
Photo from the graduate's own collection.
There is a lot of responsibility in my position, luckily I am the sort of person who likes it. However, when I was offered l to manage the region, I was not so confident :). I think I called all the people important to me to hear their opinion and asked "what would you do in my place?" I didn't quite see myself in this position and knew that going far beyond my comfort zone would be inevitable here. I lacked confidence in myself and I thank the people who believed in me and were sure that I could do it. The first months were very demanding. At the beginning of my work as regional manager, there were a lot of new things that I had to learn quite quickly. I asked for help and asked a lot of questions to people from other departments. I was looking for tips and solutions on how I could improve my own and my team's work. I know that I am repeating myself, but without people who are kind and, above all, patient, I certainly would not be where I am now. I am very grateful for that.
- What are your biggest challenges right now?
My biggest challenges today are based on the words: expectation and development. Although I would describe the first word more as "expectation management". I do not know if there is such a thing, but as the leader of the entire region, I try to meet all the expectations set by the company, our business partners, as well as my team, and most of all myself. I always set the bar high for myself, but I do not always manage to clear it. I try to balance the pressure and I know that if something goes wrong, I have the opportunity to verify and correct it, or ask for help. Bringing all expectations together, setting priorities and evaluating is a good professional test for me. The second challenge concerns the development of: 1. My region in terms of measurable results, 2. My team in terms of trust and communication in order to create a strong and independent group of professionals working together and to develop the strengths of each team member individually. 3. Myself in the context of learning process optimization, strategy building, quick risk assessment.
- What is life and work like in Hamburg?
I cannot say that it is completely different than in Poland. Work, conversations between people, shopping, going out, public transport, most institutions function similarly. Some say there is less bureaucracy, some say more. For me personally, it is a bit easier, even though I still do not communicate fluently in German. My life is a little calmer and more harmonious. Hamburg is a very green city, probably every street is surrounded by greenery. The heart of the city is Alster lake and the river. Also, you can find a park or a green square at every turn. I commute to work by bicycle most of the year and I can say that the network of bicycle paths is well-developed. I missed that in Cracow. However, what fascinates me the most is definitely multiculturalism. In Hamburg, you can meet a lot of nationalities from all over the world, literally everywhere, everyone is very open and willing to talk. A trip to a local museum or a party in a club may suddenly turn into a conversation with a newly met person from South America about how to cook food from your country. I have lots of beautiful memories with the LATAM team from our company - learning to dance, night tours around the city, house parties with colleagues from Colombia and Mexico preparing delicious guacamole or ceviche. Earlier, while studying or working in Cracow, I had no chance to meet people from, for example, Mexico or Chile.
- What is your definition of success?
This is not an easy question. For me, success is probably different from what most people think it is. For me, it is a great success that I have a job and a team that I spend a very nice time with, wonderful people around me, home, I am healthy and I can help others. Near the end of high school and during my studies, two situations in my private sphere happened that changed my life, defined who I am and what I will be in the future. This is something that will stay with me until the end. Both situations were very difficult and required extraordinary strength, so every day I try to do my best and I have full control over what my day will look like, I can help others and spend time with people with whom I feel happy. I know it may be a cliché, but to me, no “success” really counts if you don't have someone to celebrate it with.
- What advice / guidance do you have for current students entering the job market?
Always ask questions and ask for help, talk about problems or challenges that we face. Do not pretend if you don't know something! And never worry about negative comments. In addition, ask for feedback after a conversation, a presentation, a speech, see if you improve something, get to know the other person's perspective. Try out internships and student exchanges. Especially abroad! Move away from an entitled attitude. Of course, sometimes it's worth standing up for yourself, but you also need to understand that some processes take time. It is a good to find out more about different professions, find out which are currently in demand, check the requirements in job offers, review the skills that employers expect. Try free courses that are now easily accessible via the Internet and mobile apps: Google Digital Garage, Coursera, Google Primer, Free Udemy or Linkedin Learning courses. It is worth setting a plan - not to learn everything at once, learn the topics step by step. Put more emphasis on languages - they are very useful. Always have a good attitude and don't put too much pressure on yourself!
- How do you imagine the cooperation between the Jagiellonian University and its graduates?
I am happy to share my experiences with any interested person. I feel good in less formal conversations, I can also participate in a structured meeting or exchange messages via e-mail or WhatsApp. I think I can motivate people to act, so feel free to contact me!