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Interview with Hannele Marjavaara, Kino Tapiola


For this month’s interview, we are delighted to be joined by Hannele Marjavaara, Cinema Manager, Kino Tapiola, Espoo, Finland. Hannele was a mentor in the 5th edition of the UNIC Women's Cinema Leadership programme and is here sharing inspiring thoughts and experience.

Tell us about your daily habits that keep you inspired and motivated.

There are many different elements to my work, and I enjoy the multitude of it: I am never bored. When I feel overwhelmed, I revaluate what needs to be done and in what order. To me it is vital to be my own boss in this way, and it is very motivating to have the freedom to decide when and how I work. Although I do not own the business, as the Cinema Manager I have run Kino Tapiola on my own for over 12 years now, so I have both full trust in my capabilities as well as the understanding of the limits of what just one person can do.

Looking back at your career journey, what are you the most proud of? 

I think I’m most proud of the fact that I was willing to change everything when things weren’t feeling right: I was on a path to a very successful career in the events industry in London, but as it wasn’t to do with my beloved film industry, I literally gave up everything and moved to my native Finland to start afresh. I got a summer job as a waitress, but within 4 months I started a work experience position at a production company, and I have never even applied for work ever since; everything just rolled organically from there. So don’t be afraid of change if things aren’t right, life is too short!

What were the biggest challenges you encountered throughout your leadership journey? 

Finding the balance between my new leadership role at the newly opened cinema 12 years ago and being a new mother. My partner was a stay-at-home dad, so that helped to an extent, but in hindsight, it was too much for the first 1,5 years. I was supposed to work with another person, but instead was left alone to run everything, so I constantly neglected all my own needs. I have since practised asking for help, to let my board know when the workload is too much – this has been a valuable lesson for me, as my normal mind-set is to just stubbornly soldier on.

What are the key insights you know now that you wished you knew at the beginning of your career? 

That it is enough just to be yourself and be the kind of leader that comes naturally to you – you do not need to incorporate a certain ”persona". Work from your own characteristics: For example, I am an open, caring and positive person, I make friends easily and I instinctively know what should be done, and who should do it. So these qualities have now become my assets, and I don’t feel the need to be more ”official” or ”serious”. I would also like to challenge why we are programmed to constantly aim for "something bigger” – why? Please take stock, know yourself, find out what is right for you.

Having a demanding role, how do you balance your work and personal life?

I have learned to give myself the permission to work whenever and however I want, without sticking to "office hours". My cinema is always open on evenings and weekends, and I need to be available should my staff need me, so I keep taps on my working hours and schedule my work as it best suits me. If I want to go to the gym, spend time with my kids or watch a film during the day, I will do so. This freedom is one of the biggest perks in my job.

You were a mentor in the fifth edition of the UNIC Women's Cinema Leadership Programme. How was that experience for you?

It was very eye-opening as I hadn’t really fully thought about my leadership qualities before. Working with these amazing powerhouse women made me finally embrace the fact that the so-called feminine qualities of empathy, honesty and openness are the real leadership qualities. They can really affect change in the world.

What advice do you have for current mentors and mentees? 

I love this saying I borrowed somewhere, and it goes along the lines of “If you cannot be happy washing the dishes, then what is the point of happiness?” To me this signifies the happiness contained in the mundane, in the everyday. If you are only happy waiting for something special to occur, then please do take a hard look into your life and what is bringing you down in the now.


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