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It is equally important to have advocates and supporters in our network at every step of our professional journey.


For this month's interview, we're delighted to have Magdalena Lewicka, Management Board Member - Finance Director, Multikino, Poland. Magda was a mentee in the first edition and became a mentor in the sixth edition of the UNIC Women's Cinema Leadership programme.

Here she reflects on her career path and shares useful pieces of advice.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR DAILY HABITS THAT KEEP YOU INSPIRED AND MOTIVATED.

It still sometimes surprises me how unpredictable the cinema industry is. But I guess it is the ever-changing landscape of the industry that has kept me focused and engaged – and fortunately – so far I’ve found the lack of structure to be more invigorating than frustrating! At the end of the day however this is a people industry – our main job is to give those who choose to spend their time in a cinema the best experience possible and you need an exceptional level of engagement to be able to do that. I have been very fortunate to come across some of the most exceptional individuals in the business – and I am constantly amazed by the creativity and resilience which they continue to demonstrate.

WHAT IS GREAT LEADERSHIP IN YOUR OPINION?

I think most of us have had an experience of entering a new organisation and almost instantly spotting the person other people would follow – irrespective of the job title or seniority. This is the leadership type I think we should aspire to.

Such leaders inspire talented individuals who gravitate towards them and quite often are also very successful at building outstanding teams. They encourage people to be open about their challenges and ideas, instil a level of fairness and trust – and ultimately – would not shy away from admitting “I don’t know the answer, let’s think about it together”. This is often just as valuable as providing solutions and ideas.

WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU ENCOUNTERED THROUGHOUT YOUR LEADERSHIP JOURNEY?

Balancing the needs of the teams with those of individuals has proven to be quite a challenge – a team is after all not only a sum of the professional capabilities of its members, but their experiences, preferences and individual personalities. For a team to work, maximising its potential and the individual goals of its members is a constant challenge.

HAVING A DEMANDING ROLE, HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR WORK AND PERSONAL LIFE?

In the modern working environment with technology at its core this is an ongoing effort and probably one of the most important skills one has to learn and constantly develop. There are always things to do and to improve and means to have them at our fingertip wherever we are. From this perspective it helps me to have a list of “non-negotiables” – enough sleep, physical activity, time with friends and family. We all have different ones but their common denominator is that our professional capabilities and efficiency suffer when we begin to compromise on them.

FROM YOUR CAREER OF 14 YEARS IN CINEMA, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS HOLDING WOMEN BACK? WHY SO THEY STILL REMAIN UNDERREPRESENTED IN SENIOR POSITIONS IN THE CINEMA INDUSTRY?

Both cinema and finance industries have been historically male-dominated and both have been very demanding in terms of time commitment – albeit for different reasons. Cinemas do not operate on a 9 to 5 schedule, but technology has considerably decreased the pressures this puts on people who manage them and on those in executive positions. However, despite having satisfactory female representation on an entry level we still seem to be lacking as an industry when we look at leadership roles. I strongly believe we need structural initiatives like those of UNIC to gain momentum and create a snowball effect whereby there are enough women in senior positions in the industry to convince others that they have a place at the table to aspire to – for the benefit of the industry and the companies that form it. That said I think it’s encouraging that as a society we now engage more in the conversation about career choice for both men and women. I am of the view that as long as people are provided with equal opportunities and support along the way, there are more ways to develop as a professional and an individual than a high-profile career. It is a matter of making the choice ourselves rather than being effectively left without one.

WHAT ARE THE CURRENT CHALLENGES FOR COMPANIES WHEN IT COMES TO ENSURING AN INCLUSIVE CULTURE AND AN INCLUSIVE LEADERSHIP?

I think the pace at which the world is changing is one of the biggest challenges for the managers of today. The generation entering the work environment nowadays is very different than it was just few years ago and trying to understand their needs and motivations by referring to our own experience quite often proves unsuccessful. We are thus quite often at a loss to understand what is expected from us as companies and managers to create an inclusive environment. The only way forward seems to be having a constant and honest conversation about this with our teams.  

AS AN EXPERIENCED MENTOR, WHY DO YOU THINK MENTORING IS IMPORTANT? DID YOU HAVE MENTORS ALONG THE WAY?

What seems to be a recurring theme in the discussions between the UNIC programme mentors is how rewarding the insight into the different perspectives of our oftentimes younger colleagues is. I believe it is especially important in our industry – the long tenures bring invaluable experience, but can also lead us to be stuck in the ways things have always been. If the mentoring sessions become in-depth conversations based on mutual trust and curiosity, they are a perfect way for seasoned managers to expand their horizons and get outside of their comfort zones. This kind of stimuli is quite often difficult to find in one’s own organisation.

I have had a unique advantage to participate in the UNIC programme, both as a mentee in its first edition and as a mentor, and must say I find both are incredibly rewarding. However, I think it is equally important to have advocates and supporters in our network at every step of our professional journey. I have been extremely lucky to have benefited from those interactions along the way.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO CURRENT MENTORS AND MENTEES?

The main one would be to be honest – about what we want to achieve, what we can offer and how this changes along the way. From my own experience and from the stories I have been hearing from the UNIC mentoring programme members, mentoring process can be about navigating major changes in professional lives or about the small things we want to improve to make our careers more fulfilling – and both can be equally rewarding for both mentors and mentees.


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