At which time do you wake up in the morning?
I get up at around 6.30. But, in reality, I already spend a lot of the night awake, mostly listening to audiobooks – I have become a true addict.
What is the first thing you do?
Trying not to check my emails… I have four children, so I have breakfast with them. But they are all so big now that they don’t need my help, we just chat.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
I read a lot – major French, British and Swedish outlets as those are countries I have a history with, plus, of course, European sources such as Politico – and then I listen to Belgian local news on radio for at least an hour every morning. I like to keep up with what is happening directly around me, not only in the Brussels bubble.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
I go to the office every day now, following the transition period after COVID, and I am so happy to be back. I love my office. But I start emailing before I get there, at the latest on the tram in.
How many times a day do you check emails?
Constantly! I am glued to my PC/phone!
When is your first meeting?
Any time from 8.30 onwards. I have a few Scandinavian clients and they like to start early. On the other side of the spectrum, I also have US customers, so the days are long. And I attend a lot of networking events in the evening.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
They are spread according to the needs of the clients, one week is often very different from the next. When we have physical meetings in Brussels they typically take a full day, with working lunches and dinners too.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
I run a small ship so we have very few internal meetings. Which I think is great, it means focusing on pure client work and contents.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
I check throughout, discreetly or at a bathroom break (!).
How do you organize your calendar?
As per above, it really depends on the clients and the deadlines. But we have big, regular, reports to submit and for those I plan many months ahead, with different deadlines along the way.
How do you take notes?
Old school – by hand. Then I transcribe the most salient points in summaries for clients or myself. It helps me remember things, to process the information at least twice.
What is your relationship to Excel?
I like Excel and use it more and more, e.g., for monitoring reports and mapping. Sometimes the functions are a bit frustrating, though, for example how it does not allow several hyperlinks in running text.
What is your favorite app & why?
We use Teams quite a lot, also for document sharing.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
Probably one or two, on average.
Which time do you go to bed?
At 11.30ish. I participate in a lot of social activities, singing and dancing, so the evenings are quite full.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
Through discussions with my peers. I have also been actively engaged in SEAP, the Society of European Affairs Professionals, i.e., the Brussels lobbyists’ own lobby organisation. I sat on the board for 15 years. SEAP works on issues such as ethical standards and transparency in public affairs. I also pick up news regarding the sector through attending networking events.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
I am probably the wrong person to ask… I tend to go all-in in everything I undertake so I get easily consumed by work. But, equally, I am obsessed with my kids so, all in all, I think that I manage. Importantly, my husband has been a stay-at-home-dad for many many years and he really takes care of all the ground service.
What do you do to unwind?
As I’ve mentioned before, singing and dancing – I go to a choir and to dancing lessons. And then I enjoy going out to party with different groups of friends!
How does your desk look?
I try not to be too messy, but I usually fail. I am very structured in my work but it may not look that way if the desk is anything to go by…
Do you answer emails on your phone?
All the time!
Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why
My trainees – they are so smart and have a fresh perspective on most topics.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
As a business owner you have to. I very rarely have a real vacation. I do travel with the family, but always with my PC in tow.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
I am passionate about books – both audio books and regular books. I consume a lot (I always have to buy extra audio credits!). I loved Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart and The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney which I read a few years ago.
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 year?
I think that curiosity is a timeless ingredient, although I am not sure you can call it a skill. The need to always know more and to go to the bottom of things.
Do you prefer LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or TikTok, and why/why not?
I am not very keen on social media. Professionally I mostly use LinkedIn but, as my colleagues know, I am not a fan of the ‘here I am, look at my achievements’-style but I still do it as it is part of the game.
How big is your PA department?
In my consultancy there is 3 of us, plus 2 half time, but that sometimes changes, depending on needs.
Where is the PA departments placed in your organization?
We are privileged enough to work with clients who value PA very highly – we feel that we are part of their in-house teams and we feel that we often have the ear of their leaders.
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
I believe that it should be part of the strategic, business development function. It should be forward-looking and allow the organisation to make the best investments and strategic planning.
About Kajsa Stenström
I am a Swedish national, educated in France (as the only foreigner in my Uni, before the Erasmus era!), who has lived in Brussels for 25 years. I studied history – and languages because I didn’t do it in my mother tongue – and then Political Science. Languages and philology is another passion of mine.