At which time do you wake up in the morning?
Usually between 7:00 and 8:00. Some people are like clockwork and wake up at the same time every day. I’ll hopefully develop this type of discipline.
What is the first thing you do?
Beard-grooming on most mornings. I try to avoid grabbing my phone the moment I wake up. Some mornings I slip up and check for quality memes.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
Once I get into the office, I make coffee and go through the tier 1 national media. This helps me understand what’s bothering my stakeholders that day and if I can do something about it. I then go through the press clipping which is more specific and linked to my policy areas. I check EU and global media a couple of times a week.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
I’m in the office by 9:00. I prefer working from the office and spending time with the team. Also, the office is on the top floor of a 16-story business tower – the view is something else!
How many times a day do you check emails?
Anytime I hear the fulfilling *ding* sound on my devices. Jokes aside, I like to check an email as soon as it hits my inbox – then I decide if it is a priority or if it can wait. I don’t look at my phone in meetings.
When is your first meeting?
I avoid having meetings before 10:30. It gives everyone time to prepare and be more in control of the day.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
I like to cluster meetings that are linked to a certain workstream or topic. It requires a lot of mental energy to switch back and forth between different topics within a single day.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
Probably 50:50. I work in a large company. I cover two markets and do some international regulatory work. So, there are a lot of internal meetings.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
I check news in the morning and in the afternoon. If something urgent happens in the meantime, I have confidence my PA agency will notify me.
How do you organize your calendar?
Structure is good, but it’s important for me to not overdo it. Don’t want my structure to control me. I have several recurring meetings and I set weekly time for focused work, but I like to be light on my feet and have available slots for contingency on each day. I don’t schedule anything after 18:00.
How do you take notes?
Google docs for internal meetings. In external meetings, I don’t like having a laptop or a notebook between me and the other person. I like to be fully engaged in the communication without interrupting it to jot something down. I memorize a lot and then put down key points and next steps after the meeting. I also have trust in my external PA agency to take quality notes during the meeting.
What is your relationship to Excel?
If it would be medically possible to develop an allergy to a software program, I’d probably be allergic to Excel.
What is your favorite app & why?
Slack is great for internal communication. You can create custom stickers on Slack. Needless to say, I have taken my colleagues’ least flattering photos and created some very flattering stickers.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
I only have a couple a month. On most days, I have lunch with the team in the office, it’s an easy way to foster internal relationships, and something to look forward to each day. External lunches eat up time, and there’s never enough time in a single day.
Which time do you go to bed?
Typically, around 23:00. I read a couple of pages of a good book before I shut down completely.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
Several channels, this blog included. Milos Labovic has a cool newsletter. Politico EU Influence is a good weekly read. LinkedIn posts from Stuart Thomson, Aaron Mcloughlin and Stephen Massey are always interesting. I also enjoy the Persuaders podcast, Pluxcast and The Political Life podcast.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
It’s highly individual. It helps if you love what you do, because then it doesn’t drain you. If you are depleted, you can’t truly enjoy the little joys of life outside of work.
What do you do to unwind?
Combat sports. I’ve been a practitioner for most of my life and this is a great way to actively unwind. I am also a proud subscriber to all streaming platforms. There’s great fulfillment in just slouching on the couch with Sara, the love of my life, and watching a good show.
How does your desk look?
The beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Good thing one rarely beholds my desk.
Do you answer emails on your phone?
If it’s a simple yes or no response.
Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why
Respect develops when you’re working closely with someone. My manager Aleksander Libera is a guy who has your back and a person you can always rely on – that’s something one must respect. I also need to mention Natko Vlahovic, who I worked with for several years. He pioneered the lobbying profession in Croatia and paved the way for all the others.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
Only urgent matters. I prepare the team before my leave. I work with an amazing group of people, so my absence is rarely felt.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
I read quite a lot. Usually books on lobbying, politics or professional development. Last one was “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss. In PA, we negotiate all the time. This book is full of neat negotiation tactics.
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 year?
Communicating efficiently will always be crucial, but we will have to get more adept at understanding business. Translating business goals into policy messages. Shaping policy so it supports business goals. We need to show efficiency here. When business sees this efficiency in their Excel sheets – we’ve done our job. I’m expecting many more PA professionals with MBAs.
Do you prefer LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or TikTok, and why/why not?
I prefer LinkedIn. The content suits me best. Although, the Twitter and Facebook are still good to gauge what type of messaging gets through to the widest audience. As PA professionals, we need to understand that.
How big is your PA department?
In my markets, Croatia and Slovenia, I am the only policy person, but I coordinate a cross-function team, with great support from the regional and global level. We also use a local PA agency that helps us achieve our goals.
Where is the PA department placed in your organization?
We have a standalone Public Policy department. There’s close cooperation with business leaders, as well as PR and legal.
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
I think it works best when the function is independent and closer to leadership. Business leaders should see value in having a strong PA function. I’m lucky to work in an organization that sees the importance of having a strong public policy function. Policy work is a lot about timing – if you are closer to leadership, you are more in control of internal timing.
About Fabijan Popovic
Fabijan is a Public Policy Manager at Bolt. He spent 3 years at Vlahovic Group, first Croatian PA agency. Before that he had a brief spell as PR associate at the Croatian Chamber of Small Enterprises. He is member of the Management Board at the Croatian Society of Lobbyists, an NGO that gathers PA professionals in Croatia.
He holds an MA in public policy and management from the Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb and gained further education at the London School of Public Relations.
He’s happy to connect on LinkedIn.