At which time do you wake up in the morning?
I am a morning person. This is great in Scandinavian summers, when I can be up with the birds. It gets a little harder during the winter, but I aim for 6 on average, because I do get the most done in the morning, when my brain is fresh.
What is the first thing you do?
I make myself a cup of tea and check the news.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
I love analysis of current affairs, so lean towards Politico, Gzero/Eurasia, but also scan the headlines of the Financial Times, the Economist, the New York Times, and a few German newspapers to keep up with what’s going on back home.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
I tend to be in at 8.30h. When I work from home, I start much earlier; I love the uninterrupted slot before everyone gets on email/chat/phone.
How many times a day do you check emails?
I do not have a schedule, and it really depends on whether I am working at my laptop or whether I am in meetings. A day in the office can mean I am not checking mails until the evening.
When is your first meeting?
I have colleagues and business partners around the globe, so anything is possible in any given week. Generally, Swedes start early, so 8 or 8.30 is normal.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
Post-pandemic, I try to have my physical meetings on the days I am in the office and my online meetings when I work from home. I don’t think this has ever worked out 100%, but going to the office only to then lock myself in a booth for online meetings seems counterintuitive.
As a team, we have agreed on a “no meetings on Friday”-rule – I try to block those days for strategic work, so I prioritise reading, thinking, and writing,
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
Probably 60 internal / 40 external.
How do you organize your calendar?
My Outlook calendar is probably the most important tool in my life, as I use it also as my to do-list. If something needs to get done, be it getting bread or strategizing with my team about our FY25 outreach-plan, I will find the necessary time in my calendar and schedule it. Time management wise, this has been an absolute game changer.
How do you take notes?
I used to be an avid note taker. I have however understood that personally, taking notes can distract me from active listening. For that reason, I try to summarise a meeting during the last 5 minutes of it (if I run it) or to capture my thoughts after the meeting is over.
What is your relationship to Excel?
What is your favorite app & why?
Outlook. I rely on the calendar for life management.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
Nothing beats meeting with my peers.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
There is nothing more important than your health; you – and those that depend on you – need you to be healthy in mind and body. What keeps you healthy is ultimately a very individual thing and up to you to define.
What is the biggest challenge you are working to solve right now? What is the biggest challenge in Public Affairs right now?
We are witnessing a wave of technological innovation that is reshaping the world we live in. Especially the area of Artificial Intelligence is evolving fast, and generative AI could be more revolutionary than anything we have seen before in our lifetime. In parallel, the world’s power structure has become unbalanced, because more and more, technology companies wield the kind of power previously held by actors in nation states – democratically elected or not. At the same time, technology’s complexity makes it almost impossible for policy- and decisionmakers – usually tech-laypersons – to understand what they need to govern. In the worst scenario, global power is shifting towards very few actors who are not accountable to anyone but their shareholders.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
I can always be reached via text in urgent cases.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
I usually have a few books going at the same time, so I will mention here one that stayed strong with me even 2 years after having read it:
“When We Cease to Understand the World” by Benjamín Labatut (The Guardian writes: “An extraordinary ‘nonfiction novel’ weaves a web of associations between the founders of quantum mechanics and the evils of two world wars.”)
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 year?
A deep understanding of technology, esp. Artificial Intelligence.
How big is your PA department (PA employees)?
Globally, we are 20+ colleagues, plus teams in the markets where we operate.
Where is the PA departments placed in your organization?
We work very closely with our C-suite, reporting to our Chief Communication Officer.
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
In an ideal world, Public Affairs has a strategic role directly in the CEO’s line.
Vera Heitmann, Global Public Affairs Leader, IKEA Retail (Ingka Group). Vera brings over 20 years of experience working in strategic communication and public affairs. A political scientist by trade, she advised members of the German Parliament for 15 years. Before joining IKEA Germany in 2013, she ran the Berlin office of a political consultancy. Today at IKEA Retail (Ingka Group), she is the senior lead for the Public Affairs team focusing on topics such as AI, geopolitics, and taxes.