At which time do you wake up in the morning?
I’d say it’s largely dependent on whether I’m in the office or working from home for the day. So, I wouldn’t have a fixed time, but it’s between 7.15 and 7.45 (snooze button may be used occasionally).
What is the first thing you do?
Emails & listen to Linha de Passe with a coffee.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
A couple actually. I’ve a good sorting system for news sites using feedly, so I’d always start with the Politico Pro newsletters & also see what Euractiv has in stock. Then, I’d go through RTE & the Irish Times to see what’s happening back home in Ireland. Finally, I’d skim through SIC Notícias & O Jornal Económico to see if there’s anything notable from Portugal.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
If I’m in the office for the day, I’ll look to get in for the 9 AM mark or just before then. When working from home, I get going a bit earlier – 8.15/30.
How many times a day do you check emails?
A couple of times a day. Unless urgent, I try to respond to emails in clusters, so spacing out the number of checks throughout the day works best for me.
When is your first meeting?
Usually around 9.15. I’m not a huge fan of an earlier start for meetings, but there are times where an 8.30 call/meeting is needed.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
There’s a degree of flexibility needed to accommodate external meetings, in particular stakeholders from the institutions, so I often take my lead for populating the rest of my week around that. I haven’t got a specific methodology for how I approach it, but the only thing I try to be cardinal about is not having meetings after 17.00.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
It does vary at different stages of the year. But overall, over the past 11 months – I’d say 55/45 external vs internal. I’m not sure if others have the same impression, it feels occasionally that the internal stakeholder management part can be a full-time job in its own right – but it’s well worth doing. You can’t be a successful industry PA person if you’re not regularly tying in with colleagues across the different business units/departments.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
If I have a couple of minutes to myself, I just skim my feedly and see if there’s anything interesting in there to either flick through or bookmark for reading later. Old habits die hard (former consultant).
How do you organize your calendar?
I cover different policy areas in my work at Danfoss, so ideally, I try to bunch the meetings/related material production together so that different subjects aren’t intersecting multiple times over the course of a day.
I like to use my Friday for a recap of the week & planning. Which means Monday – Thursday is when the “heavy lifting” gets done.
How do you take notes?
Old school – pen & paper! I’m more likely to remember the little details of the conversation which aren’t noted by having the main points written down. But in the extremely rare occasion that I forget my Danfoss notepad, I’ll use my phone.
What is your relationship to Excel?
Aside from keeping a list of stakeholders or keeping track of amendments in files, virtually non-existent – don’t tell my colleagues…
What is your favorite app & why?
Twitter – access to relevant real-time info/discussions at the click of your finger. From a leisure standpoint, I like the Chess app. I probably lose more matches than I win but I’m getting better.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
Not all that many. I mainly have coffees and they tot up to quite a few during week. But it’s the way I work, I’m lot more effective when out meeting people than if I were confined to a desk all day.
Which time do you go to bed?
Around 12.30 – trying in vain to make it earlier.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
I’ve got good people on LinkedIn, so I always keep an eye on timeline to see if anyone has posted a nugget. Aaron McLoughlin, to name someone, always posts insightful content. Beyond LinkedIn, I just regularly meet a lot of different PA people from different sectors and look to extract from them what’s working/not working in their work.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
Don’t neglect your hobbies & stay physically active!
What is the biggest challenge you are working to solve right now?
We’re in the home stretch of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive which is a really important file to decarbonize Europe’s building stock. Hopefully we get it over the line before the year end. I’m also working on the development of a regulatory framework for District Heating in Ireland. Very exciting time to be involved in a sector that’s on the precipice of taking off!
What is the biggest challenge in Public Affairs right now?
It’s probably the perennial challenge for PA pros, but I’d say demonstrating the value of PA internally to senior leadership. No department is immune to budget cuts or resource allocation, especially public affairs, so it’s important to demonstrate how PA contributes to the success & growth of the company.
Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why
I’ve been fortunate to have worked/crossed paths with many stellar PA people throughout my career, so there are plenty I can list. But to answer the question, I’ll name three – Rikke Skou Melsen, colleague & Global Public Affairs Manager at Danfoss, Ognjenka Manojlović at Edelman & Yvonne Murphy, CEO of the Irish District Energy Association. Common thread between them: Excellent pros, trustworthy & people you’d want in the trenches with you.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
I make allowances for urgent emails and matters. However, generally speaking, no.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
Currently reading Sir Alex Ferguson’s book ‘Leading’. I’m football mad and, though an Arsenal fan, you have to respect greatness and that’s what Sir Alex represents. The book is a brilliant insight into the traits needed to be an effective leader, and while it obviously pulls on examples from his football career, there are many aspects that can be transferred and applied to other industries. Would highly recommend!
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 year?
I think an ability/flexibility to navigate different realms – corporate strategy / digital / marketing / communications. Budgets are getting tighter, so there probably isn’t that luxury to just excel in one facet of public affairs as more areas will have to fall under the remit of a few people.
How big is your PA department (PA employees)?
We have nine in our department at Group Public Affairs, but when including regional/segment colleagues that number rises to twenty two.
Where is the PA departments placed in your organization?
Our Group Public Affairs function sits within the Public Affairs & Communications department – I’d imagine the most common place to find PA functions across different companies.
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
Any Public Affairs function should have autonomy to drive initiatives, but to do so effectively & legitimately, there needs to be a budget that reflects the importance of the function & buy in/support from the very top of the organization. On the latter having that direct line to the CEO is critical. Where you place the function then afterwards can be debated until the cows come home. One of communications, marketing or sustainability are the most common bedfellows. Personally, as I said – budget & direct line to C-suite – are what really matter.
About Bonaldi da Costa
Bonaldi da Costa is EU Affairs Manager at Danfoss and also serves as Chair of the Advocacy Working Group at the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE). From Celbridge, Ireland, Bonaldi holds a BA in European Studies from Technological University Dublin & MEconSc in European Public Affairs & Law from University College Dublin.