Benedikte Larsen heads up digital communications at Novo Nordisk in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is also a perpetual plate spinner and super mum
My alarm sounds at 6am but I press the snooze button at least seven times so it’s usually about 6.30am before I actually get out of bed. We have a fantastic gym at our office in Copenhagen so sometimes on Fridays I wake up a bit earlier to attend a fitness class.
I have breakfast with my children and husband. At 12 and 15, my two daughters are old enough to get to school on their own so I don’t have to do a school run – but I always try to be a good mum and take them if it’s raining. And when I’m feeling like a super mum, I bake fresh rolls in the morning for our breakfast.
I live close to the office – a quick 15 minute drive – so I get there about 8:15am, which gives me time to catch up on emails before my official work day begins. If you asked me how I spend my day, I would answer with one word: meetings. In any given week, I spend about 20 to 25 hours in meetings and the rest of my time is consumed by planning, follow-up and emails – there are a lot of decisions to be made, input to give and plenty of co-ordination. As such, I would describe myself as a combination of a perpetual plate spinner, an orchestra conductor and an octopus.
I’ve been working at Novo Nordisk for 14 years now – my first job with the company was an internal online news web editor. My current role as head of digital communications is to set the direction we’re heading in with our corporate digital communications and enable employees to use and navigate the digital landscape. I lead a team who, in collaboration with other functions, manage the Novo Nordisk ‘digital ecosystem’, which includes our corporate website, YouTube, our Twitter accounts, plus our Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ channels, as well as internal video sharing platforms, NovoTube and NovoPhoto.
Our digital platforms are never isolated entities – instead they interconnect, support and benefit each other – and all content is closely aligned to our overarching strategy. Content is definitely king. The platforms are just the supporting tools to enable us to reach our goal. Everything we post has been tailored to fit the purpose of the end user and we never automate the content, and that makes us special I think.
The world of digital is such a fast-paced environment and goalposts are always moving. Creating a channel is easy but it’s more than just what is on the surface – it’s the maintenance and support needed that makes it tough. Because social media is social, we constantly engage in conversations, answer questions, report adverse events and document our value with metrics. In our team, we often compare managing a social media platform to owning a Tamagotchi pet; it needs to be fed day and night, including weekends and holidays.
I’ve always been involved in digital on an organisational and management level, rather than on the technical side. I’m actually not much of a geek – you certainly won’t see me enthusiastic about new gadgets. What excites me is how digital can translate into business, and I see myself as a bridge between the IT organisation and the line of business. The big game changer for me was the introduction of social media because it has revolutionised how we communicate.
I love my job and I have such a clever and talented team. But of course there are challenges. These are mainly because digital in pharma has so many restrictions. But what this actually means is it forces us to be more creative. There is so much power – both good and bad – in social media. I’m excited to see what the future holds.
How do you spend your evening?
I’m normally always online so I need places where I feel I can switch off completely. I love gardening, where I can recharge my batteries. I also watch TV, socialise with my family or friends, and play Wordfeud on my iPhone. I also belong to a book and movie club.
How did you get to where you are today?
Through a mix of being lucky and working hard. I am blessed to have a widespread network of colleagues at Novo Nordisk and it’s very satisfying to have been there from the beginning to create a digital communications department. But it’s by no means the culmination of a masterplan. I am simply adaptable and take chances and opportunities as and when they arise.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Did I dream of digital? No, not at all. I wanted to be a midwife or work at a candy store.
If you had to swap jobs, what would you do?
I would try something completely different. I dream of opening my own ‘folk high school’ near our summer house. This is a Danish concept, which is like a retreat. I would love to have a place like that – being able to offer somewhere for families to go to for a week or a weekend, play tennis or volleyball, learn to meditate, enjoy nature and eat good food.
Who is your role model?
My role model personally is my aunt because she is powerful, insightful and funny. Professionally, I enjoy being around people who are talented, have their heart in the right place and are willing to work together to achieve the best results. So it’s not a particular person but rather an attitude or ethos – if you have that, then I’m all in.
What was your first ever job?
Babysitting my neighbour’s child when I was 10.
What is the best career advice you have ever been given?
I’ve learned that knowing the business you’re working in is absolutely essential. I also believe in persistence and not fearing failure. And it’s important to know how to listen to others.
What is the worst career advice you have ever been given?
I’m lucky – I’ve never received any bad career advice.
What is your tip for a good work/life balance or meeting your career goals?
One of the pitfalls of having the flexibility to work online is that you end up putting in lots of hours. What has worked for me is to stay true to myself, pull the plug when I need to and ask for reduced working hours, which I was lucky to have when my children were younger. I think managers who have this mindset get much more in return.
What qualifications/personal skills do you need for your job?
Of course I need a basic understanding of the platforms we manage and understand the business we are operating in. Also the ability to network, flexibility and being ready for change – in digital, tomorrow is always different to today.