Interview: Kristine Eia Kirkholm (35), Head Of Communications At Norway’s Biggest Online Marketplace Finn.no
Kristine Eia Kirkholm (35) is the Head of Communications at Norway’s biggest online marketplace, Finn.no. Even though she started out on a different path, she made her dream of working in PR and communications come true by setting clear goals for herself.
This smart, reflected and incredibly tough power woman has found a way to juggle work, family and her social circle – an inspiration for all of us to believe in ourselves and go after what we want.
First of all, how did you start your day today?
I´m so happy you are asking this today, because I started my day with a workout. My children are on holiday with family, so me and my husband did a Barry’s Bootcamp workout together, a bit later than usual. And then I met a colleague for coffee to catch up at the top floor of VG-bygget with the greatest view of the Oslo fjord bathing in sunlight. A great way to start the day!
What is your professional and educational background?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Political science with a specialization in Media Science. I also went to Boston with The Norwegian School of Entrepreneurship programme. I wanted to get a Masters degree in communications, but decided to take a break and get some work experience. I started working with HR and recruitment at ‘Retail House’, where I did some Project Management on the side, and stayed there for three years. I knew I wanted to work in PR, and when there was an open position at ‘PR Operatørene’ I took the leap and got the job. Later on I moved on to work as a consultant/advisor at JKL, before landing the dream job as Head of Communications at ‘Finn.no’.
I felt like I did not have a strong enough educational background to get my dream job, which took a toll on my self esteem. I started with some regrets on not changing to BI or other Communication studies. But I got over it, dared to state that I wanted to become Head of Communications and a leader out loud, and worked towards this.Kristine Eia Kirkholm
What are your interests, hobbies, passions beyond work?
Can I say drink wine? No, I´m just kidding. I don’t really have any classic hobbies, even though I probably should. I prioritize spending my spare time with family and friends. I love to explore the city, go on trips with friends on weekends, working out and find time for other things that are important to me in everyday life besides work.
Where and doing what do you feel most inspired?
When I’m outside, surrounded by nature. I should definitely get out more often, because it really makes you feel alive. I recently went on a trip to Iceland, where we hiked to the top of a mountain to do morning yoga with breathing exercises. That gave me so much energy. This is obviously not my everyday life, but just being active outside gives me a big boost!
I also feel really inspired when I have good conversations and discussions with my husband. We can discuss work, and that gives me ideas and a professional boost. Just quality conversations with people in general gives me inspiration!
How did you get to where you are today?
I felt like I did not have a strong enough educational background to get my dream job, which took a toll on my self esteem. I started with some regrets on not changing to BI or other Communication studies. But I got over it, dared to state that I wanted to become Head of Communications and a leader out loud, and worked towards this.
What are your biggest professional insecurities and how do you overcome them?
The classic one, a fear that someone will see right through me – imposter syndrome. That they will be able to read my mind and understand that I don’t have a hundred percent control of everything as a leader. But, what I do about it is simply to state what I’m insecure about out loud, and then my husband will tell me to stop overthinking and it becomes less scary.
As a specific example, I recently got asked to write a script for a speech, which I have never done before – how do you even start figuring that out? When it became challenging, people said; “can’t you just d give the task to someone else?” But I didn’t want to quit. I generally hate sharing work that’s not finished, and that I’m not satisfied with, but this time I just though; “screw that, I’m going to just send the first draft and get the feedback and work from there”. We have to stop being afraid of doing things we are not good at, being afraid of asking for help and thinking that we need to be an expert on everything!
I tell my daughter who’s six years old that she can’t be best at everything on the first try, so I have to follow the advice myself as well.
What is the best and worst thing about your job/career?
Finn.no is a really nice place to work. The people there are really cool and it’s fun to both be at work and be social with my colleagues at the same time. It’s amazing to be able to work with something I’m passionate about, and to be able to develop professionally and work with exciting projects.
The worst part must be the fear of not always knowing what I’m doing, and feel like I should know everything since I´m responsible for my team. But this is not really a serious issue, and I believe this applies to most people in a leadership position. We feel some kind of fearful joy.
I think we (Scandinavian women) are awesome in general. We have great style (despite challenging weather) and we are masters of juggling family and career. Scandinavian women are really cool!Kristine Eia Kirkholm
How do you pick yourself up and keep going when you feel discouraged?
You spend so much time at your job and it’s a big part of your identity, which makes it easy to feel down when it gets rough. When this happens it’s important to do something that’s not related to work. Like going out for dinner and drinks with friends, a date with my husband or just spending quality time with my family. I can also feel discouraged when I have less to to at work than others. But it never takes long until I’m back on track with new projects at full speed.
Tell us about something you’re really proud of in your career and/or your greatest achievement (don’t be shy):
I have three things I’m especially proud of. The first one is landing the job at ‘PR Operatørene’. I didn’t have the “right” education and experience, so I was proud of getting an “in” to this line of business. The second one is landing the job at ‘Finn.no’. I felt like I didn’t have anything to lose when applying, but ‘Finn.no’ is a popular place to work – there were a lot of people competing for the position and I ended up getting it! And lastly, I’m proud of what I have been working on at ‘Finn.no’ this spring. I have been working with our mission, and incorporating it as a part of our strategy, and in making our social responsibility initiatives even stronger. This is now guiding everything we do and this makes our company footprint even stronger!
Name any woman (past or present) whom you admire and look up to and please tell us why:
I really have a taste for Trine Eilertsen. She is clear and reflected in her opinions, and even though this is her job, I often find her to be more nuanced than what would be the easy option to go for. I think it’s really cool with women in these types of positions. And it’s exciting that Kristin Skogen Lund will be the new CEO of ‘Schibsted’. I´m looking forward to her leading the company onwards.
What do Scandinavian women need more of? Less of?
I think we are awesome in general. We have great style (despite challenging weather) and we are masters of juggling family and career. Scandinavian women are really cool!
Name three qualities you admire in other women:
Thinking about my own girlfriends, it would be the fact that they are really sharp and good at argumenting and discussing. But, on the other hand, they can be really goofy and joke around too, and are not afraid of being perceived in a certain way because of it – even in a professional setting. And they are extremely present with both family and friends.
If you have one, what is your personal or professional motto?
I feel like mottos often become a bit silly, but I do have a friend that always jokes around with the saying; “If you’re not living on the edge you are taking up to much space”, which has stuck with me. Wait, I do say this at home “Du må YTE før du kan NYTE (Norwegian), which means that you have to perform before you can enjoy.”
When, where and doing what do you feel the furthest away from your comfort zone?
The other day I felt far very out of my comfort zone. I had a workshop with people from the ‘product and technology’ department, where I did not really know people that well. When we ended up having a ‘post-it’ bonanza with the task of listing any solution to a problem, where there was no right answer, the perfectionist in me freaked out and considered leaving the room for a minute. But then I read the notes out loud, and realised that it wasn’t that stupid after all. But in situations where I don’t really know what answers others are expecting from me, or where there is no correct answer, I can feel uncomfortable.
Tell us one thing that people would be surprised to know about you:
What surprises people the most is when I tell them that I had an insane temper when I was a child. I sent my sister through a door during a fight about a toy car, and ruined a lot of stuff. My husband might see the signs of it occasionally, but luckily I have gained control of it as an adult. I had a lot of anger that I needed to get out of my system, it seems like.
And finally, do you have any advice, big or small, to all the ambitious women out there wanting to head for their dream career?
If you are feeling lost or insecure, get some distance and find room to reflect. I used my maternity leaves to do this, but you obviously don’t have to get a child to have a break. Go on holiday! The search statistics on ‘jobs’ at Finn.no always increase after vacations, because this is when people find time and energy to make a move. Dare to ask yourself what you really want and what will make you happy. I might not be the best at setting goals in other areas of my life, but when it comes to your career and where you want it to go, this is really important. When you decide that you want things fall into place, it’s easier to make smart choices and exclude anything that won’t help you get to where you want to be!
[Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments section]