Anna Jakubowski – General Manager of Coca-Cola Poland Services – a woman with charisma. She offers support expecting nothing in return.

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Passion, constant improvement and social commitment.

 

Anna Jakubowski, is General Manager of Coca-Cola Poland Services, responsible for Poland and the Baltic countries, as well and a member of the Supervisory Board of the Millennium Bank in Poland, and has previously managed international organizations including women’s associations. She is very committed to community and charity activities. She emanates optimism- it makes me wonder how much energy one person can have.

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Polish- Canadian decent

Anna Jakubowski was born in Canada, in a family of Polish immigrants, as the fourth and the youngest of her siblings. War and other misfortunes caused her parentsto start a new life far from their families in Poland. Her mother was rescued by the General Anders’ Polish Army in Exile in the Soviet work camps in Siberia, later she came to North America, where she met her future husband.

Polish immigrants who feared communism, and therefore did not return to their homeland. Their children were raised up in the Canadian culture, speaking English. Nevertheless, they kept Polish traditions at home, like Christmas Eve celebrations and speaking Polish to each other, yet they did not teach Polish to their children.

Her father died of cancer when Anna was 6 years old. –Both my mother and grandmother and many other women in our family lost their husbands early in life, so we learned to be tough and self-sufficient. I have always admired their incredible strength which I probably inherited from them– she adds willfully.

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When one meets my mother, they understand instantly where I get my energy from! She retired at the age of 82, a nurse by profession. If it was not for a shoulder injury, she would be playing tennis still. She was 65 years old when I finally managed to beat her on a tennis courtshe says with enthusiasm. She told us very often “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. Now Anna, has a more optimistic approach to life.

As a young girl she practiced many disciplines of sport, thanks to which she has learned the life lessons of how to win and how to lose. Tennis was a passion, she was good at it, but never the best, so she also did team sports to fuel her motivation. She played basketball, volleyball as well as soccer for 10 years, football being popular amongst girls in Canada. Her older, handsome brothers and their friends were trainers of the teams she played for, so she felt fortunate.

I came to Poland in 1990, for the first time, it was thanks to the Solidarność movement, which contributed to the abolishment of the communist regime in Poland and changed the face of European. I met for the first time my grandmother, uncle, aunt and my cousins…this was an exceptional moment in my life – she recalls. -I was always able to recognize my father in photos and I knew our family stories shared over the years, but I did not remember him. So being able to retrace my parents lives, and in essence ‘get to know’ my father through his mother and siblings, stirred up in me a new found pride; not only in my family roots, but of the Polish nation.

She has never been far from Poland, although she worked and lived in other European countries for many years. She managed to visit Poland at least every autumn to spend weekends together with her family mushroom picking in the Kaszuby region and to visit her cousin in Gdańsk an accomplished businesswoman with her own construction company of several dozens employees.

Anna is not married, she simply has not found her right partner, nor has she children, but she lives life to the fullest. She wakes up early every day and dedicates her time to family, friends and employees. She has always been an early riser, in previous years she woke up at 4 a.m. to include a morning physical exercise routine in her schedule – mornings are a time when she has always felt at her best. Now she will have to fit in time for her knee rehabilitation post a surgery, after years of a strenuous schedule she will need to find more time to take care of herself.

 

Career

As the General Manager of Coca-Cola Poland Services she has been in charge of Poland and the Baltic Republics since November 2013. Prior to this, since 2011 she worked for the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company in Athens as the Director in charge of marketing and strategy for their international group. Her professional experience also spans 20 years with Procter & Gamble, including 5 years in Poland during its transformation period at the beginning of the 1990s. She joined the supervisory board of the Millennium Bank in Poland in May 2015.

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For the first 10 years she worked in sales. I was indeed very good at sales. And that was the problem…If something does not work out for you, it is easier to admit it does not turn you on, but to say that your heart is not into something, when you are successful – that is difficult. Fortunately, such a moment came in life. I recognized my career path trajectory was flattening out – she recalls.

 

I said to myself: If you want to be a General Manager – then why don’t you do something about it? When do you want to gain the experience and skills needed? It took another 5 years to build up the courage to do so.

She started to build up her career in marketing – to broaden her experience she had to take a position lower then her current job level and reports to peers with less management experience.It was difficult, but she knew she had to take a step back to gain the experience to eventually move ahead to reach the position she wanted.

I appreciated the lesson I learned having to take a step back or to the side in order to jump ahead. I know however, that it does not always have to be this wayshe admits. Therefore, I coach people to talk with their managers and mentors upfront to understand what is necessary to get where they want to be first time round. She encourages them to air on the side of risk even if they think it is beyond what they think they are capable of.

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Mentoringrules ofleadership

Rather than giving advice, Anna suggests to share some principles which have proved to be successful for her in life. Her perspective on leadership:

 

1. Why would someone follow you?

This is my favourite leadership question – a great self-reflective question that I often ask myself. What is it that I bring to the party and give to others that would continue to give me the right to lead them – and for them to want to follow me? Have you asked yourself that question recently?

 

2. Play to your strengths.

There is a lot written on this theory. In short the theory is that you are better off investing time/energy in what you are good at then trying to address your weaknesses. Perhaps sports analogies bring this to life best – if you have a strong striker – play them in that role – rather than teaching them to be a goal keeper. Of course this does not mean you can be reckless and ignore your weaknesses – you must be aware and where possible neutralize your weaknesses.

3) Never stop learning.

I am a believer that ‘you can teach an old dog – new tricks’ … an old favourite Canadian saying of mine. In today’s fast paced changing world – adaptability is key. Additionally none of us has an exclusivity on knowledge or expertise – humility in continuing to want to learn from others is both empowering and refreshing.

 

4) Judge your decisions by the question ‘can you sleep at night’?

Today’s world is complex and fast paced – often we are confronted with decisions – which have implications short term versus long term and can sometimes be conflicting. One of the things I am grateful to my P&G days for – is that of the art of principle based management. Regardless of the decision you make – lay out the principles for which you are making the decision. Doing the right thing always takes a far greater sense of leadership, my personal test for whether or not I am making the right decision – is to simply ask myself ‘can I sleep at night’ 😉

One of Anna’s guiding life principles, which fuels her energy is the philosophy of „Pay it Forward”. This concept is about giving without expecting in return. –I remember times in my life when mentors, were there for me, either to listen or give me a small kick… so if I can in any small way be a spark of inspiration or support for someone else – it is both humbling and energizing.

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Social involvement

Anna is gets socially involved, particularly in initiatives aimed at helping youth. Her assistant at times has a hard time managing her calendar to squeeze in all the meetings and charity initiatives.

What has totally captured my attention of late is how young leaders today are seeking out meaning in what they do – for them – their success needs to be tied to ensuring they have a positive contribution to society. How inspiring is that! This is often referred to as „Social Entrepreneurship”, she comments.

She supports young leaders in the „Global Shapers” program as a mentor she is also involved with the Hult International Business School (London) and Social Wolves here in Poland.At the heart of these organizations is creating sustainable business ideas that contribute positively to society. Often these ideas require that we break down the barriers and silo’s between the private and public sector; bring together all aspects of society to work together on opportunities.

In terms of my role, depending on the association, I take on active mentoring relationships with individuals, I conduct seminars and workshops in business and leadership, I contribute in panel discussions and I am in the jury of case competitions she informs. In these associations she dedicates her time and experience, where collectively she and the organization see she can add the biggest value.

When young people ask her how they can know which companies or jobs to choose, she advises them to take a closer look at the values of the company, usually during the job interview process one can feel „the spirit of the company” and get a feel for its people.

Coca-Cola in its DNA is about being a part of moments of optimism and joy in lives of its consumers. The company has sponsored sport events for over 100 years – and in Poland alone through initiatives such as Coca-Cola Cup.

For 17 years we have energized 700 000 young boys and girls to get physically active and experience to gain the positive life skills, which sport can give us. I am glad that 35% of the Coca- Cola participants in Poland are girls– she sums up. Leader Animator – Wake up Your Body is another grassroots initiative supported by The Coca- Cola Foundation. -Animators receive grants to further their passions in helping Poles get active doing activities such as zumba, night skating or dragon boat racing..

Passion for what she does makes her get out from behind her desk. You can often meet Anna and other Coca- Cola managers that lead these initiatives getting involved themselves. –There is no greater satisfaction than to see the smiles on people’s faces when they are enjoying moments of happiness together with friends and family – it is an honor for us to be a take part of such moments. – she says.

Over the years she has been involved in activities of numerous organizations and associations: Women’s International Networking Leadership Forum, Council of Advisors (2004-2012); Organization of Women in International Trade, Board of Directors (2005-2010) and in 2008 as an Executive Vice-President in 2009 as President; also- the President of the Geneva Women in International Trade chapter, (2005-2010). In 2011 she was awarded „The International Alliance for Women (TIAW) – World of Difference 100 Award” for her actions aimed at strengthening the economic empowerment of women. Anna is also a member of the board of the American Chamber of Commerce in Poland as a representative of Coca-Cola Poland Services. She also contributes to the Women’s Congress in Poland.

I strongly believe each of us should find our own way to play a positive role in contributing to our local communities. We need to define what it means to each of us individually. For some it is donating blood, for others participating in annual events such as WOŚP (the biggest Polish annual charity event) or Szlachetna Paczka (the Precious Parcel, another Christmas gift giving charty)…for others…it means helping their own family members in needshe says with a great conviction.

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Beata Sekuła

 

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