For our 50th Anniversary, EFMD has created a new “Behind the Scenes” series so you can get to know us better. This conversation is with Anna Jírová, one of our Professional Development Services Coordinators.
So first of all, Anna, I thank you very much for agreeing to do this today. It’s nice to talk to you. Can you tell me how long you’ve been at EFMD and what you do?
I started at EFMD in late November 2019. So, that would be two and a half years ago. I work in the Professional Development department, and that means I organise training programmes for business school staff with different focuses. Since I actually joined three months before the pandemic hit, all my EFMD events have been online so far, but slowly we are going back to face-to-face events and experimenting with new formats. And yeah, the topics are diverse. It can be gamification, can be leadership, can be career services, sustainability, so different topics.
People most often associate EFMD with accreditation. What would you like them to know about Professional Development?
Well, it has not much to do with accreditation. I mean, of course, everything’s connected at EFMD. Of course. And accreditation is a big part, but it is not just about that. I think what is great about our department and how we contribute to the whole EFMD value is that we collect the knowledge that we have in the network – because it’s a big network, full of different perspectives. It’s global after all. Our facilitators and speakers and participants are coming from all over the world. So, we are basically like a knowledge hub. And through the training programmes, we then spread the knowledge further. This can then, of course, help the schools who are pursuing the accreditation to see where management education is going, what are the needs, what are the new practices, the trends, and where they can get inspired. So, actually, our department, what we do – it’s kind of gathering the great knowledge and experience that we have in the network and spreading it further to help others.
What are you most proud of within the Professional Development department?
I would say, from a personal perspective, it’s that I think we are really a great team. We all have different strengths and talents, and we complement each other very well. I’m very proud of the way we are supportive of each other and how we are able to help each other, especially now when everything’s online. And also, of course, that we are still able to have fun in the meantime.
And I must also say, in professional terms, I’m very proud of how we are actually doing our best to listen to the network and offer training programmes and workshops that are needed and useful for the network. That we are genuinely helping people improve and train skills they need in that time in order to grow professionally and in order to make their work easier.
So, with professional development, you have a lot of contact with the network. What do you appreciate most about the EFMD network?
It is global, and we meet with people from all over the world – online – but we still do. And what I appreciate the most, I think, are the different perspectives and different types of people that you come across. Sometimes you get to work with a new person, and this person is from the opposite side of the world. They see the world completely differently because, of course, they were raised in a completely different environment, and they think of things that would never occur to you to think of. And this actually can really open your mind to consider different perspectives and different ways to look at the world, which can be very refreshing. And because the EFMD network is so global, you get that quite often. Different perspectives can also be frustrating, of course, especially online, when you have to get things done, and lots of communication gets lost between my screen and yours. But then, at the end of the day, you learn so much from people.
Yes, that’s very true. On a personal level, what habit do you have now that you wish you had started earlier?
Well, I started walking. And I think that’s the best thing I’ve done recently. Using the public transport as little as possible, and then when I finish the work, I just walk home. It helps to clear the mind, do some mental hygiene, and it just helps to get me more balanced. So, I wish I had started that earlier.
I agree. I try to walk as much as possible. It’s very helpful.
Indeed, it’s so good to actually walk. And yeah, we are privileged because we live in a city where everything is quite near. But anyway.
Right, and we have a very good public transportation system, but I agree. I try to avoid it as much as possible. What small gesture from a stranger has made a big impact on you?
Well, I think that all the small gestures make a great impact. I’m trying to think of one that I can highlight, but when I think about it, throughout my life, all these small, kind gestures from people you don’t actually know make all the difference. Actually, there is a recent gesture that I can highlight because it’s the most recent one. I‘m sitting in the office, and I’m having quite a tough day, not much is working out well at that point, and I’m just a bit down. And then I receive an email from a person I have never met, who is answering one of the mass mailings that we do. Not many people do that because they are mass mailings. Anyway, in his message, he is saying how he appreciates the effort and how inspiring the activities that we have are and how useful he finds them. And it’s just an email. It took him – probably not long. And it makes the tough day so much better. So, I’m a big fan of small gestures. And it never hurts to be kind.
That it’s very thoughtful. It’s nice that someone would take the time to do that.
Exactly. No one has the time; everyone is super busy. It is quite rare to see this and to see people going out of their way to make someone else feel better and spread some kindness. And I think it would be great if we see this more often.
I agree, for sure. What is the best advice that you’ve ever received?
I will also go here with the most recent one, and it is quite personal. So, the story starts with this book, James Joyce’s Ulysses, and I’m not sure if you read the book, but it just doesn’t really make much sense. And I was talking about this with a man I met in India and what he said is that sometimes some things are not there for us to understand because understanding can take the focus away from the feeling. And sometimes, it’s good to just focus on the feeling. And, I think that’s actually really great advice. That doesn’t apply only to Ulysses and James Joyce but also to life in general.
That’s interesting advice. I’ve never heard that before. I like it. And to end on a fun question. If you had one superpower, what would it be, and what would you do with it?
For sure, I would love to be able to teleport. I mean, it contradicts a bit my walking strategy now, I am aware, but it would save so much time. And what I would do with it is I would just see the world. I would go to all the places. What’s yours?
What would be mine? I know this is something a lot of people say, but I think it would be great to be able to fly. I went skydiving once, and I like being in the air, kind of like you’re in a plane, but not. It’s a great feeling. And I think it would be nice to be able to fly everywhere.
Yeah, I mean, you would have to be careful with the air traffic, though.
And drones, I guess, as well.
Yeah, exactly. Can get a bit dangerous.
Thanks so much, Anna. It was fun to chat with you, and I appreciate you taking the time to do this.
Learn more about Anna in the video with Eline Loux below.
See more of our staff interview series.