A New Beginning

Saturday 11:34, Rocket Barber Shop, Hackney Road, London

It has been awfully quiet on a The Executive Kitchen for the last few months, but I trust you haven’t been losing sleep over this, because neither have I. In fact, I’ve had quite an eventful summer to say the least.

More out of curiosity than anything else I had a quick look at the fancy stats page kindly provided by WordPress and I had a good old chuckle to myself. The number of visitors and readers are bizarrely proportional to the number of new posts. The beautiful charts presented look like the inverse of a revenue graph as if proudly proclaiming ‘Look! The less you write the more you suck!’. I know, my creative flair and passion for sharing my insights have gone down the proverbial drain.

Now, staring failure straight in the eyes was never my forte, so this is my attempt to inject life into the blog and maybe some insight and laughter into yours. but with some changes:

It won’t be focused on my MBA as I’ve decided to take a study break. As I’ve taken the sideways and downward step into the life of an SAE in medical communications it makes little sense to study management when I need to learn all things pharma. Management can wait.

I’d like my blog to continue focusing on topics related to work but I may cast a wider net. Without revealing too much, I think the next topic will be on the ethical dilemma of expensive cancer drugs. You have been warned.

It’s no longer necessary to count the number of days as in previous headings. I mean, who really cares? It’s not like I’m on an intergalactic solo mission keeping a log.

So to all my 341 readers out there, from my dear friends over the Pond to those unbeknown readers in South Korea and Brazil, I’m back, so please keep on reading; it does warm my little heart every time someone reads what I’ve written.


No, You Are Not Better Than Me. You Are Just Being a Twat – Day 218

Saturday 13:54, Shoreditch Grind, Old Street, London

I’m about to moan so consider yourself warned.

One of the things that used to irritate the hell out of me at university was other students’ notion of superiority. These students were everywhere. There was Julie and her arty friends from the Musical Society, who air kissed themselves like there was no tomorrow and who made it perfectly clear they were it and you were definitely not.  There was that annoying, spoilt third-year medic, her name escapes me (thank goodness), who boasted about her research project. I vividly remember the whole thing as if it were yesterday. ‘This is what a real research project looks like‘, she mocked us third-year science students as she disappeared down the corridor with what must have been a printed edition of the internet. And then, of course, there were those annoying students who claimed they never did any work whatsoever but somehow, miraculously, ended up with top marks.

Fast forward 20 years and you would have thought that this behaviour, utterly demoralising to us mere mortals who have to work out asses off to get top grades, would have died out. But no. It’s still lurking around, like some foul smell, poisoning our minds with supremacy, delusion and malice.

Like the other day. We had all submitted our essay on managing marketing. And as per usual a bunch of us moaned about how boring/underwhelming this module had been. When I asked to predict our scores, everyone low-balled it, claiming that they would either fail or get a very low mark, but lo and behold, top marks again all round. And to add insult into injury a fellow student claimed she only spent 30 minutes on her research proposal and scored 7/10. Yep, the same research proposal I spend days writing. Days!

What’s the point of all this? Why do otherwise intelligent people turn into complete knobheads when it comes to academic work? Is it an English thing? Or does this prevail in our entire civilised world? I just don’t get it.

As professionals the notion of appearing better than everyone else will get you nowhere and is a sure way of alienating yourself from your team and peers.

Nobody likes it. So stop being a twat.


… And For My Next Trick – Day 213

Monday 11:26, Old Bethnal Green Road

On Wednesday it will have been 5 weeks since I left my now ex-employer. It has been a roller coaster of a journey, lots of highs but also the occasional low. From a personal development point of view, this is what I’ve learnt so far:

Don’t look back... There really is no point dwelling on the past and asking myself why things came to an abrupt end. Over the years, the lyrics from Baz Luhrmann’s epic song Sunscreen have helped me understand the unusefullness of worrying. ‘Worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum’, the song goes and for me this is the crystal clear truth.

… but allow yourself to be pissed off. When the professional rug has been pulled under one’s feet, it’s bloody hard not to feel like you’re going to trip over. Subconsciously I’ve probably switched on over a dozen coping mechanisms and I feel that I need them in order to help me on a daily basis. But it’s also important to allow myself to be pissed off. I joked with a friend of mine that I should write a letter to my ex-employer, telling them exactly what I feel – and never send it. I have yet to do this. I blame yoga and being Swedish for my ineptitude of being able to express anger. A decade of yoga has probably given me too much mental stability, and being Swedish, well, we’re know to have the same facial expression whether we’re happy, sad or angry.

Be resourceful. I’ve always been very resourceful, both personally and professionally, and now it’s time to explore what’s in the box but also what’s outside the box (and what’s not even a box!). During my 14 years in STM publishing I’ve developed a large network of ex-colleagues and peers and everyone I’ve spoken to have been immensely supportive. Some have even gone completely out of their ways to help me find my next dream job. I’m a practical and analytical problem-solver by nature and resourcefullness during this time will be key.

The luxury of choice. One of the unexpected benefits of being made redundant has been that I’ve allowed myself to take a breather and really think about what I’m really good at, and what I enjoy doing professionally speaking. I’ve had the luxury to mind map my strengths and talents and to explore new professional fields that I would rarely have explored if I were still in my old job. At the moment, I’m pursuing three different (but related) fields, and I’m curious to see where I’ll end up.

Don’t panic! One of my coping mechanisms that I’m employing is to keep my cool and avoid panicking. One the day all of this happened, my world came crashing down and a myriad of personal, professional and emotional consequences played out before my eyes.   But by day two, I was back on the saddle again and calmly riding into the unknown. Some days it’s hard not to panic, or at least it’s hard not to be the normal, upbeat happy me. But it’s on those days that it’s particularly important not to panic.

Old habits die hard. Now, where does this all leave my MBA, you may be asking yourselves. Well, I initially thought that all this newly found time would enable me to go back to more normal study/sleep patterns. I mean, why wake up at 5.15am to study when I have nowhere to be at 9am? But much to my surprise, I’ve failed miserably. For some reason I can’t seem to force myself to study during the morning, or at lunch time or at any other time during the day. For the last 7 months, my main productive streak has been 5.30 – 7.15am, and having all the time in the world has proven a particularly unexpected disturbance. I’m contemplating going back to my pre-dawn ritual, as it was an effective and efficient habit, but this really seems completely ridiculous to me.

My next trick

Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing – Day 212

Sunday 09:25, Old Bethnal Green Road

I recently came across a fascinating article in Harvard Business Review on the divide that exists between sales and marketing. The article, Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing, examines a variety of industries and identifies where your organisation sits in the alignment spectrum between these two crucial roles, and of course provides recommendations on how an organisation can close the gulf. If you’re in a sales or marketing role or just curious on how well your sales and marketing teams co-exist, take the first test and see whether your sales and marketing teams are undefined, defined, aligned or integrated. I did it for my previous employer and got defined, so lots of work to do there.

The topic touches on several organisational aspects and resonates strongly with me and my reason for embarking on this MBA program, that is, to better understand organisations and improve them in any way I can. As I’ve been in a commercial role for the last five years, closing the divide between sales and marketing is something that lies very close to my heart.

Throughout my career I have seen both sales and marketing teams working in silo and not understanding or wanting to understand each other’s needs. I’ve seen sales managers exceed targets with hardly any lead generation input from marketing, and I’ve also seen marketing embark on strategy and plans with no revenue impact whatsoever. However, when the sales and marketing functions work well and share a common strategy, the results have the potential to make a huge impact in an organisation’s operations.

This summer I’m hoping to write a mini-research project on this topic, but it seems not everyone is aware of this divide. The other week my old team took me for my leaving drinks and I mentioned to one of the sales guys what I had proposed to do my research on.

‘What war!?’, he exclaimed.

It was an interesting comment and it comes to show that if you’re not even aware of a particular challenge, then you have a long way to go before you’ve overcome it.

Here’s a link to the article:


Sales and marketing war

The Day Mr Brain Didn’t Need Mr Heart – Day 187

Wednesday 17:26, Old Bethnal Green Road, London

Having fully digested, processed and compartmentalised last week’s events (and of course, within 24 hours swiftly moved on), I thought it would be a good time to write a children’s story about said event (my redundancy).

I’ve always had a fascination about the human body and how it works. In a parallel universe I’d be writing a children’s book about the adventures of two kids inside the human body. Think Harry Potter meets Clinically Oriented Anatomy. And I’d probably name the main characters Ana and Tommy, for obvious reasons. But that is another story for another time.

Once upon a time in a country far, far away there was a brain called Mr Brain. Like so many other brains, Mr Brain lived and ruled over his kingdom with wisdom, intelligence and a lot of other brainy qualities that brains have. You see, the good thing about being a brain is that you do a lot of clever thinking. Things like problem-solving, strategy and ingenuity comes second nature, thanks to the millions of tiny and never-ending neurons, which synapse away with each other, transmitting electrical information at the speed of light.

As the kingdom’s ruler, Mr Brain had the ultimate responsibility for all state affairs, but be it as it may, he couldn’t really run the kingdom single-handedly, so he employed a diverse and talented group of highly placed officials.

Mr and Mrs Vessles took care of most of the transport, making sure everything that needed to go into the kingdom did so, as well as making sure everything that needed to go out of the kingdom did so too. They did this through a vast network of arterial roads and venous ways, which emptied into the river Lymph.

The twin brothers Ralph and Lincoln Lung were the principal gardeners of the kingdom and kept the bronchial forests clean and green, constantly planting new little bronchioles whenever and wherever needed.

Mrs Oral Cavity, who was one of the key gate keepers and also the Mayoress of the Upper Digestive County was responsible for import, and worked incessantly to process the food stuff and drink needed in the entire kingdom. But it was really Mrs Oral Cavity’s apprentice, young Ms Lip, who did most of the hard work, but this tended to go unnoticed.

And then of course there was Lord Rectum, also a gate keeper of sorts and the Mayor of the Lower Digestive County. Lord Rectum, or Mr Bummie as he was known to his dear friends, took care of the export part of the kingdom, and had been known to have taken the kingdom for ransom whenever he didn’t get his way on several occasions.

Despite being supported by this talented and hard-working group of highly placed officials, Mr Brain knew something was wrong. You see, Mr Brain was a mediocre tradesman, a renowned ruler and a legendary creator of things. So while he could continue to create things and rule, he needed someone in the kingdom to oversee the trade. He needed someone strong and passionate, who could rally the troops when needed and pump vigour and life into the kingdom.

In other words, he needed a heart.

But Mr Brain didn’t want any old heart, he wanted his dear friend Mr Heart, whom he had acquainted in his previous kingdom.

And one day fine day in the height of summer, Mr Heart moved to the very kingdom ruled by Mr Brain. Of course, this was no coincidence as Mr Brain had begged and pleaded for Mr Heart to come and join him and, in his own words, ‘run the kingdom together’. Mr Heart was incredibly flattered to have been asked by Mr Brain to come and join him and he promised himself to work tirelessly and with passion to help Mr Brain.

And so the summer days turned shorter and the Lung twins spent their afternoons sweeping the bronchial forests, clearing the forest floor for the first snowflakes to come falling down. But now that Mr Heart was on on-board, Ralph and Lincoln felt inexplicably rejuvenated and everyone in the kingdom could see a change in their demeanour.

And once the first snowflakes had fallen, Mr and Mrs Vessels worked tirelessly keeping the arterial roads of the north and venous ways of the south clear so the people of Mr Brain’s kingdom could go where they needed to go and do what they needed to do. Now that Mr Heart was on-board, the work keeping the roads and ways moving was such a joy and never before had the people of Mr Brain’s kingdom, nor Mr Brain himself, for that matter, seen Mr and Mrs Vessels so happy doing their work.

As the days became longer and the warmth of the Sun spread in the kingdom, spring finally arrived. And nobody loved spring more that Mrs Oral Cavity and Lord Rectum. You see, they had spent winter working with Mr Heart keeping the people of Mr Brain’s kingdom fed, with their bellies full of food and throats quenched of thirst. And as if by coincidence, since the arrival of Mr Heart, so many things in the kingdom had improved and it had made the normally harsh and cold winter so much more manageable for the gatekeepers of the Upper and Lower Digestive Counties. Even young Ms Lip rejoiced, as Mr Heart’s arrival had made a huge difference in her life.

And one fine spring morning Mr Brain took Mr Heart for a walk across the meadows of Mediastinum and alongside the river Lymph and thanked him for his hard work. And a sign of his gratitude Mr Brain gave Mr Heart a pay rise, which in Mr Brain’s kingdom consisted of coins so red that they could be mistaken for precious rubies.

‘Please, Mr Brain, let me give these red coins to Ms Lip, she has worked so hard this winter and has done an outstanding job’, Mr Heart suggested. ‘No, you deserve more red coins, Mr Heart’, Mr Brain explained. ‘Ms Lip will need to learn hard work and I feel she has been given enough red coins this season’.

As Mr Heart cared so much about Ms Lip – and all other highly placed officials and people in Mr Brain’s kingdom – he begged and pleaded to reward Ms Lip, but Mr Brain’s decision was final. He was, after all, the ruler of the kingdom, but he had very little heart in him. So Mr Heart accepted the red coins and was told to meet at the Brainstorm Room later.

But when Mr Heart arrived to the Brainstorm Room and sat down with Mr Brain his world would be turned upside-down in ways you can never really image, because you think these things will never happen to you.

‘I’m going to have to let you go’, Mr Brain said in a sad and dejected voice. ‘What!?’, exclaimed Mr Heart, whose own heart skipped a beat. ‘I’ve made a mistake and I no longer need a heart’, Mr Brain explained. ‘But who is going to run the trade of the kingdom?’, Mr Heart asked as the world opened beneath his feet. ‘I will run the trade and I will run it with great difficulty’, Mr Brain said. ‘But what about everything I’ve done with the Lung twins? And Mrs Oral Cavity and Ms Lip? And Lord Rectum? We’ve finally got him over to our side!’. ‘I’m so sorry Mr Heart’, Mr Brain said, ‘but I’m running out of red coins. I thought we were going to be swimming in red coins by this time, but it’s simply taking longer than expected’.

It was a cheerless conversation, for both Mr Brain, but especially for Mr Heart. Never in a million years did he think that he would first be rewarded for his good work and then immediately told he was no longer needed. Confused, scared and upset, Mr Heart left the kingdom, without saying a word to the other highly placed officials. 

The day Mr Brain told Mr Heart he was no longer needed will be remembered in the kingdom. The news were broken to the other highly placed officials the next day, together with the even sadder news that Mr Brain didn’t need the county of Left Arm and that all inhabitants of Left Arm were also being asked to leave.

Wisdom and leadership cannot be taught. Some rulers might think they are good leaders, but this is not always the case. Mr Heart thought Mr Brain was a good ruler, but regrettably he was wrong.

Mr Heart, who is now looking to join his next kingdom, often thinks about how Mr Brain’s kingdom is fairing, with no Left Arm and no Heart. And of course, this story became the topic of endless conversations in other kingdoms by other people.

‘Mr Heart, yesterday night I thought about what you said and felt so mad’, exclaimed Mr Heart’s dear friend Mr Maker. ‘If you need me to go and set fire to your office  I can, no problem’. ‘I appreciate your concern, but there really is no need for arson!’, Mr Heart laughed.’I was pretty mad too, at least as mad as hearts can get, but I’ve had a whole week to process it’, Mr Heart explained. ‘If you say so’, Mr Maker said, shrugging his shoulders as if determined for revenge. ‘I could put the severed head of a horse at the entrance?’, Mr Maker said. Clearly joking, Mr Heart said that that would do. You see, Mr Maker comes from a kingdom from the far south where people have even bigger hearts than Mr Heart himself. ‘I’m sure the people of Mr Brain’d kingdom to do well, they all deserve to do well’, Mr Heart explained. ‘And I cannot wish them anything bad, because well, I have a heart’.

Heart and Brain

Onwards and Upwards – Day 175

Friday 8:58, Northern Line, The Underground, London

In one of the firsts posts I wrote in The Executive Kitchen I mentioned why I had decided to do an MBA.

‘Not only do I want to be successful in my new job (I started two months ago), I also feel responsible for the future direction and ultimately the success of a whole bunch of people, so it’s kinda important that I give myself the best possible foundation to do a pretty good damn job.’

With leadership comes responsibility and with responsibility comes an enormous pressure to get things right. It’s kinda obvious but what happens if you don’t get things right?

Let me put this as bluntly as I can, I’m told I’m quite good at it:

The greater the leadership the greater the fuck up.

When you’re in senior management and things don’t go the way you had planned you’re ultimately responsible for it. The excuse of ‘I didn’t know’ simply won’t do.

This week I learnt this the hard way. It appears I don’t know one iota about California employment law. Sure, you could argue that I’m not supposed to know anything about California employment law; I would agree with you on this. Which is why I sought advice on this very matter.

But what about when the advice you receive is vague or incorrect? How are you supposed to tell the difference between right and wrong?

I have now experienced two instances in the last two years where not doing our legal due diligence has resulted in the wrong decision being made.

Yesterday when I was on my way home I swore I would never again make the assumption that somebody else’s advice is correct. If you fuck up at work and it doesn’t involve people, you’re ok. No one died, right?

But it’s a completely different matter when people are involved. No one died, but I can tell you, it sucks big time.

It’s pointless to dwell on the emotional side of the matter. And perhaps I need to switch off the ‘I care about people’ button and transform myself into a hard-nosed corporate asshole. Is this what is needed at this level? Is this the reason why there a so few nice people at the top?

I don’t know the answer to these questions and I don’t expect you to either.

Onwards and upwards.


Don’t Let the Things that Suck in Your Life Suck the Life Out of You – Day 168

Friday 08:42, Northern Line, London

Have you ever felt like everything is going wrong? Like the world, whether it’s home, work or life in general, is against you? Or if not directly against you, at the very least trying its very best to trip you up, leaving you falling or worse, flat faced, with your desire, ambition and future yet another step further away?

Sometimes, life just sucks. Yep, it just sucks big time. I’m mean BIG time. As a matter of fact, this week has been real though for family, friends, colleagues and fellow MBA students. I’m not a big believer in coincidences, but there sure was something happening on our little planet this week. For me, life has sucked as I’ve been sick for almost a week now and I can’t afford not to run at 200% at work nor miss my 15 hours of studying per week. But I have. And it just sucks. And while rolling around in all of this sucktivity is sometimes a necessary step to feeling better; a ritual of sorts, after which you emerge stronger-willed, more determined and with a newly found focus, it’s definitely not good to dwell here for too long.

Feelings of despair, confusion and misery or plain insecurity for that matter will eventually turn against you and all the things that suck in your life will soon end up sucking the life out of you.

So what’s there to do?

Well, I don’t profess to know how to solve everyone’s problems, and it sure is way easier to dish out advice when your own world is relatively problem-free. But I’m a strong believer in two concepts and those are action and acceptance, and understanding their true power will help turn your blue day a bit rosier.

Action is needed for everything as without it we’re stuck in the proverbial rut, the status quo. If we act on something, however big or small, we challenge this status quo and our action becomes the first step towards taking a bit of control back in our lives. And that first step can be really hard sometimes, but once it is taken, life tends to fall back in its place.

Acceptance is also an essential aspect of our daily survival kits. Sometimes things will inevitably go south and when they do it’s important to realise that there are a few things we can’t change and accepting this very fact is our first step in moving onwards and upwards. This is easier said than done and requires emotional intelligence and maturity. Sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t – but if you don’t accept things that you can’t control, you’re destined to be stuck in a bad place for a while.

Whilst I realise all of this may come across as quite simplistic I still think there’s some value in this. If your work situation, an incident at work or a family issue seems overcomplicated, well, try simplifying it and accept what you have no control over and act on the things you can change.

You’ll feel better and may be a step closer to finding your next job, rolling out a new idea at work or facing up to a horrible boss.

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