Bossing It: Magda Zimecka
Magda Zimecka came to Warsaw as a teenager to play violin in Poland’s prestigious Miodowa Talents high school. She graduated from the Chopin Academy in 1994 - but an accident finished her music career and changed her career path completely.
She began her career in production working as an assistant in a local radio station, then progressed into a marketing role. In 1997 Magda met Jacek Kulczycki (EP / founder at OTO) and became head of business development and producer. She has since never looked back from production and in 1999 decide to merge her musical talent with her world of production to create a sound studio called Cafe Ole - which continues to thrive today.
That same effort expanded into post production and Magda convinced Jacek to open their own VFX / post facilities in Warsaw, eventually becoming Orka Studios where Magda has been MD since 2008. Orka continues today to be proud co-producers of a number of feature films as well as post-production partner on hundreds of commercials, both local and international.
LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?
Magda> This was pretty rare, but I was lead violinist in the Polish symphony orchestra. Being a professional musician gave me an opportunity to deal with all emotions concerning being on the lead position.
LBB> How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?
Magda> I always was aware of how important the concept of 'the team' is. I’m surrounded by friends and by people whom I can trust. My team will follow me. I never had to cause any pressure or impact.
LBB> What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?
Magda> Being a great being a leader is not a piece of cake. It’s very important to know what kind of professionals work with you and in what moment of their career you meet them. Not everyone is always ready to fulfil your vision. Once, a big part of my team chose to follow a project instead of the company… a major feature project came our way for some animation and required a lot more budget than what was originally quoted. I took the decision to pull out – but half our team temporarily left to follow that job. I didn’t realise how important it was for those creators to be involved in the creativity they were after. This gave me a lesson of wider thinking and listening to people's needs.
LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so, how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you?
Magda> I’m an older sister of two brothers - I was always a leader!
LBB> When it comes to 'leadership' as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of personality, how much can be taught and learned?
Magda> For me it is natural, but I know many great talented managers and they haven't had an easy start. It is very individual. The truth is you will never be a leader if you don’t believe you can be.
LBB> What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them?
Magda> The leader is not the smartest person in the room. It is the one who can listen carefully. For me the problem is not to be stubborn. The challenge is to give yourself permission to be wrong.
LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered?
Magda> I’m always very open and transparent and the team can always feel the honesty.
LBB> As you developed your leadership skills did you have a mentor, if so who were/are they and what have you learned? And on the flip side, do you mentor any aspiring leaders and how do you approach that relationship?
Magda> I’ve met a lot of great leaders in my life. My first mentor was violin professor Zenon Brzewski. I learned to work hard, what discipline means and how to deal with the fear of being on the stage. Then I met Jacek Kulczycki, who was my first boss, friend and business partner. He taught me how important passion is and out of the box thinking.
For me, being the boss was always natural. My experience is easy to share with whomever I work with. Many producers from my team are great leaders now, like Kasia Kozłowska who is production manager in ORKA.
LBB> It's been a really challenging year - and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters?
Magda> It was challenging but also a valuable experience. All things considered, our team did very well throughout it. It gave us power to believe that we are really good at what we do.
LBB> This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this?
Magda> In times of crisis, it’s good to go step by step, doing small moves. You never know what will happen in a day, so doing long term strategy is pointless. In my opinion, making huge dramatic decisions is also mistake. So, we focused on our everyday work trying to be as best prepared as it was possible. Stabilisation, control, everyday meetings - to know everything about all the details. It was not time for big decisions, but we made many huge projects over that time.
LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020?
Magda> Our staff was never 100% working remotely. It was not possible in terms of technological requirements. It came down to discipline in the office, trust, tests and prayers.
LBB> What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey?
Magda> Creative thinking, finding new ways, going straight to the goal.