Janne Villadsen

Development & Communications Director

KOKOON Portraits # 21

35-year-old Janne Villadsen loves working with culture and most of her waking hours revolve around just that. Her role model is her mother, and she’s still the one Janne calls when she needs feedback.

How did you end up becoming who you are?

All my previous jobs have led me to where I am today. As a child, I dreamed of becoming a foreign correspondent or the cultural editor at Politiken, and it happens to be in the overlap between politics and culture, where the majority of my career has unfolded. I have never been afraid of challenges, and I'm for sure a fan of being out of my comfort zone.

I'm probably quite ambitious - it's a thing from my upbringing. My mother is a lawyer and runs her own firm. She always slaved away and has been a strict mother – a single woman in an army of men. As a result, my father often picked up my brother and me, cooked and stuff like that. He was a businessman, but his company didn't require the same kind of attention. Without a doubt, my mother is my most significant role model and, in many ways, a massive inspiration to me. She's the one I call, whenever I need feedback and whose example I follow. She has always been there for me, but I was never humoured and not allowed to complain a whole lot.

What does a typical work day look like?

Considering I don’t have children, I get up quite early. The years working as an editor have taught me to turn on the morning broadcast from the Danish radio station P1 and do yoga for half an hour. I like to start slowly, and I'll check my emails around 8.00 and leave home for work at 9.00. Sometimes, if I'm swamped, I start the day of working from home, answering emails. When it's terrible, I daily receive a couple of hundred emails. Often my days are filled with back-to-back meetings. As a part of the directorate, I continuously develop the Heartland strategy. Denmark has the most festivals per citizens. That's why we need to make sure, Heartland actually makes a difference and not just a platform of entertainment. We have erased the word ‘festival' from the name. As a result, that makes us solely Heartland; a cultural experience or the "land" you visit to learn about the world while having fun, attend talks, experience art, dine and drink wine.

I usually work until 6.00 depending on the time of year. Afterwards, I often see friends, attend a cultural event or hang out with my boyfriend. Before I go to bed, I respond to the emails I haven't gotten around to earlier in the day. In the busier months leading up to Heartland with quite intense work days, it's vital for me to know, that further down the line I can look forward to longer breaks from work. I also try not to make any plans on Sunday and Monday. I need to remember to take a break sometimes. But I get equally high from my work and my acquaintances, and I really like to meet new people.

Culture, what does it mean to you?

Culture is everything to me. It's a part of what I do. And it can get a bit addictive creating things that connect people. Something they'll remember. In a time where boards are closed, Trump is at power in the USA, Brexit… It would be ironic if you didn't relate to our political situation. There are thousands of places you could get involved. But my battle involves, how we create cultural events that connect people. I want people to react to what they experience. I’m never upset, if somebody criticises Heartland - then they have at least related to it. Indifference is the worst. I believe that everything matters. Perhaps that's why I sometimes go to bed really tired because I refer to many things.

How has your gender affected your life?

Especially at a younger age, I sometimes thought that being a man would be much more comfortable. That thought has, later on in life, made me reckless. I'm surrounded by a lot of strong women and role models, and one of them once told me: "It took me a long time to acknowledge, I didn't need to be one of the men. I just had to be me". I could really relate to that. For many years I felt, I had to be tough until I realised, I reach my goals much more easily by just being myself.

I'm somewhat provoked by the fact, that a lot of women either stop working or pause their career when they get children. Perhaps that's why I'm not keen on having my own. I'm the only woman on a board of directors. We have a 50/50 ratio of men and women, but I must admit that through the years it has sometimes been challenging to find women for the management positions. They had to back down because of the extra time that needs to be invested in managing.

I never thought of my gender as a hindrance, but when I look around, it's obvious there's a huge problem. When I was single, I personally experienced the difference between what's expected of men and women. When a man is single, it's somewhat expected of him to gambol in women, whereas as a woman you are likely to be the talk of the town if you don't look out. That has made me really upset. And then there's the thing with children. If I'm ever to have my own, I'm for sure having them with a man who's ready to give up the things that are needed when they are small.

When do you feel challenged?

By new things, I never tried before. I like to dissect a task. To dismember the pieces and proceed methodically. I once read an article on why you get stressed. It happens when you're faced with unforeseen projects, conflicts at work or basically just too many tasks. I love working many hours, and I'm good at dealing with conflicts, but I need to be aware if something unexpected happens. In my private life, I'm most taken on, if I unintendingly hurt somebody by being too straightforward. I like being given an obvious answer. And sometimes I treat others how I want to be addressed.

My feeling of loyalty is powerful, and I have sometimes trusted people and expected more of them than they were able to give. I had to learn that in war and business everyone looks after his own interests. My friend once said to me: "You're for sure not naïve, but you're a credulous person". I really believe in the best in people.