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To become a board member at the age of 27 and steer with her moral compass a big media ship to the title of the leading media group in Latvia: “Sometimes you don’t have to believe, you just have to do! Specific planned actions will get you there.” Zane Bārtniece, Executive Board Member of TVNET GRUPA, shares as part of the international Novatore Impact Summit for empowering women what it means to be a female leader.


How did you choose a career in media and how did you end up in TVNET GRUPA?

I think that if you trust the flow, everything in life happens the way it is supposed to happen and you get where you need to be.

Already in secondary school, when I had to choose where to study next, I wanted to study communication science. I remember there was an opportunity to “shadow” students, and as a secondary school student I took it and went to the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Latvia. The first lecture I visited was given by Rolands Tjarve. I absolutely fell in love with the mood of the lecture, with the creativity and the freedom that you can express yourself both as a person and as a journalist.

After secondary school, I returned there as a student and got a bachelor’s degree with distinction and then also a master’s degree. My plan was to continue with doctoral studies, but then I decided to take a break.

Then I joined Draugiem Group, which was a major media on the market at that time. And it was one of my best experiences to understand what a great workplace means: caring for people and being result-oriented.

At Draugiem Group, I got a lot of technical knowledge to understand in general how technology can improve everyday life and help you get there faster and easier, and this experience helped me a lot also in the future.

Now I know that it was also the creative and free environment prevailing in the company that helped me advance. And it is important also because the more comfortable working environment and the happier the employee, the happier the management.

And later I joined TVNET GRUPA. I already had my own vision; a leadership position itself was not my goal, it was rather what I wanted to achieve in this role. And then I realised how much of a difference I could personally make with my values, because my ambitions were high enough.

I am very grateful to my team for hearing me, for being always in sync with me. And that is why we have got where we are today – one of the leading media groups in Latvia.

From left: Zane Bārtniece; Ērika Staškeviča; Toms Ostrovskis; Kristīne Kravale. Photo: TVNET/courtesy of Zane Bārtniece

You were very young when you joined the management team and took the managerial position. What was the hardest part for you and what were the biggest surprises when you started a new job?

I was 27 years old. I still sometimes cannot believe it – a young lady who has yet to understand life... But obviously I had all the qualities needed for the job.

Experience is built over time, no need to worry. And so is self-belief. If you are not sure of yourself right away, take a plunge and belief will come.

At the very beginning, the hardest part for me was to understand the condition of the company. I mean financial, and I have to admit, emotional. And how far and how much I would have to “dig”. But I really saw our potential, there was no reason why we should not be where we are today.

The swimming suit cake. Photo: TVNET/courtesy of Zane Bārtniece

I remember that when I told my colleagues that we would be leaders in Latvia, a colleague said: “I’ll eat my swimming suit, if it happens.” And my answer was: “Let’s do it, then you will believe!” And soon we baked a swimsuit cake and happily washed it down with champagne.

So, sometimes you don’t have to believe, you just have to do. Specific planned actions will get you there.

I personally like situations of discomfort very much, because I know that I will be able to grow and develop, but the hardest thing for me as a young leader was to understand that not all players on the market played by the rules. I have very high intrinsic values that I will not violate for either a post or money. I stand by these values, and they make me happy in this workplace. I know that the people at TVNET GRUPA are like-minded.

Speaking about the team, it sounds like you all are on the same wavelength. How do you work with your team and what are the best tools to get the best out of employees?

Firstly, I am very direct, like it or not. There are no behind-the-scenes games. And I expect such communication in return. Secondly, my presence may be very strong compared to other managers I have observed. Sometimes to the smallest pixel where my support is needed.

Of course, I am aware of my limits and capacity, because I am only human, but it was clear to me from the first day on the labour market that I would be a leader, not a boss.

This presence is essential for being part of the team, which is why I share working space with others, I do not have my own office, reception times and so on.

You said in an interview that, in order to develop, one needs to get out of their comfort zone. Why do you think so?

It is from my personal experience when I saw that people who had faced various tough situations in their lives changed and grew as personalities.

I do not mean that growth can be achieved only through suffering. But I agree that discomfort is a zone normally avoided by people.

This is where managers differ from employees, as managers can experience discomfort five times a day. And the more situations of discomfort you have, the more you change, adapt and survive. In the end, either you change or there will be no growth. Discomfort makes us stronger.

Can you recall a situation when you deliberately pushed yourself out of your comfort zone?

This happens regularly in everyday life – it is business. But I also dedicate my leisure time to things I am scared of. For example, I have always wanted to learn to ride a horse. I did not do it as a child and as a teenager. But now I have tried and made it!

Photo: Ivars Elceris/courtesy of Zane Bārtniece

My recent move out of the comfort zone is also travelling alone, being alone with myself.

It started almost a year ago when I went to a conference in Portugal and decided to stay there for one more month. This was the first time that I travelled alone, and a lot of things were uncomfortable for me, like figuring out how to get somewhere geographically, all of which threw me into the discomfort of having to look only within myself for solutions.

During my travels, I met many interesting people who I might not have met otherwise. For example, a 70-year-old writer in Portugal. His wife sadly died, but he was learning to surf at his age. And such moments are very inspiring.

And, what is also important, we must not forget as we grow older that people need to keep learning. That is what I think: keep your eyes wide open, keep learning, growing and evolving – when you stop learning, you get old, whatever your age at the time!

It appears that you got into management naturally because of your character, your ability to work and also by chance. Do you think it is possible to prepare for this role? What would you recommend to young colleagues who are thinking about their careers?

Because this time we are talking specifically about female leaders – we like to control and predict everything, but we should try to keep in mind the main thing and just let go.

And it is important to understand your “why” – why do you want to be a leader?

You should also train your self-confidence. Even if you lack self-confidence, just put your worries aside and go and do it, it will develop by itself in time. As I say: “Do it, then you will believe it.”

You should also get used to discomfort. Otherwise, it may be hard for you to make quick decisions and find quick solutions in your everyday life. Maybe it can be seen as a game to make quick decisions and take action. And definitely do not “sell” yourself reasons for not doing something. Just go and do it!

Listen to the conversation with Zane as part of “Mission Executive III” on 29 September, at 17:00, on Instagram. For more information, click here.

The interview has been prepared in cooperation with international executive search firm Pedersen & Partners and translated into English by Nordtext.

Interviewer: Eva Alberte, Client Partner, Country Manager Latvia at Pedersen & Partners
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