Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners – Jana Martinová
This week we feature Jana Martinová, Managing Partner, owner of Accord Group in the Czech and Slovak Republic, and a founding member of AltoPartners. A talented linguist with a razor-sharp intuition and a reputation for straight talk, German-born Jana is our Balkan specialist, having concluded more than 400 senior-level assignments in East and Central Europe. Fluent in German, Czech, French and English and with a working knowledge of Russian and Serbian/Croatian, Jana is currently learning Italian in her spare time.
What was your childhood career dream?
My Czech grandma was one of the first female pharmacists to graduate from university in the early 1930s. She went on to run her own pharmacy before it was “nationalised” by the communists. I dreamed of taking it over.
So, did you study to be a pharmacist?
I was very idealistic so opted for the Humanities instead. I got my master’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Leipzig in Germany and then woke up in a world that was all about business. So, I started studying accounting and business as I realised that this was key to forging a career in corporate. I was lucky enough to have plenty of opportunities to learn on the job, and I embraced these, mainly in the HR field during my time at Danone and Nestlé.
What was your first job?
I was a PhD student at the Academy of Sciences focusing on the literature of the Balkan region at a time when the region was falling to pieces. I exchanged this job for an opportunity to work as an assistant to a Swiss entrepreneur in the Czech Republic, and basically ended up overseeing everything!
How did you get into Executive Search - was it by accident or design?
Both. I had been working with search consultants as HR manager for Danone/Nestlé and worked on a large project with the company I later joined and bought. When I decided to exchange my corporate career for something more entrepreneurial in the late 90s, I thought I would do something much broader than “only” executive search - I clearly underestimated the complexity of this métier.
What motivates you to do what you do?
Executive search is wonderfully challenging. On the one hand, you have to understand many different businesses and their problems even if you encounter them for the first time, and then there is the human aspect which comes with many responsibilities because you exert a big influence on the life of your client and the candidate. Fortunately, I still like both challenges.
Did you have a mentor?
Many, but two really stand out: the HR director who hired me at Danone instilled in me the need to make decisions impacting people in a responsible and professional way, and to always align values with intention and action, while the former owner of Accord Group, showed me how to channel my ambition and the finer points of entrepreneurship. This served me really well as I was part of the management buyout in 2005, and I was reminded of his advice again when I launched interim management services in Czechia and Slovakia under the brand AGIM.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Slow down! Be patient – the good things will come.
How do you relax and unwind?
On my bike, with an audiobook - my love of languages is second only to my love of literature! Also, I live in Prague, so I have many opportunities to enjoy wonderful cultural experiences with my loved ones. This really helps me to recharge and rejuvenate.