Greetings from Alumni: Anne Nokelainen, Director, Brands & Commercial Operations, Sanoma Lifestyle & Director and Publisher, Donald Duck, Sanoma Media Finland
31 August 2020
We interviewed our alumna Anne Nokelainen, who leads all brand- and commercial-related operations of Sanoma Media Finland’s large magazine portfolio, which includes, for instance, Kodin Kuvalehti, ET, Gloria, and Hyvä Terveys. Anne is also the director and publisher of the iconic Donald Duck portfolio. During her time at Hannes Snellman between 2003 and 2006, Anne worked as an associate in our M&A team.
Hi Anne, how has your autumn started?
Hi! Autumn is my favorite time of the year, so the start has been pleasant but quite busy. This is the time of the year when we plan our strategy projections, strategic projects, and action plans, so there is plenty to do in addition to normal day-to-day operational and managerial duties.
You have worked in different roles at Sanoma — with television content acquisitions, kids’ media, VOD (video on demand) strategies, TV rights, and commercial media brands, just to mention a few. Currently, you work as a director at Sanoma Lifestyle. Have you done some active career planning, or how have all these opportunities come to you?
I consider myself very lucky to have been given all these opportunities. I have never done active career planning, but I have always seized the opportunities when they have presented themselves.
I started my career at Sanoma as a lawyer, negotiating with major Hollywood studios, among others. That turned out to be the perfect background for my role in TV rights acquisitions. On the TV side, I was able to explore many kinds of roles, sometimes juggling even three jobs simultaneously. My licensing experience in the TV business led me to my role in kids’ media, which is a licensing business too, and my kids’ magazine experience was an introduction to the general magazine business.
I must emphasize that I owe thanks for my career development to many people at Sanoma who have pushed me further, believing in my capabilities and in my ability to cope and learn.
Is there any space for legal questions in your current role? Has the law firm background helped you during your career?
I am currently adamant in not answering legal problems myself. It has been 9.5 years since I last practiced law.
My background at Hannes Snellman gave me an excellent starting point to my career. I was thrown in at the deep end of the pool rather quickly and had to learn to swim pretty fast. I learned project management skills when I was part of the big M&A projects. I think project management skills are a vital modern day working skill that surprisingly few people know how to do properly. I also learnt to negotiate and read complex legal language in English. I learnt the etiquette and cordial manner to navigate in an international business environment. Most of all I learnt self-confidence. I was out of my comfort zone most of the days at Hannes Snellman. After that, there was no situation or company I could not enter without maintaining my composure and confidence. This has come in especially handy when working with major Hollywood studios.
Do you remember what your very first day at Hannes Snellman was like in 2003 when you started as an associate? And how about the most valuable learning from your career in a law firm?
I had already done a practice at Hannes Snellman before, so it was really like coming home. I remember also being very grateful for the job, as many young lawyers were struggling at the time to find employment. Most valuable learnings came, of course, from my senior managers and colleagues. Being able to follow their lead in tough situations and learn from them was important. I remember so many of them dearly, for example my team leader Jussi Mäkinen and my mentor Nicolas Berner, to mention only a couple.
What advice would you give yourself on your first day at law school?
Learn to understand your unique strengths and identify your areas of interest both in and outside of law. Be brave enough to forge your career path on those. Do not be tempted to follow the commonly beaten path just for the sake of security or competition. Trust yourself. Trust your instincts and vision. Trust that things will work out. Be your own biggest fan. Build relationships, not for the sake of being opportunistic, but for genuine interest in other people. Try to gain work experience — almost any kind will be useful for you in the future. Be prepared to work hard, but remember to have fun and enjoy life too. Absolutely do not take yourself too seriously.
What advice do you think Donald Duck would give to us law firm professionals?
Donald Duck’s life philosophy is all about trying, failing, and trying again, so he would advise us to chase our dreams, whether professional or private, and take mistakes and failures as valuable learning experiences. He would also encourage us to be ourselves, forget the pressures to fill some kind of previously defined role or expectation.
Donald Duck is also pro reading. He knows that the foundation for literacy and reading is laid in the childhood. To develop deep learning skills that are necessary in university studies and academic professions, the hobby of reading needs to start in the early childhood. So he would advise us all to see to it that our kids read for pleasure at least 15 minutes a day.
In our Greetings from Alumni series, you will meet interesting people and get to hear about their different career stories. If you want to know more about working at Hannes Snellman? Please pay a visit to our Careers section.