Insights from Michael Zdanowski, Head of Energy & Environment at Madano

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Posted: Jul 2020

Michael Zdanowski leads the Energy & Environment practice at Madano, thought of as the leading practice when it comes to strategic comms for clean energy. He is somewhat of a ‘super brain’ holding a PhD and a Masters, as well as being fluent in several languages. We asked Michael to share his career highlights, influences and inspirations, notwithstanding his impressive martial arts skills! Read on to find out more.

Can you give me a brief overview of your background and experience?

"The first half of my career was focused on Corporate and Government Affairs work with challenging mostly international clients (I worked in around 20 different countries at various times).  I’m now focused on helping clients communicate in the low carbon economy and around netzero, which will become increasingly important in all of our lives."

Not many coms professionals have a PhD – what inspired you to do this at the time?

"I’ve always been fascinated by the former Soviet Union and the Cold War so it felt that a natural step to develop this interest would be to do a PhD. in the subject.  I had no real intention to work in comms until a chance presentation from a Public Affairs professional who presented at the College of Europe where I was studying at the time.  He talked about doing Government Relations in Brussels and I thought it sounded a good way to match my interests with a career."

You head up a leading renewable energy practice at Madano, what would you say are your three key attributes that have contributed to your career success?

"Persistence and never giving up. Being able to learn from some great comms professionals notably at H+K and Edelman as well as my current firm Madano / AVENIR GLOBAL; and pushing myself to do difficult things outside of my comfort zone.”

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far?

"The uncertainty caused by major recessions is always dispiriting and challenging.  But crises come laced with opportunities – those companies and organisations that are agile and free-thinking come out of the other side sooner."

As a linguist, apart from English, which language has helped you the most in business?

"Russian – it enabled me to work in Moscow and to gain a fascinating insight into a country that has changed rapidly from a communist system to a booming market-economy in less than 20 years (and then has subsequently regressed)."

What is your most important lesson you have learned from managing people?

"To identify quickly what makes people tick.  While ground-rules are important, don’t take a broad brush approach to everything and everyone."

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given along the way, and by whom?

"‘Turning up’ is the secret of success.  I also like the Daniel Edelman line that ‘everyone is an Account Executive’.  Being humble is important."

What or who inspires you, and why?

"Those people who have consistently stood up for what they believe in is always inspiring, particularly when they have faced a wave of obstacles. Any number of the great social reformers of the twentieth-century are a source of inspiration. Take your pick."

If you hadn’t ended up working in comms, what was your plan B?

"It feels like so long ago I’m not sure I remember.  Possibly an academic focused on Russia and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.  I harboured ambitions at one stage of being an MEP – clearly a non-starter as a career choice for UK citizens nowadays."

Do you have any hidden talents?

"I have quick hands.  I’m a third Dan black belt international karate instructor in the Japanese Karate Association and have been doing martial arts since I was six."

Thank you, Michael.   

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