Meet Joanna Lenart, an excellent lawyer and valued member of the Career Club DK Advisory Board. Joanna has successfully relocated to Denmark and works with competition law. We have had a chat with her on career choices, the decision to move to Denmark, and why did she join our Career Club DK Community.
Where do you come from and what motivated you to come to Denmark?
I’m originally from Poland, but I’ve lived, studied, and worked in the Netherlands and Belgium for the past 15 years. I moved to Denmark in December 2019 because of a new job. As a competition lawyer, I never considered Copenhagen a city where I would end up, simply because the city that is considered the place to be, the hub for competition law, is Brussels. However, life usually knows better!
Although moving to Copenhagen was a life-changing decision, it was probably much easier for me than for others. Before I moved to Denmark permanently in December, I already spent the summer of 2019 here. This was the time when the international law firm I worked for at the time sent me to my current company as a secondee to cover for one of my colleagues. This way, I had a chance to get to know Denmark´s capital, the company, the team and get a preview of what my workdays would look like.
In the meantime, the company was looking for another person to join the team, so I took the plunge and applied. When I was offered the job, I ended up in a very comfortable position. I already knew all the essential things that I wouldn´t normally know when changing jobs. I knew what to expect: a truly international company, a supportive multinational team, and the beautiful city of Copenhagen. I said YES!
What inspired you to become a lawyer?
I usually laugh and say it was an accident because I have never dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Back in high school, I wanted to study literature and languages. However, at some point, I did not succeed in a literature contest that was very important to me and read it as a sign that maybe this is not for me. A failure always opens up space for something else, another opportunity. This is how I decided to apply to study International Relations and also to study Law. This turned into a problem after both faculties admitted me. Because I did not know what I wanted to do in life, I decided to study both simultaneously.
At first, I loved International Relations, and I hated Law School. I wanted to drop it, but things changed after my exchange year in the Netherlands. During that time, I focused on EU law and discovered competition law. As much as it was an intellectual challenge, it was also fun. Trust me; lawyers can be fun people too! I understood how the law is about problem-solving rather than learning by heart. I love learning new things, meeting new people, discovering new places, and being curious 100% of the time.
Competition law gives me all of this – it is not only about the law but equally about knowing and understanding the business. Just to give you an example, back in the law firm, throughout the year, I would be working on cases from different industries ranging from mobile payments, car glass, e-commerce platforms to the production of cement and many others, so I needed to learn more about each of these industries.
This means that I need to work very closely with the business and have an opportunity to learn every single day. Never a dull moment!
Tell us about your experience of building a career in Denmark?
As you know, I was in a very comfortable position – I knew the city, the company, and the team, and I already had a couple of friends over here. However, I realized that very few people have the opportunity to comfortably and easily relocate and change their jobs. This probably prompted me to join Career Club DK – to help others who were not as lucky as I have been and did not have that degree of comfort. Although it was relatively easy to move, it became quite difficult for me in the first months of lockdown in 2020. Then I realized how much I value spending time with other people and became more grateful for all the small things I had taken for granted before.
How do you find the working culture in Denmark compared to your own?
I enjoy the work culture in Denmark. It is not based on a rigid hierarchy and therefore feels like there is more space to communicate openly. Especially about the things you disagree with or are not comfortable with. Danish humor can be something that one needs to get used to, but in the end, why should we treat ourselves so seriously? On a general level, I also feel that all professions and jobs are respected, whether you are a janitor, waiter, carpenter, or doctor. I wish this kind of thinking was transposed all over the world.
What is your advice to all women building a career in Denmark?
I have a few tips, but let me share two which are particularly close to my heart. I think they are universal and can be applied not only in Denmark.
1. For building a network in your organization: if possible, pick up the phone and call someone rather than send an email. You want people to know you, to know that there is a person behind the email. And eventually, we all enjoy working with people that we like – so put yourself out there and give others the chance to meet you and like you.
2. Follow your intuition. You may be surprised, but it is usually right. Do not spend time doing the things you don’t enjoy or make you feel uneasy thinking that others expect them from you. Do what you really feel is right for you, no matter what others think or say. Be courageous and follow your intuition. If you feel like connecting with someone, but you are shy, just go for it. This will also make you more authentic and more likely to thrive.
What does Career Club mean to you and how it can help other aspiring women?
I lived abroad before, and I know how difficult it can be to make friends, build your network, or get to know like-minded people. If I can help anyone with that, I would be more than happy. Meeting the right people who support you and whose company you enjoy can completely change the overall experience!
I very much enjoy meeting people and listening to their experiences, and learning from them. Career Club DK creates space for sharing experience and asking for help and provides an opportunity to meet people and connect. How much you benefit depends on how proactive you want to be.
Is there anything else you are passionate about at the moment?
I’m very much into personal development. Staying in a place where we are 100% comfortable usually does not make us grow. Where growth begins is where our comfort zone ends. Other than that, sustainability is another topic where I want to learn more and improve. Anyone who is into that, please feel free to connect – we can do something good for the planet together because – as we say in the Career Club DK – we are stronger together!