WIA Profile: Bianca Kuennecke
Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.
In 2014, JOYDIVISION celebrated its 20th anniversary by setting up shop in the U.S. Since opening the doors to its Atlanta-based facilities, the Germany-based pleasure products manufacturer has continued to grow rapidly — and this year the company landed a monument deal with iconic women’s magazine Cosmopolitan to produce an upcoming range of pleasure products. JOYDIVISION Executive Vice President Bianca Kuennecke says the collaboration allows each company to better reach its target demographic as Cosmopolitan speaks to the “fun, fearless female” and JOYDIVISION’s goal is to normalize sexuality to appeal to a mass audience. In this month’s edition of Women in Adult, we profile Kuennecke as she discusses her role in helping JOYDIVISION achieve its goals, along with offering an exclusive look at her day-to-day responsibilities and career milestones.
XBIZ: How/when did you get into the industry?
Bianca Kuennecke: When I was approached by JOYDIVISION, I did not know anything about the company or the novelty industry as a whole. At the time, I was seeking new job opportunities, and JOYDIVISION’s job description in particular caught my interest. Although I was completely in the dark about the company and products until right before the interview was scheduled, I wanted to take on the challenge right away.
XBIZ: What did you do prior to working for JOYDIVISION?
Kuennecke: I started my professional career at the Fraunhofer Institute as a biotech assistant, followed by starting my own business in PR, marketing and design work. Two years later, I took a job opportunity with MTV in Mexico; after that, I decided to further pursue my academic career to get my Bachelor and Master’s degrees in molecular biotechnology, with one focusing more on the engineering and chemical part, while the other specialized in the coursework of molecular medicine, oncology, and innovative technology management. During that time, I also participated in the Manage & More scholarship program in innovation and entrepreneurship, which included projects for BMW and BASF. While I was working on my Master’s degree, I worked as a freelancing coach for innovation and creativity at Innovationswerkstatt, consulting companies such as Porsche, Zeiss and Roche in specific management workshops. At the end of my Master’s program, I joined Abbott on a medical research and evaluation project in primary care. The last chapter before joining JOYDIVISION was spent working for the Moffitt Cancer and Research Center in Tampa, Fla.
XBIZ: What is a typical day like for you?
Kuennecke: My schedule varies widely from day to day, depending on what comes up — the projects we are currently working on, as well as unexpected developments. There is really no such thing as a “typical day” for me — it’s very diverse, but it’s also one of the reasons why I love what I do!
Ever since we started the U.S. project, bringing JOYDIVISION to the U.S., I’ve definitely been collecting quite a few miles by traveling a lot. This year alone, I’ve traveled between Europe to the U.S. multiple times, and attended most of the trade shows on both continents. I’ve recently moved from Germany to Atlanta, Ga. to helm the U.S. division.
Unless I’m traveling, I actually try to start my day the evening before: anything pending takes priority first thing in the morning. After a cup of much-needed coffee and a quick first e-mail check, the daily a.m. tasks include calls to Germany (keeping in line with the time difference) and meetings with colleagues, as well as reviewing the schedule and working on ongoing projects. For the rest of the day, I pretty much handle day-to-day operations and focus on the business development, regulatory affairs, and the marketing side of things. After I leave the office, if it’s not too late, I might try to get a workout in, catch up with friends, or do something else that gives me a chance to shift gears in my mind from work to my personal life. Some days I grab take-out, other days I cook. Often, I get back to work again because I’m on a roll, or want to finish something up before I finally wind down with a good book in bed.
XBIZ: What challenges have you confronted in your career and how have you overcome them?
Kuennecke: I feel working women often face the expectation to do well in all areas of their multifaceted lives; sometimes it feels you have to prove yourself twice as much as men to gain a certain level of respect. In general, men are judged by how well they do in their careers, while women (even nowadays) are more judged by how well they excel with family, friends, “looking their best,” and, if they work, also their career. It’s all about what you’re wearing, your weight, your hair, how you are supposed to be like this, or act like that, you shouldn’t do this … In the early years, you start to edit and second-guess yourself. “Maybe I should cut my hair.” “Maybe I should wear a dark suit and look more serious.” “Is this really the right job choice for me/am I able to do it?” All of these questions are constantly in your mind even before you start your career, or even your day! But then, you get to a point where you start to say “It’s better if I’m just me. It’s better if I’m authentically who I am.” Maybe women naturally want to fit in. I played a lot of team sports when I was younger, and it felt like girls just want to be part of the team, and don’t really like to stand out, whereas guys strive to be stars...and they will let you know they are the star all day long. Self-esteem in moderation is a good thing; as a leader, you have to be comfortable owning your successes. I think humility is a really good trait, but owning who you are and owning it big are important. You should have your elevator speech already prepared, and feel good about what it says about you and your accomplishments.
One ongoing struggle in my life is to find enough time in the day to focus on all areas of life, when there is so much going on. My advice to myself is to always try to really understand what is important to me, to set goals, and put a plan in place to reach them. At the same time, during any part of my life, I know I just can’t always do it all. It’s important to focus on the positive, and what you have at that time, and be happy where you are at in your life.
It’s about never giving up, staying true to yourself, and being confident in what you do. There will always be difficult or challenging times, but the obstacles you face will make you more determined to achieve your objectives — whatever they may be.
XBIZ: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Kuennecke: I’m passionate about making a difference in people’s lives, whether it’s normalizing their sexual experience, giving them tools to strengthen their relationship and feel at ease with their own sexuality, or just creating a comfortable space for people to share their story. Once people know what I do and what industry I am in, I often get many questions and stories about their own experiences. Most people open up rather quickly and easily; often, it feels they look for desperately needed and appreciated education, and reassurance in regards to their own sexuality. It’s very rewarding when I feel I can be the person they can go to and trust with more intimate matters, concerns, and/or questions.
XBIZ: What is your personal motto or mantra you live by?
Kuennecke: I love taking pictures; maybe that’s why the following quote has stuck with me ever since I read it the first time. It is simple, but has a lot of truth to it:
“Life is like a camera — focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out then take another shot.”
XBIZ: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
Kuennecke: There have been many things I am proud of. With growing experience, and over the years, each accomplishment replaces the other, and you realize it’s never about what you have accomplished, but why you have succeeded, what you learned from it, and how it has shaped you going forward. So I feel my biggest achievements are yet to come. I am always looking forward to achieve more tomorrow than I did today, striving to improve and grow with every challenge. I’m proud to be a person who takes chances. It’s easy to “talk the talk,” but I try my best to “walk the walk.” If you have a dream, you can’t just sit there — you need to gather courage to believe you can succeed, and leave no stone unturned to make that dream a reality.
Along the way, you will realize not everyone likes the song you sing, and not everyone will respect the seeds you sow, or agree with your choices. But you need to sing and grow despite these things, and become stronger as the years go by. I am proud of all the things I have learned, overcome and achieved, because those things make me a stronger, better and wiser me. If I had to pick just one achievement I am most proud of, it might be that I can always “make it happen” — actually being successful at what I am doing, at whatever I have set my mind to do.
XBIZ: What are some professional goals for the future?
Kuennecke: It might sound silly, but I never want to lose the ability to see the world through kids’ eyes, and never be afraid to ask questions. Always start with an open slate — as Walt Disney said, “It’s kinda fun to do the impossible.” My inner spark tells me, “Hey, this might be crazy to try, but I think this could really work!” I’ve learned over the years that often the very best ideas sound not only crazy or unlikely, but downright impossible to achieve at first glance. But when you take the best of two worlds and mix it together — be it people, ideas, opportunities, and/or organizations — it can turn into something amazing and unique. An example would be our recent partnership with Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitan mirrors the “fun, fearless female” that empowered women nowadays embrace, where we, as JOYDIVISION, are trying to make the take on sexuality more approachable, educate on sexual health, and spread the message that exploring your body and fulfilling your desires are very normal. Bringing the two together has allowed us to find a great way of reaching out very effectively to our target group, and this sort of approach to business can work for any endeavor.