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Portrait — He is a »big Kendrick Lamar fan,« he says referring to the US rapper and songwriter. He plays jazz and tennis in his spare time, and he is still trying to find out what it actually means to be a university director. But Søren Munk Skydsgaard says he is fortunate that it is precisely at the University of Copenhagen that he has landed the job.
»For someone who has been on the job for nine days, I am simply still finding out what a university director actually does,« Søren Munks Skydsgaard admits, honestly and with a smile, when the University Post meets him at his sparsely furnished new office on a Friday afternoon.
»I’ve spent the past half an hour getting to grips with my Workzone and my Outlook.«
He is still in the process of settling down, and many days have passed with introductory meetings and reading, but »the decisions are starting to move closer to the director’s table«.
And Søren Munk Skydsgaard is looking forward to it, because he has »observed, with longing, the university as a workplace for a number of years now.«
»The University of Copenhagen is a legendary institution. And I’m proud to now be a member of the UCPH clan. I graduated from here, and now it has also become my workplace,« he says and elaborates:
»As an institution, the university is where you go when major problems need to be solved. But it is also where you go when you are looking for new insights, and it is the place where the decision-makers of the future are educated.«
It would be inappropriate for me to waltz into the office on my ninth day of work and say exactly what the University of Copenhagen should do.
The work with important institutions has been something that Søren Munk Skydsgaard has done throughout his career. His last two jobs have been as resource director in the City of Copenhagen’s social services and as finance director at the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.
»Being a white collar type, I have to admit that I find it interesting to work in the organisations and institutions that are responsible for something very valuable. The mission is typically just as deep as history itself«.
Born in 1969
Raised in the provincial town of Ringsted.
Master of Science in Economics from UCPH in 1998.
Lives in Østerbro. Is married and has two children, a dog and a cat.
From 2018 — until his employment at UCPH — he was resource director in the social services of the City of Copenhagen. Before that, he has been finance director of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, deputy head at the Agency for Science and Innovation and deputy head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Innovation Office.
Søren Munk Skydsgaard has been involved in proposing and implementing financial cutback strategies. The latest decisions on UCPH administrative cuts were taken, however, before Søren Munk Skydsgaard took up his position.
And even though the detailed strategy for the administrative reform is something that he will spend a great deal of his time on, he will not yet point to specific areas where the University of Copenhagen will cut back.
»I’m incredibly humbled by the task that I’ve been assigned to do, and I’m very open to different perspectives. It would be inappropriate for me to waltz in to the office on my ninth day of work and say exactly what the University of Copenhagen should do.
This is one of the central points in our conversation with Søren Munk Skydsgaard. He will not make any major pronouncements. Both because the university is still so »early in the process« of the administrative reform, and because he has only just started in his office.
»Hey, what the hell is that,« Søren Munk Skydsgaard interrupts himself. A bubbly ring tone suddenly flows into his office.
He jumps up to find the source of the sound and finds out that it is the office’s landline phone.
»Uhhh, I’ve never tried that before… «
»I am going to have to just let it ring, because I don’t know how to answer it or hang up,« he says with a smile, and continues:
»This is a good example of how new in the job I am.«
Søren Munk Skydsgaard quickly pulls himself together.
»We’d better get back on track,« he says, and looks up at the ceiling to gather his thoughts.
If you want to create change in an old institution like the University of Copenhagen, it has to be based on respect and on fascination, he explains.
»Because this is the only way you can build a bridge between the change that is required, and the people who will be part of the change. And that balancing act can be difficult.«
This balancing act needs to be supplemented by an overview and perspective from the top, looking downwards.
»This may sound fuzzy and clichéd, but I really do believe it. That’s what my personality type is. To work across different disciplines, and to acknowledge the importance of it,« he says disarmingly.
Even though I have been a manager for many years, I can easily remember what it is like to be a middle manager or staffer.
Søren Munk Skydsgaard
As a manager, he tries to uphold a general focus on the strategy. But he is also interested in getting his hands dirty with details, »because sometimes, this is where the devil is.«
And he appreciates an open dialogue, he says, and says that in the same way it must be »unpretentious and joyful« to work with him.
»When you talk to me, you can say what you think. I am myself a type where you don’t have to do any guessing.«
He cannot point to any particular management ideal. He »doesn’t really believe in that kind of thing,« he says. He does believe, however, that you take on different elements from the people who you meet on your path, and he has met many talented managers.
»Even though I have been a manager for many years, I can easily remember what it is like to be a middle manager or employee. I’m really inspired by the working life that I have had so far. And that’s why it’s very important for me as a manager to think about what it’s like to be an employee.«
Søren Munk Skydsgaard is »often in the cinema to see a lot of quirky films,« because his wife works in the film industry. He plays tennis at a level that is »lower than it should be,« and loves to read both non-fiction and fiction.
»I played the guitar in my first year of school, but switched to a piano. I’m actually in a jazz band. But we do not play for the general public,« he says with a grin. He relates how, when he was on his degree programme, he played keyboards in an ‘economics band’, which played big name cover songs at parties.
Music is generally very important to the director, who says that his favourite genre is jazz and mentions names like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Brad Mehldau.
»But before I sound like too much of a stereotype, it is also important to mention that I really like pop music. However, I am not a big fan of autotune. I was at Vega recently,« referring to the trendy Copenhagen concert venue, »to hear the band Rigmor,« he says, and pauses for a thought.
»And I am a big Kendrick Lamar fan. I would like to see him at Roskilde Festival.«