Home » Blog » Podcast interview with Nicole Hynek

Welcome to The Bicultural Podcast.

I’m delighted to be joined by Nicole Hynek, Creative Director at Hynek Associates Limited.

Janina Neumann (00:32):
Hi Nicole, how are you?

Nicole Hynek (00:34):
Hi Janina. I’m really good thanks. How are you?

Janina Neumann (00:37):
I’m very well, thank you. I’m so pleased that you’re here and I’m really excited to have this conversation with you.

Nicole Hynek (00:43):
Aww me too. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Janina Neumann (00:46):
Ah, it’s my pleasure.

Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

Nicole Hynek (00:50):
Yeah, sure. So as you mentioned, I’m the Creative Director at Hynek Associates, and also have a role as a PhD student at the University of Worcester in the School of Psychology. And my specialist area is working in organisational psychology and looking at ways that we can improve the lifetime working outcomes for autistic adults and ways that we can effectively address the autism employment gap in the UK. But really, I think what that’s given me is a very unique practice in terms of running the business, because I have quite an integrative approach to work, which is that I do both creative work, but I also have the organisational psychology, which feeds into running and structuring the business as well.

Janina Neumann (01:42):
That’s fantastic.

And how did you get into exploring these areas, for example, the autism employment gap?

Nicole Hynek (01:51):
Well, that was really a product of the Master’s degree that I studied at Worcester in 2017/18. And part of the fulfillment of that degree was to produce a dissertation and you could really pick your topic as long as it was located in organisational/occupational psychology. And at the time I was volunteering for the Careers and Enterprise Company and working with a local trust who were providing educational support and fulfillment for children and young people from four to 19 years old. And whilst working with one of the schools quite closely, I started to see those connecting young people, with an autism spectrum condition diagnosis, with employers was quite challenging. And there were many threads of issues around how to effectively support young people once they did transition into the workplace, because obviously they received quite a lot of scaffolding in school, but there’s little continuation of that into work.

Nicole Hynek (02:57):
So, I focused on that initially in quite a small way for the dissertation and some of the results which came back from that were quite compelling in terms of there’s more to be studied here. So my supervisor at the time invited me to stay on. And so that blossomed into a really lovely working relationship. So now I work with a whole supervisory team and, and it’s kind of grown and it’s blossomed into this really great project, which I have you know, really heartfelt hopes for that we can make some pragmatic differences once that project reaches completion.

Janina Neumann (03:37):
Wow. That sounds so interesting.

And I’m just thinking about, you know, you must’ve learned a lot about ways of communicating with different audiences. Like are there any tips that you’d like to give our listeners to communicate clearly and effectively to different audiences, whether that’s in a neurodiverse environment or across cultures?

Nicole Hynek (04:04):
Yeah, I think from the neurodiversity aspect, from that approach, it’s about considering the whole environment around the person, because the kind of the family of neurodiverse conditions come with sensory differences, and that can be differences, which are heightened, already heightened sensory processing. So for example looking at how you channel your message. And I suppose what I’m trying to articulate is that if we look at the clarity that we communicate with an individual, a one-to-one conversation in a quiet and calm environment. It’s helping us to build trust. It’s helping us to build our relationship with each other, but it’s also excluding external environmental triggers, which can feel quite overwhelming. So, although it’s quite a significant topic because presentations are very different according to the condition that you are talking about.

Nicole Hynek (05:10):
So whether that’s a presentation of autism, and the autism spectrum is enormous, and there are such different presentations of autism within that, or ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or ADD, or however we’re working with individuals, it’s really chiefly about talking to that individual about their experience and then learning from their lived experience how to best communicate with them. So I think this has been one of the challenges certainly in research is that there really isn’t a blanket approach to communication to transition to interventions. It’s very much a person-centered project. So, I think that probably the top tip that I would share is about really taking a deep dive into that relationship, getting to know that person, and asking them you know, what works for you? What’s the best way to communicate? Is it over the phone? Is it in writing or is it in person?

Nicole Hynek (06:11):
And individuals will have different preferences. Everyone has a different preference, but you know, if you think about how comfortable you feel in one-to-one communications in person, and then for someone who might not feel so comfortable with that, is there a way that you can approach it maybe through an email communication or over the phone or a Skype call or a Zoom call with the camera off? It’s just looking at ways that work for that individual. So, that would be the sort of neurodiverse approach. And then I suppose, culturally, cultural differences in communication, what I’ve noticed through my own experience and, you know, having been raised between two cultures myself, I think there are some things that do translate within one culture that just don’t, they don’t land in the other one.

Nicole Hynek (07:07):
And I suppose in my experience with both sides of my family, I’ve noticed it more in humour because I tend to lead with humour. And so when I’ve had conversations with my tech family members, we have a real understanding and it’s a very social functional kind of humour. It’s very visual. You know, and it’s very situational. It’s like very situational comedy. The kind of the exchanges that we have in the way that we relate stories to one another. But the experiences that I’ve had with my British friends and my British family, it’s a different sense of humour. I think there’s a different kind of wit almost. So, certainly how that translates and how that lands has been, that’s been a real journey in itself, I think.

Janina Neumann (08:06):
That’s so interesting. You shared so much there. And it just made me think about, you know, thinking about communicating. I heard something really interesting on a training course the other day, and they said about, you know, the Golden Rule, which has always drilled into us, you know, is to say, “Treat people as you want to be treated”. But when we talk about things that are perhaps sometimes a little bit sensitive, for example, cultural differences, or we don’t know how to address things in the new diverse spectrum. I think that really good thing that they said is that to actually apply the Platinum Rule, which is to treat each of your colleagues as they want to be treated and not to normalise your experience. And I think that’s really interesting because it just opens up that conversation about actually, I want to learn a little bit more about you rather than, you know, just looking at their intent rather than their impact, because I think this is where we might get into difficult conversations.

Janina Neumann (09:23):
For example, someone might say something inappropriate, and then someone else might jump in and say, “Well, but they didn’t mean it like that because they’re a good person”. But that impact has already been done and that can be quite negative. So it doesn’t matter what their intent was, but it was an impact, you know, they perhaps upset someone. So I find that really interesting, but also, you know, when you talk about humour, how it just livens up the room, but especially you have to understand, you know, the cultural context behind it, because otherwise, some people might find it offensive, which is just such an interesting conversation.

Nicole Hynek (10:03):
Yeah, exactly. And I have had those experiences, unfortunately, where the humour did not land and I think the only way that you learn is through understanding that there are different methods of interpretation and the things that we might assume to be funny within one culture, won’t necessarily translate. And that works both ways, you know, not just from Britain to the Czech side. I’ve been fortunate to have friends from many different cultures throughout my life, but you know, from that way back as well, and you kind of sit there feeling like, did I miss something? Well, how did that work? But it’s the mechanisms that we use within those individual cultures to make implied relationships and it becomes automatic and it’s sewn into the language. And so when we’re having conversations about going about, you know, daily tasks, like being over in Prague and catching the tram or using the Metro, or go into the supermarket, that there might be a particular kind of way of relating that story that I wouldn’t use here. It’s just a very different texture, you know, it’s a very different way of communicating your experience to the people around you.

Janina Neumann (11:30):
Yeah. Yeah, I can definitely relate to that. And it’s almost being able to have those experiences and being able to come into a conversation with an open mind almost to understand, okay, is this person going to understand what I’m talking about or are they going to feel like excluded from the conversation? And I think that’s a really difficult judgment sometimes to make because, you know, you want to uplift them. That’s why you use humour to like bond. And then when it goes not the way you intended, I think that makes a huge impact. It’s just the same with idioms. Either you have the understanding of what that means, or you don’t, and otherwise, you don’t understand the context to really understand what they’re talking about.

Nicole Hynek (12:22):
Yeah. Absolutely. And I would say that particular experience that you’re describing there, that’s something that I can relate to in childhood. So when my dad came to the UK from what was Czechoslovakia and he moved around a while, but initially he and his brother, my uncle, came to Hereford to come and pick hops and fruit for the summer. And while they were here, they arrived three days before the Russian occupation and they didn’t speak a great deal of English. In fact, they might have just had one or two words. But they saw on some TV screens in a shop window, the pictures of what was happening. And they figured out you know, what was going on. And they made the decision that they were going to stay here and not go home and they took asylum in the UK.

Nicole Hynek (13:24):
They were granted asylum and my dad stayed here and my uncle moved on to Canada. Skip forward 10 years and my dad had started his own business and he was running them a Sony franchise and, you know, very popular, very successful and chiefly because of the name over the door, and so a lot of people from different cultures saw that there was somebody you know, with a slightly different name who was running a business and they would come and see him and talk to them because they felt really comfortable talking to someone else from another country. So although English was the language that brought them together, it was the shared experience of being of living here, but being expats in a new country.

Nicole Hynek (14:22):
And I remember that when I was at school, a lot of things kind of went over my head because they weren’t practiced in language at home if that makes sense. So, although my mum’s English she’s always had a very cosmopolitan state of mind, you know, so language and not being wedded to particular traditions, cultural dictates. So, we didn’t really have a great deal of sort of practicing traditional British things at home, because she was very open to being quite integrative, you know, with the different cultural experiences. And so there were, there were quite a few things that didn’t really, I just couldn’t make a relationship with linguistically at school. So yes, okay, English was my first language, but there were kind of turns of phrase and those idioms that you were just referencing, that didn’t really make sense because we weren’t using them. And if I spent time in the shop with my dad, because mum was somewhere else or I was at home, we weren’t using that language. So although it was kind of really strange experience because you’re British, you know, you have your British passport, but what it means to be British, it’s a very personal experience, I think. What it means to integrate into the culture. So hopefully that makes sense. Hopefully, I’ve articulated that.

Janina Neumann (16:02):
Yeah you have, and it just makes me think of, you know, I think it really depends whether your parents, you know, speak the other language at home. For example, like when my parents would get annoyed with me, they’d say, “Himmeldonnerwetter”. So that’s basically a phrase to say I’m really annoyed at you, but if you did a literal translation, it means “heaven, thunder, weather”. So that makes no sense…

Nicole Hynek (16:31):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (16:31):
…what they’re trying to portray. But even like as a German, it’s almost like you have to really think about what that could mean in a like poetic sentence, but I just knew, okay that was the phrase, I really need to change my ways.

Nicole Hynek (16:50):
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And it’s really interesting that you kind of bring that poetry into it because you know when you discipline a child or scolded child in the English language, it’s very direct and it’s very “stop doing that”, you know, and you make them aware of what they’re doing, but the Czech approach is to use a phrase, which is “Máš průser jako mraky”, which is to have guilt like clouds. It’s the same thing. So you say, “Where’s so-and-so?”. “He’s sitting there because he’s got guilt like clouds”. So it’s less literal in that sense.

Janina Neumann (17:37):
That’s brilliant.

Nicole Hynek (17:37):
I think it’s a really lovely way of saying it, but obviously when you’re being disciplined the force is still the same.

Janina Neumann (17:42):
Yes. Yeah. I think that makes the difference.

Nicole Hynek (17:47):
It’s the intention, isn’t it? It’s the intention behind the use of the language, but the actual language itself, the literal translation is I feel were the differences. And so immediately we have a completely different syntax. So where discipline is very literal in English, it does become far more poetic in Czech but you wouldn’t do a direct translation. I wouldn’t do a direct translation.

Janina Neumann (18:19):
That’s so interesting because I’m just reflecting on the conversation before, you know, when we’re talking about intent, you know, when someone says, “Oh, they didn’t mean it like that”, but you know like you say, the intent is for you to stop doing that, so that has an impact. But if you don’t understand, it’s really vague the intent, because if you don’t have a good cultural understanding, you’re not going to understand the intent. So you know, it doesn’t matter what impact it has because it’s your own judgment, and I think that’s so interesting how we focus on intent, you know, but it’s actually the impact that really affects us. So working to understand what that person actually means and also understanding of how serious it is, that situation, because, in England, a lot of people are passive-aggressive sometimes with the way they say things in the way that they’re sarcastic. And just their tone of voice, you know? Okay, they just said that as a bit of humour, or actually, they’re very annoyed and they would love to tell you what they actually think, but they’re not going to out of politeness.

Nicole Hynek (19:39):
Yeah. That is a really great point because I do feel that is one of the elements that differentiates British humour from my experience of Czech humour. So that passive aggression can actually be turned into something quite funny…

Janina Neumann (19:57):
Yeah.

Nicole Hynek (19:57):
…when it’s done the right way because we have an understanding, we have an agreement between each other, this implied sense of, if I say something a particular way, it’s so nuanced, isn’t it? You know, I might not mean what I’m saying, but I’m saying it because you would expect someone who is passive-aggressive to say that in that situation but that doesn’t translate because there isn’t, not in my experience anyway, that passive aggression doesn’t manifest itself in the same way because the language is so direct and like were just illustrating some of the more poetic aspects of it, I don’t feel, I would argue that the language is geared for that type of passive aggression because that is behavioural, and that comes about through situations where you can’t get cooperation. And actually, the Czech culture is incredibly cooperative.

Janina Neumann (20:56):
I was reflecting on this the other day, the group attitude of, if you see someone in trouble, your inclination is to go and help, it’s not to stand back or walk away. Do you just move that person to a better place and then let them take it from there? You know, it’s not a nanny kind of help. It’s a well, there’s a fellow human being, let’s do the right thing, get them to a better place, and then they can take it from that themselves. So that translation of the passive aggression, passive aggression really only works when our hands-off approach causes someone else an inconvenience. So I feel that the language may not necessarily be geared towards that, but I think it’s so much more direct behaviourally and linguistically that that’s a really interesting comparison to make. So it’s really good.

Janina Neumann (21:59):
That’s fantastic. Ah it’s so interesting having this conversation and, you know, I can just see all the wealth of your experiences in how you communicate, how you feel, how you interpret, you know, I can see how you channel these skills and experiences into what you do now at Hynek Associates.

So tell us a little bit more about what you do.

Nicole Hynek (22:25):
Well, thank you. So yeah, Hynek Associates is really, I suppose, it’s the realisation of the dream that I love creating, I love creative work. And I was so fortunate to grow up in an electronic store because there was cameras, there was audio equipment, there was TVs, high-fives, everything around. My dad was an engineer, and so I spent a good part of my formative years watching, you know, dad do lots of engineering and repairs and using the soldering iron and copying videos, you know, VHS, Betamaxes, V8, really dating myself. And so my earliest experience of the camera, getting behind the camera, to have this keen photographer, and so I had my first camera when I was seven. And so I was exposed, pardon the pun, to artwork and to creating artwork.

Nicole Hynek (23:29):
And it just, I don’t know, there was just something so fulfilling about it. And although I had a bit of a sort of meandering path to get there, ultimately, you know, I realised that dream in 2005. And so for you know, 15, 16 years I’ve been living the dream and creating images. And my passion is really helping people to articulate their message through visuals. And that came about through my experience with photographs. And, you know, as I mentioned my dad and my uncle were in Britain under asylum. So it meant that they couldn’t go home for 22 years. And I didn’t meet my family until I was 13. So all contact really was through photographs. And yeah, we would regularly receive these envelopes of black and white photos, and then my dad would tell me stories about, you know, this was your granddad.

Nicole Hynek (24:29):
And, you know, this is your grandmother and this is your aunt, and this is your cousin and all the different families, but also tell me stories about their personalities. And so I’ve learned from a very early age to bring them to life from their pictures because that was the only way that I could access them was through the photographs. And what came out of that was the understanding of how important atmosphere is in a picture to conveying and relating a message. And an emotional message at that. So we’re not just taking a picture of a person standing in a certain pose because it fulfills a purpose. There’s more to it than that. It’s about, do you as a viewer make a connection with that image and does that motivate, does that inspire you to buy that product or pursue that service or go find more information about this?

Nicole Hynek (25:28):
How does that image inspire you? So when I developed Hynek Associates, the passion behind it was about bringing people together who are passionate creatives, who really get it and really want to connect with the people that they work with. And it’s more than a transaction. There’s more to it than that. It’s about how can we take this person with their ideas, their goals, their dreams, to the end of the line, and help them actualise it through creative work. So whether that’s through film, through photographic stills, through social media, comms, through the written word or through motion graphics you know, and film graphics that the whole purpose of this business is to help people take their message and articulate it visually, and then have that image, that message inspire their audience. So, that’s really the passion that sits behind the business.

Janina Neumann (26:38):
Oh wow. What a great why Nicole. That’s amazing. And I’m lost for words really, because I think to have those experiences and to really feel an experience through pictures, like never before, and, you know, just that way of storytelling with the pictures and having that narrative, that’s been delivered through your dad is really powerful.

Janina Neumann (27:10):
And once you’ve experienced it, it’s almost like you set that bar to how you want other people to feel. So I think that’s fantastic. And having worked with you, I know that you do that with your clients as well. You basically liven up their workdays, you know, so that they actually experienced these positive emotions and actually attract the customers that they want to work with so that they find joy in their workday, because we spend so much of our time in that time. So I think that’s fantastic how you really add that experience to brands in that way.

Nicole Hynek (27:56):
Thank you. It comes from your heart, but obviously, you have to make money at the same time, because that’s why we’re doing it. We’re here to pay the bills and if there’s a little bit leftover fantastic. But fundamentally, the passion behind, it is about giving people an experience. It is about you know guiding your customers on their journey and taking them through their own journey so that they can make deeper connections with their message. But how we coach them through that process it’s a progression, it’s a path of progression, and it’s one that does involve some challenge. That is the idea behind it because we grow through challenge, but it’s a positive challenge. It’s a healthy challenge.

Nicole Hynek (28:45):
And I think that that has come from you know, my own practice of right, how can I push myself? How can I challenge myself to do this better, to be better, to regulate my own emotions, and to look at how I can be more effective at work? And then I think once you achieve that for yourself, you know, as we were just discussing about the experience, having an emotional experience with pictures and helping people to also have that experience themselves, if you’ve experienced it yourself, you can light the way and you can guide the way then for the people to come with you and also have that experience. But yeah, it is a powerful why, and it’s taken time to get comfortable with that and to speak confidently and comfortably with it because it was such an incredibly emotional thing personal to transition through those, I suppose I used to look at them as lost years, and now I see them as a gain because of what they’ve given me ultimately.

Nicole Hynek (29:55):
But to get to a point myself where I feel like, yes, I can proudly and confidently represent this story now to other people. And it feels good to tell the story. And then that helps people make a connection with me and decide whether they do, or they don’t want to go there because it’s not for everybody, but for the people who want to go on that journey, then you know, then I’m here for them.

Janina Neumann (30:22):
That’s really good, and, you know, having that personal brand, you know, does take some time to develop, so that’s really good that you’re able to express it so clearly. And, you know, also to take your clients on that journey for them to experience what it means to feel and work authentically. So that’s fantastic. Would you like to tell us how people can get in touch with you if they loved listening to you and also perhaps want to work with you?

Nicole Hynek (30:54):
Yeah, absolutely. So they can get in touch by visiting hynekassociates.co.uk. Visit the website. We’ve got a contact section where customers can, or you know, anybody who’s interested in having a conversation can just give us a call, drop us an email, and we can take it from there.

Janina Neumann (31:15):
Oh, that’s fantastic, Nicole. Thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for giving me such an insight into your life. I really value it. And thank you for sharing your fantastic experiences.

Nicole Hynek (31:29):
My absolute pleasure. Thank you very much for asking me.

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