When Vicky Samuelsen planned her move from Texas to Norway in 2014, she was dismayed to find the company she worked for didn't have an office in Europe.
“It was a shame I couldn't transfer because I had a good job,” she says, referring to her role at multinational mining, metals and petroleum company BHP Billiton.
But taking some time out to plan her next step proved to be the best decision Vicky could have made. It gave her time to think objectively about where to go next with her career, and inspired her to apply to study for an Executive MBA.
The intensive 18-month program, where students combine full-time jobs with part-time studies, prepares students with backgrounds in all disciplines for new management and leadership positions in the business world. With topics like Financial Management, Value Creation, and Global Context, it supplements existing experience with hard and soft skills that can bolster any application for a senior role.
Broadening her skillset appealed to Vicky, who intended to step away from oil and gas when she moved to Stavanger in southwest Norway. However, her research revealed many MBA students in Norway were in her industry. So she sought out a more diverse cohort, which she found at Stockholm School of Economics (SSE).
“The diversity just wasn't there at the schools in Norway. I knew that going to SSE there would be more variety,” she says
“What I didn't realise was that meeting entrepreneurs, bankers and for example, people in tech, would inspire me to believe I could do something else.”
It was while working on group projects that Vicky came to realise her skills were indeed transferable. Throughout the year, she also gained experience at several different companies in various industries, giving her even more confidence to start afresh.
Since graduating, Vicky has gone on to start her own company exporting sustainably sourced Norwegian seafood and using blockchain technology to ensure its provenance.
“I don't think I would have started my own business if I hadn't done the MBA,” Vicky confesses, adding the course gave her the confidence and extra skills she needed to take the leap.
Since graduating in September 2017, she uses her MBA every day, whether it's drawing on her new knowledge in finance to liaise with investors, or engaging with the network she formed at SSE.
“If I have any questions I can easily reach out to my classmates. Everyone has different backgrounds and is very supportive. We keep in touch often through several channels like Slack and WhatsApp,” she says.
In his class of around 50 students, there were people from 17 different countries -- many from Sweden, but also from other parts of Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.
“It was very good for the learning process, we had great discussions because we all have different experiences and come from different cultures. It was really valuable,” says Jan Anders, who himself hails from Norway.
Like Vicky, he enjoyed the group work and found it an effective way to test his new learnings while honing his organisational and soft skills.
“There's one thing thinking you know how to do something, but getting everyone onboard is something totally different,” he says. “It's a long process and I didn't have the understanding or patience to do it before. For me, this is where I use what I learned on my MBA every day.”
He admits that at first he didn't realise the impact the MBA would have on his career. Since graduating in 2016, he credits it with landing him a role as the Regional Manager of Norwegian engineering firm Multiconsult, where he manages 200 engineers.
“Before the MBA I thought it wouldn't help me get much further in my career, but I didn't realise how much I would get out of it,” he says, adding he gained a lot both professionally and personally from the course.
The MBA has made him both a more competent and patient leader, but Jan Anders says the programme is so much more than its syllabus.
“It's an experience you'll have with you for the rest of your life. It's much more than a degree, it will change most people in a very positive way.”
This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Stockholm School of Economics.