Expat careers: the Swedish MBA that turns you into a leader
Actively driving change to create real world results and a deep sense of growth as people and leaders: these are some of the latest highlights from our exclusive #MyMBADiary series.
The Local has been following students on the prestigious 18-month Executive MBA program at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE). They’ve already been to Silicon Valley and gained strategic insights into what makes Stockholm a leading innovation hub.
Now, we look at MBALive®, which focuses on the complexity and dynamics of organisations – and putting theory into practice in real companies. We spoke to two students nearing the end of the MBA: Jarich Nooitgedagt, originally from Amsterdam but living in Sweden since 2013, and Kristina Zaytseva, originally from Moscow but living in Sweden for 17 years.
Q: How has MBALive® helped you understand the complexity and dynamics of organisations?
Jarich: In the LeadershipLive stream, both learning how to coach people and being coached have been truly valuable. It also deepens your understanding of successful teams. The ChangeLive project allowed me to put theories about change into practice. The Y-Model is one great tool. Imagine the letter Y: the top left branch is the current situation; the pillar is the changes you can implement; and the top right branch is the intended future. No organisation is static, so this is a great tool for constantly adjusting.
Kristina: A manager usually jumps to a solution without dedicating time to really understand the problem. I have a lot of experience of improving processes in organisations. But it was a life-changing experience to be forced to look into a problem and keep asking what we’re trying to achieve and why. ChangeLive was an amazing opportunity to work on a real, complex change project.
Photos: Jarich Nooitgedagt/Kristina Zaytseva
Q: Can you summarize your ChangeLive project and what you learned about creating value through change?
Jarich: We focused on employee engagement scores at my employer, a telecoms operator. Having an objective partner from outside the organisation was crucial and showed the value of consultants. We dug deep through interviews and workshops to get a detailed understanding of the challenges. Then you can move on to solutions and we’ve seen an improvement in the scores over the project period.
Kristina: We looked at an employee net satisfaction index at the bank I work for. We did interviews and identified changes we could make in five focus areas. These included creating a vision to connect each team to the unit’s strategy and aligning personal development conversations with agile ways of working. I’m very happy to say we succeeded in turning the trend.
Q: How have you grown personally through taking on the challenges of the MBA?
Jarich: I’ve been a manager for a few years and wanted to broaden my perspective. After moving to Sweden, I found out SSE is very high in the FT Executive MBA rankings. I’ve improved as a leader and person who is able to reflect and be self-critical. Listening to your team members and helping them grow inspires me the most and gives me so much energy. ChangeLive also offered great learning, given that change is constant and organisations must adapt.
Kristina: It’s been an unexpected journey. When I applied to SSE I was thinking about my professional development. Now, I look back and I see not just new knowledge and networks but real personal growth. It was very intense sometimes, learning through feedback, coaching sessions, and late nights writing assignments. Now, I’m more self-aware and more sure about what I’m capable of achieving.
Photo: Kristina Zaytseva (left)
Q: How did SSE handle the switch to digital learning due to coronavirus?
Jarich: Communication is key and SSE has done a great job, with all information about Covid-19 going through one platform. The digital program week was interactive. We had very relevant lectures on scenario planning in a crisis and we were also able to learn in breakout groups. You click a link on your screen, join your group and then get a message to go back to the bigger room – that was fantastic.
Kristina: Everything was very well organised to make sure we still got the most out of it. We had very good video lectures and sessions on Zoom that gave us energy. It was like magic when you were transferred from the bigger session to your group. You can also adjust things to focus on the speaker, see everybody or focus on the slides – it’s a flexible tool.
Q: How will you be better able to lead in your future career as a result of skills and insights gained from the MBA?
Jarich: The program really helps you understand all the different elements of managing and leading an organisation. The subjects and methods discussed have been broad and varied – and through MBALive® we’ve been able to apply these models in real-time. This makes the learning really hands-on and I believe this makes it easier to access this great toolbox we now have for the future.
Kristina: Firstly, being self-aware contributes greatly to being a better leader. By understanding myself, I can understand other people better and take their needs into consideration. Secondly, SSE gave me an enormous amount of leadership-related tools and models – sources of information and inspiration. Thirdly, you get a great network and when I need advice or brainstorming I now have so many people I can turn to.
Interested in personal and professional growth to help you face the challenges of today's dynamic and complex world? Find out more about the 18-month Executive MBA, delivered part-time and in English, at the prestigious Stockholm School of Economics.
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