We sat down for an interview with our new CEO Anna so our community can get to know her! We chatted about her previous work, passion for education, and her ideas for the future of SFP!
Start by telling us about your educational background and internship/work experiences. Be as detailed as possible so we can show you off!
I did a bachelor’s in business and economics and a master’s in international business, but one of the best things about my studies was that it gave me the opportunity to study both in Canada and Portugal. They were amazing experiences where I also had the chance to be new to a context and a country, and in Portugal I got to experience what it was like not knowing the spoken language.
Before my master’s I worked at an executive firm called Michaël Berglund, where I was a consultant trying to assess skills and traits needed for a specific role, then identify the people who could excel in the position. It was a lot of fun learning more about people and building relationships.
Last summer, I was in Amsterdam at the start-up generator and early-stage VC Antler. It was an extremely entrepreneurial environment where you had to be comfortable with quick changes and ambiguity. You’re surrounded by entrepreneurs from all over the world, all trying to build the next unicorn. It was an inspiring and very international environment, which I love!
What are you passionate about? How does this motivate you in your new role at Swedish and inform your decisions as the new CEO?
I’m really passionate about education, and I’ve always loved learning. In Sweden you would say I was a bit of a “plugghäst”, which more or less is someone who studies a lot and enjoys it. The older I got I understood the importance of education and good teachers. This also made me curious about teaching, and for a long time I wanted to become a teacher.
Education, I believe, is an enabler that allows people to realize their full potential. As I’ve become older, I’ve realized the beauty of Sweden’s free education system, giving everyone the same opportunity to study, no matter your background.
The fact that Swedish for Professionals is an education company is what motivates me. Language education opens so many new opportunities and can help you connect with people and the society that you’re living in. Learning a language makes people come together and can provide you with new perspectives on things.
What do you do to challenge yourself, both in and outside of work?
I love to try out new things that I don’t necessarily know how to do. It can be scary when you’re not sure how to go about a new thing, but outside of your comfort zone is also where you learn, grow, and develop the most. I like a challenge – I’ve moved to new countries where I didn’t speak the language, and a few years ago I tried learning Mandarin!
At work, sometimes you try out new things and you’re not sure if it will turn out well, but if you believe in something, and work together with your team, you might find that the challenge turns into a huge success. You’re more capable than you know!
You’ve worked with SFP before, so tell us a little about that, and what it feels like to come back to the company after you’ve had other experiences. What has changed for you since you last worked here?
I worked as a language coach during my bachelor studies. It was such a cool and fun job! Not only because I got to work as a teacher, which I always wanted, but because I got to see my students grow and develop week by week.
I learned that often, a lesson will take a different turn than what you planned, things come up and important questions get asked. You can get into a discussion about something you didn’t expect, so even if you have a plan, you can’t always stick to it, which is fun and challenging.
Coming back, it’s been great to see how much the company has grown and how many individuals we’ve supported on their language learning journeys! We have so many more coaches, and more companies are seeing the benefits we provide to their international employees so they are confident and fulfilled in their lives, both in and out of work.
There are so many companies that were with us when I worked as a coach that are still with us today, which proves how much they value the education of their employees.
What are your ambitions for SFP?
We’ve already taught so many individuals, but I see that we can expand our mission and provide even more opportunities for our students to learn. It’s amazing that we get a chance to be part of this process of supporting the integration of international talent, and each part of our team is crucial in making this whole process work well.
In your mind, how does SFP benefit people?
Learning a language helps you feel tremendously more confident in the new setting you’re in, both at work or school and in your everyday life. Easing the integration process by giving people the tools to pick up conversations, feel more in touch with their coworkers, and even just read signs and products at the grocery store holds a huge value.
Learning a language can be fun, interactive, and exciting, and if we really encourage active conversations, we can show that it quickly becomes less scary to speak. Showing that this is something you can do with others and really have fun is so valuable, and our coaches do so much to make that happen for our students. We want to help companies realize that language training is a good way to help employees feel more confident and at home. They become more productive, and they’re more likely to stay!
What advice would you give to expats who have moved here and are thinking about learning Swedish?
It’s not as scary as it may seem! A lot of people think “Oh, well, Swedes are so good at English already, why do I need to learn Swedish,” this is in general true, but it’s both a blessing and a curse for expats. Often, our students will say that they want to practice Swedish, but almost everyone will switch to English for them. Sometimes it requires you to say “Hey, I’m trying to learn Swedish, would it be okay to have this conversation in Swedish?”
I think everyone would be happy to do it in Swedish, they probably just changed to English because they thought that’s what you preferred. But learning a language doesn’t happen by itself, it requires actively dedicating time to it. Often you’re helped by learning together with others, that could be friends, colleagues or signing up for a language course and getting a language coach to guide you on the way.
Any hobbies or hidden talents?
I love to sing! I’ve been singing almost all my life. Any opportunity I get to sing, I take it. It’s also a really good way to learn a language, so I would recommend listening to and singing Swedish songs!
Let’s do some fun ones…
English or Swedish?
En or Ett?
Cinnamon bun or cardamom bun?
Tjena or Tja?
ABBA or Swedish House Mafia?
ABBA, for sure