The Alumni Network Blog

The latest from the Alumni Network at Lund University

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“What initially started as a five-month return for compulsory military training turned into a five-year stay”

Hi Glenn! You graduated from the School of Economics and Management (LUSEM) with a MSc in Management in 2018, what have you been up to since your graduation?

After my graduation, I returned to Taiwan for the compulsory military training and to spend some time with my elderly farmor (grandma). By that time of my life, I had lived most of my formative years away from Taiwan across several different countries. For me, “returning” to Taiwan was just as moving to a new country. Sweden was the last place I lived, so while I was waiting to be called in to the military, I volunteered to help out at the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Taipei to find a community and keep myself busy.

Through one of the events, I was helping out at the Swedish Chamber, I met the CEO of the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan who also happens to be from Lund. So, I started working for the European Chamber’s Low Carbon Initiative. Later on, through the recommendation of my former supervisor at the European Chamber, I went to work for the then-Taiwanese Ministry of Science and Technology to help promote Taiwan’s science and technology international visibility and partnerships.

Having also studied and lived in Australia, I got the opportunity to join the Australia New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan (ANZCham Taiwan) around two years ago. I’m happy that I get to do what I love to do—connecting the countries I love together. Little did I know, what initially started as a five-month return for compulsory military training turned into a five-year stay.

You work as the Executive Director of the Australia New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan (ANZCHAM), what does a typical workday look like for you?

The Chamber is a non-profit, non-governmental, member-based organisation that represent and support Australian and New Zealand Businesses in Taiwan. What we do essentially is connect and create opportunities for businesses and people whether that is through events, advocacy, or business introductions. We don’t have a big team, so my job covers both strategic and operational levels. But the beauty is that not a single day of my job is the same. Internally, I ensure the Chamber’s effective and sustainable operation. Externally, I engage with stakeholders and people from all walks of life.

Alumnus Glenn Lio holding a microphone at a summer cruise party. Photo.
Glenn at the ANZCHAM Summer Party Cruise

Some days, I will be coordinating with caterer, DJ, performers, hotels, and other sponsors and suppliers to organise cruise parties for more than 200 people for the community to get together, have fun, and network. Some days, I will be organising business luncheons and forums inviting speakers to share the latest business and policy insights and developments relevant to international businesses in Taiwan. Some days, I will be doing business introductions to connect Australian and New Zealand businesses with potential partners and resources within the Chamber’s community and external network.

People posing for photo at an ANZCHAM event. Photo.
Glenn on stage (right) at the 2023 ANZCHAM Business Awards

Some days, I will be facilitating communication between businesses and government offices to advocate for policies that enhance Taiwan’s appeal as a trade and investment destination and champion greater economic cooperation between Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan. Some days, I will be attending events to build relationships with government officials, media, think-tank scholars, and other business leaders to raise the positive profile of the Chamber and the Australian and New Zealand business community. One of the highlights last year was that I got to meet both the President and Vice President of Taiwan.

In your role, you likely engage with a diverse range of stakeholders, including government officials, business leaders, and diplomats. How do you navigate the cultural and business differences between Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan to facilitate successful collaborations?

I believe in staying open to new ideas and different ways of doing things. When I encounter something unfamiliar, I try to make an active effort to learn about its background and why it’s important to others. To understand where people are coming from helps me connect with them better. No matter their role, whether they’re government officials, business leaders, or diplomats, we all share common goals in life. We all want to be happy, healthy, and successful. To keep this in mind helps me find common ground and work together effectively with people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

But also being open about myself so others can better understand where I’m coming from. I’ve found that being open about my own background and experiences is crucial for building trust and understanding among stakeholders. Throughout my role, I learned to focus on finding common goals and collaborating where we. However, I also try to be open about the difficulties or limitations that we are facing. So that everyone involved could understands the complexities of certain situations. The openness helps to ensure other people know where we stand and work or not work together towards a common goal.

Although it’s not always easy to work with so many stakeholders and sometimes balancing contradicting interests, but the Chamber’s most important asset is our members and the community. There’s a Mandarin saying “隔行如隔山”. It means that professions or industries of expertise are vastly different and distant from one another, even if they are closely related or adjacent. One of the best things about my job is that I get to learn about so many different industries from the top experts and practitioners, and work with so many inspiring and supportive people.

What are the key take-aways from your studies at LUSEM that you find most useful when working for ANZCHAM?

I studied Master’s in Management programme at LUSEM. It’s a special programme where all my classmates were from a non-business background. At LUSEM, I learned to work with people coming from different perspective and working style. But also learned a lot about myself and reflect on the kind of values and leadership I would like to carry out. I think my biggest take away is learning that there’s not a single way of how one should be and things are done. During the programme, we had to write reflection journals about our personal development. I still constantly practice reflection now. It helps me better understand myself and practice to become a better colleague and partner in my work.

Just as importantly, I saw going to university as a way for me to leverage the university’s platform to do and try out the things I wanted to do. During my time at LUSEM, I spent most of my time engaging in extra-curricular activities. I was actively engaged with UPF Lund where I led study trips to Taipei and Brussels; as well as, participated in board work. In some ways, chamber work closely resembles to what I did before, i.e. inviting business and political leaders to speak at events, organising company visits, putting together publications, and of course, working with a board and people who are passionate about the cause.

I think one of the greatest things about Lund University is the vibrant student community and activities. It really showed me the power of community. There are so many community resources out there like mentorship programmes, grants, and events. But most importantly, through Lund, I met some of my best friends I still talk to on a weekly basis today and friends I can call whenever I have questions related to work. That’s why I spend my spare time to help promote Lund and Sweden as a study destination.

You are an active alumnus in Taiwan and serve as chairperson in the Sweden Alumni Network in Taiwan. Tell us more about the network and why Lund University alumni in Taiwan should join!

People with midsummer wreaths. Photo.
Midsummer celebrations with the Sweden Alumni Network in Taiwan.

The Sweden Alumni Network in Taiwan is a Swedish Institute (SI) supported alumni association for people in Taiwan who share study or research experiences in Sweden to connect with each other, build relationships, and stay in touch with Sweden. The Alumni Network is run by alumni, for alumni. The Alumni Network regularly organises various professional and social events to strengthen the alumni community and increase Sweden’s visibility in Taiwan.

The events the Alumni Network organised last year, include snorkeling and ocean conservation workshop, alumni reception, Study in Sweden info session, afterwork drinks, and river boat party. Through the Alumni Network, alumni could access to a global network of Sweden alumni and opportunities to connect with Swedish businesses and other community stakeholders in Taiwan. As well as, be a part of a cozy community of people who share similar experiences and stay in touch with Sweden.

The Alumni Network welcomes anyone who studied in Sweden to join no matter if it’s for a degree, exchange, or research. Of course, I would personally love more people from Lund to join—can’t let the Uppsala influence become too strong! There are many ways for you to engage with us. You can visit www.swedenalumni.tw to learn more about the Alumni Network and how to be engaged. We are always looking for ways to grow and expand the network. Feel free to reach out to us directly!

It is the beginning of 2024, so we are curious, what items on your bucket list do you plan to check off this year?
I don’t have any specific bucket list items for 2024; however, I would like to focus more on the things and people who matter more in life. For starters, I would like to be better at keeping in touch with friends especially the ones who are far away. Additionally, I would also like to visit at least two new countries this year. I find it fun and humbling being in a new place where I don’t understand the language or the culture—I miss that excitement of being a foreigner. Lastly, I would like to do more weekend trips to explore the nature and small towns of Taiwan.


“The mission was to carry cargo to the International Space Station, located between 350 and 450 km above the Earth, doing one orbit every 90 minutes.”

Hi Charlotte Beskow! You are an alumna from the Faculty of Engineering, LTH, at Lund University with a MSc degree in Electrical Engineering. Since graduation you have worked in many different places around the world with missions connected to outer space. Can you tell us more about your career from Lund to the world of space technology? And tell us what inspired you to pursue a career in this industry?
Thank you for asking me to participate to this blog! My yearning for adventure and of doing something interesting with my time has led me on an interesting journey that I could never have dreamed of when I grew up.

My first job was at Ericsson Telecom, but starting salaries in Sweden were low and life in Stockholm was expensive. A colleague showed me an ad for Saab Space and this is how I discovered that Sweden had a space industry. I moved to Göteborg and thoroughly enjoyed myself for two years before changing to the European Space Agency (ESA) in the Netherlands. One driver for the move was the sheer scale of ESA’s activities. Space is a big domain and covers everything above roughly 110 km altitude. The European Space Agency, covers all aspects of space: scientific exploration missions within our Solar System, Earth Observation from Low Earth Orbit, mission control, launcher development and infrastructure, technology development, telecom, navigation, human spaceflight and much more. Since staring at ESA in 1988 my main activities were in two areas: the European contribution to the international Space Station and launchers.

Can you share an example of a project or initiative you led that you are particularly proud of during your time at the European Space Agency?
Space is about teamwork. Projects are decided on the ministerial level and the Agency then appoints a multinational technical team that leads/monitors the work done by Industry. The “interesting” work is therefore mainly done by industry while the ESA team manages the work, checks on progress, monitors cost and schedule and takes major technical decisions together with industry.

Group of people in a factory
EADS Space Transportation in Bremen: Visit by NASA and ISS astronauts to the ATV production hall. Photo: Ingo Wagner

I had the fortune to work on a project where we were much more closely involved in the technical work. The European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). It was technically and managerially a very complicated project. Developed by a French led consortium, the mission was to carry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), located between 350 and 450 km above the Earth, doing one orbit every 90 minutes. The ATV was to be launched atop an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana, locate the ISS, approach the ISS in a controlled manner (orbiting at a speed of 7.6 m/s or 28,000 km / hr) and then dock to the Russian segment. The size of a London bus and weighing 20 ton at lift off it could carry up to seven types of cargo in a mix determined by the needs of the ISS at the time of launch preparation. The vehicle was in two parts. The lower, unpressurised part, mainly consisted of fuel reservoirs, engines, antennas and receivers and all the various electronic boxes/computers required to perform the mission. The upper part was pressurized and contained the cargo for the ISS plus the active half of the Russian docking and refueling system and the 19 associated black boxes. Once attached to the ISS the pressure between ISS and the ATV was equalized and the crew could then enter the forward part. ESA had two small teams working on this major project. One for the flight segment and one for the ground segment, i.e. the control center that was being developed to control the ATV while in orbit. In order to ensure that the project could fulfill its objectives.

Big group of people at space station
“Family photo” in front of ATV No. 3 in French Guiana a couple of weeks before launch.

I worked on the flight segment and was co-responsible for all the crew interfaces as well as the definition of the operations reference, i.e. how to operate the ATV in all known nominal and off nominal situations. I was also instrumental in setting up the engineering support team, i.e. the group of experts that were to be on hand at all times to deal with problems in flight. I worked in the ATV from 1999 until the end of the 5th successful mission in 2015.

Space equipment
ATV No. 4 is hoisted down on top of the Ariane 5 rocket

Given the current geopolitical landscape and potential diplomatic crises, how do you see these factors influencing international collaboration in space research and exploration? Are there specific challenges or considerations that space organizations need to address to ensure the continuity and success of space projects in such environments?
Space is an international endeavour. ESA today has 22 member states and has a close collaboration with other space agencies : NASA (US), CSA (Canada), JAXA (Japan) and until recently RSA (Russia). Many of our satellites are joint missions, mainly with NASA and JAXA. Even during the cold war there was collaboration and discussions with the Russians and I hope that this can resume once the political landscape permits it. In the meantime, projects we had with the Russian Space Agency are either put on hold or modified to find alternative ways to complete the intended purpose. Incidentally this iterative response to problems that arise is part of our daily life since things seldom work out as initially planned. All space initiatives are long term efforts. Technical difficulties occur when you are trying to do something that has never been done before and it is important to maintain the political support when the going gets tough. The benefits of space projects are not always immediately visible, just like the benefits of fundamental research, so when money is tight it can be tempting for politicians to cut our budgets. We need to get better at explaining the long-term benefits in order to maintain public support for what we do.

In your opinion, what do you see as the most exciting developments or challenges in the future of space exploration?
Cybersecurity and space debris are two important areas that need to be addressed. Debris poses a risk to satellites. “Cleaning up” space sounds easy but is a daunting task, both dangerous and costly. It is important that spacecraft operators remove their spacecraft once they are nearing their end-of-life. A collision between a satellite and a piece of debris creates thousands of new debris that in turn pose risks in a never ending negative cycle.

Photo from space
Astronauts’ photo of ISS with the ATV connected

Can you share some key experiences or projects from your time at LTH (Faculty of Engineering) that influenced your career path?
Thanks to the initiative of Inge Brinck, I had the opportunity to study one year at ENSEEIHT in Toulouse. The purpose was to learn fluent French, which I did. This is what has given me an edge in the space industry. Thanks to my command of languages, I was able to work at the launch base in French Guiana, which gave me the necessary operational experience to be a key part of the ATV team. The successful ATV project then allowed me to finish my career as Head of the ESA Office in French Guiana.

Woman in front of space station
Charlotte in front of the building that houses the Ariane 5 rocket with the ATV 5 installed. The day before the launch of the last ATV.

As someone deeply involved in space exploration, we have to know: if you could travel to any celestial body in our solar system (besides Earth), which one would it be, and why?
We humans are not designed to live anywhere but on Earth. Having said that, if I was offered a ride to the ISS, or even a 15 minute suborbital flight I would take it and never mind the consequences.


“As Consul General, I also focus a lot on business promotion and cultural promotion and we try to help Swedish companies as well as Swedish authors, filmmakers, designers and artists to succeed in New York.”

Hi Camilla Mellander! You are an alumna from Lund University with a MSc in Economics and today you are appointed Consul General at the Consulate-General of Sweden in New York. Can you briefly tell us more about your career path from Lund to your current role? What inspired you to pursue a career in international relations and diplomacy?

I always wanted to work in an international setting since I was young. I think the fact that I spent a year at an American High school when I was 13 years old was very formative for me, it broadened my horizons. For a long time, I was dreaming of working for the UN but instead I applied for the diplomatic training program – nowadays called Diplomatprogrammet – at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. I did this after I had finished my studies at Lund University and worked for a few years. In order to get accepted you have to pass a number of tests and show that you have a solid background in governance and international affairs but you also have to have language skills. I think I have always been driven by a sense of trying to make a difference and solve conflicts. For many years I was working on issues concerning the Middle East, first as desk officer at the Middle East department at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Stockholm, then as Deputy Head of Mission at our embassy in Tel Aviv and then as Political Advisor in Brussels to the EU Special Envoy to the Middle East. At that time there were ongoing Israeli – Palestinian peace negotiations modeled on the Oslo accords, and it felt like peace was within reach. Today the situation is different and it will take time to get the parties to go back to the negotiating table.

I have also worked at the UN department with peacekeeping missions and at the Consular department helping Swedes in need of assistance abroad. I have been ambassador to Vietnam for four years and I was the Head of the Department for Trade Promotion and Sustainability right before coming to New York. For a number of years, I was also working for the former Swedish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Mr. Frank Belfrage, and during those years I learned a lot. He was fluent in five or six languages, had extensive knowledge about all international conflicts and was a very good negotiator. One of the best things about my job is that I have so many talented and inspiring colleagues, I think that’s one of the perks of this job.

What are the primary responsibilities of a Consul General, and how do they differ from other diplomatic roles?
Being Consul General is different from being an ambassador. As an ambassador you are responsible for the bilateral relation with a whole country and cover everything from political to economic, cultural and consular issues. As Consul General you cover a part of a country and in my case it’s New York state as well as all of New England, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, so it is nine states in total. My counterparts are the Governors of the different states as well as the Mayors of the different cities; New York, Boston, Philadelphia etc. In New York, with a population of 18 million people and almost double the size of Sweden, the administration of Mayor Eric Adams mirrors that of a government, so there is a Department for International Affairs, Department of Economic Affairs etc with which we interact.

Many times, there are similar challenges in our respective countries. For example, when Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson was here in September, he met with Mayor Eric Adams to discuss the challenges with organized crime. New York has had challenges with gang criminality years before Sweden and Mayor Eric Adams is a former policeman. It was a fruitful exchange.

Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström and Consul General Camilla Mellander
Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström and Consul General Camilla Mellander

As Consul General, I also focus a lot on business promotion and cultural promotion and we try to help Swedish companies as well as Swedish authors, film makers, designers and artists to succeed in New York. When it comes to business promotion we work as TeamSweden together with Business Sweden and the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce in New York (SACCNY) to try to help companies expand and grow on the American market. We focus a lot on the green transition where we are years ahead of the US and specifically on e-mobility, offshore wind and energy efficiency in buildings. We also focus on life science since we are covering Boston. I would love to see more companies from Ideon Science Park come to New York.

SACCNY has an office space for Swedish start-ups and scale-up companies called Gateway on Manhattan where Swedish companies can rent an office at an affordable price and have the benefit of being co located so they can share experiences and good advice on what to do and what not to do on the American market. For example, the company BrainLit, which was started at Ideon, has an office at Gateway and is selling their special lamps resembling daylight to big American arenas and workplaces. I think it’s fantastic. I was raised in Lund so I’m very proud of all companies that come from there. Nicorette is another company that has sprung out of Lund and which has helped people stop smoking all around the world, including in the US. Bluetooth is another invention from Ericsson in Lund that is being used every day by everyone who has a smartphone. We work a lot with Ericsson in New York as they are one of the main companies building out the digital infrastructure in the US.

Can you walk us through a typical day in your role as Consul General in New York?
I always walk to the office in the morning, those 20 minutes gives me time to think and structure my day. On Monday, for example, we will discuss an upcoming event with Lund University at the residence on November 30th. We do a yearly event with Lund University Foundation headed by Chairman and President Maria Tufvesson Shuck in New York. Last year we focused on cancer research. Mikael Dolsten, chief scientist at Pfizer and an alumnus from Lund University spoke alongside a number of the best cancer researchers from Lund. This year the focus will be on innovation and sustainable growth.

The Swedish bank SEB will be in New York next week hosting a CFO and CIO conference and I will be one of the speakers so I have made time in my calendar to prepare my speech focusing on New York’s role as the financial capital of the world. After that I will have a meeting about the upcoming Nobel dinner on 10 December. We organize an annual Nobel dinner where we invite former American Nobel laureates and this year, we will have no less than 26 Nobel laureates! Our chef at the residence, Simon Richtman from Gotland, will be looking at last year’s Nobel menu in Stockholm and take inspiration for this year’s Nobel dinner in New York. In the afternoon, I will attend a seminar at the Ukrainian Institute in New York on the destruction of Ukraine’s cultural heritage as a consequence of the ongoing war. In the evening, there is a reception hosted by my Indian college. That is more or less a typical day.

Swedish Consule General in New York, Camilla Melander
The Swedish Consulate General in New York organizes an annual Nobel dinner

In what ways does cultural diplomacy play a role in your work, and how do you navigate cultural differences?
Cultural diplomacy is a very important part of the work. That part of the job is very inspiring and many of the best Swedish musicians, film makers, photographers, authors, designers, artists, opera singers and dancers come to New York because it is such an important cultural scene. Max Martin has a fantastic musical showing on Broadway right now called &Juliette, Ruben Östlund showed his film Triangle of Sadness at New York International Film Festival this spring, Jonas Hassen Khemiri just launched his latest book Systrarna (“The Sisters“) at the residence. As Consul General, I have the privilege of living in a fantastic residence on Park Avenue in Manhattan. This is where I live with my family but this is also where we do a lot of our events. Event space is extremely expensive in New York, so we are so blessed to have this beautiful house.

Two women standing in front of a building
Consul General Camilla Mellander and KD party leader Ebba Busch Thor in front of the Swedish residence in New York

In connection to New York Fashion Week we had a fashion show in the residence with Swedish designer MaxJenny. We also work a lot with artists and had a screening of the artworks of Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg right before the summer, but we also try to support younger artists such as Lap See Lam who just had an exhibition in New York and Buffalo. We have a yearly reception for Swedish dancers and actors who are here for APAP and ISPA in January each year. We work together with Export Music Sweden to support young musicians in and this year Nea, Deki Alem and Graham Lake performed at a club in Brooklyn at an event called Sweden Makes Music.

There are some cultural differences between Sweden and the United States, but much less so compared to when I was ambassador in Hanoi. I remember when I was just a few weeks into my new posting and was trying to find time for a planning day with all staff at the embassy in Hanoi. I was looking at the calendar and found a date that looked good. I suggested it to the staff and they all looked down and uneasy. I sensed something was wrong and afterwards one of the colleges came up to me and explained. “It’s the stars, if you read the stars, you can see it’s a bad day and it means things could go terribly wrong”. I of course had to find another day. Those situations don’t arise here in New York and in many ways Swedish and American cultures are very close to each other and inspire each other. We listen to American music and watch American movies and vice versa. But we are still more shy than Americans and don’t like to brag and sometimes people here don’t understand why we are not better at selling ourselves and getting our message through.

How did your experiences at Lund University contribute to your professional development?
I moved to Lund when I was 4 years old and my father Stefan Mellander became Professor of Physiology at the Faculty of Medicine at Lund University. Growing up in Lund was a privilege. Everything is centered around knowledge and learning and despite its rather small size, it is a very international city thanks to the university. So, I think it’s fair to say that the university shaped me already at a young age and maybe that’s where I got my interest for international affairs. Another thing that is so fantastic with Sweden is that university studies are free and that means it is possible to study anything that interests you, and me and all my friends followed our hearts. I, for example, studied Middle Eastern studies alongside political science and economics, but never thought I would be able to work with anything related to that, but then it turned out that I would be working with exactly that for almost ten years. Being a diplomat, it’s also been very helpful for me to have the background in political science and economics.

What advice do you have for students or alumni aspiring to pursue a career in diplomacy? Are there specific skills or qualities that you believe are crucial for success in the field of diplomacy
?
First of all, follow your heart because if you study something you are really interested in, you will excel. If you want to become a diplomat, you should first get some work experience, because very few get accepted straight out of university. Study languages because language skills are important.

Some students apply for internships at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and at our embassies their last semester of their university studies. That is a good way of testing if diplomacy is something for you. At the Consulate General in New York, we have an intern every semester and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs works closely with all Swedish universities. The internship is unpaid but gives a very good working experience.

Read up on what’s required for applying to the diplomatic training program and prepare yourself by doing some of the tests from previous years. Once you’re accepted, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is a fantastic place to work, not maybe so much for the money but for the experiences you get. You will have the choice of working at about 100 different embassies around the world and about 25 different departments back home at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

What is your fondest memory from your student days in Lund?
There are so many fond memories. I had so much fun at the Lundakarnevalen every fourth year. For some time, I was part of Utrikespolitiska Föreningen and that was a good experience. I attended many interesting student evenings – Studentaftnar – with different speakers at Akademiska Föreningen. I loved going to the Gustav Adolf ball organized by Göteborgs nation on 6 November every year, that was literally a party that went on for three days in a row. And I love Studentsångarna and Toddydagen. Or just walking through Lundagård.

Me and my husband Richard, who also studied in Lund, are happy that our two children Anna and Axel have chosen Lund University for their studies. Our daughter Anna started Läkarlinjen – medical school – in August this year and Axel will be studying economics as of January next year. So, we have many reasons to come back to Lund often over the years to come.


“I returned to my home country, Guatemala, to achieve the main goal that made me pursue my master’s in Lund, which was supporting and empowering entrepreneurs”

Hi Esthefany! You graduated from the School of Economics and Management with a MSc in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in 2022, what have you been up to since your graduation?

One of my biggest fears when I decided to quit my job at a multinational and go study in Sweden, was to be unemployed for a long time. However, I worked hard not to make that a reality, and I was lucky to be hired at my dream job three weeks before graduation. At that time, the worldwide business incubator Bridge For Billions (originally from Spain) was looking for a Program Manager in Guatemala City to support them in running their new programs in the region (yes, it all got aligned). That is how I got hired as a Program Manager for LATAM for Bridge For Billions, where we support early-stage entrepreneurs in developing their business plans through a learn-by-doing methodology.

Five people connected to Bridge for Billions and Banco Industrial
Esthefany (second from left) representing Bridge for Billions

Around August 2022, I returned to my home country, Guatemala, to achieve the main goal that made me pursue my master’s in Lund, which was supporting and empowering entrepreneurs (especially women in Latin America) to overcome the so-called “Valley of Death curve” in entrepreneurship. The Valley of Death describes the period in the life of a startup in which it has begun operations but has not yet generated revenue. As a Program Manager, I had helped more than 150+ entrepreneurs by running programs in the whole Central America region for important banks to public and private companies, for example, Coca-Cola. All of this has definitely contributed to my life and professional goals, especially because I have had the chance to consolidate the entrepreneurial support for Central America.

Six women holding sign
Entrepreneurship programme with Coca-Cola

In addition to my role at Bridge, I also wanted to stay engaged within the academic field. That is how I got the chance to be a professor for the new bachelor’s called Sustainable Businesses and Innovation at the university I graduated from in Guatemala. It was an honor to help create the course content for this bachelor by bringing to this side of the world things I learned in Lund, and helped develop the entrepreneurial mindset here in Guatemala. Furthermore, I wanted to keep in touch with Lund and especially with my master’s colleagues; that is how, with Natalia and Gema, we started a podcast called “Generation Entrepreneurship,” which you can find on Spotify, where we interview high-performing entrepreneurs to learn from them. And that is how a whole year since my graduation has gone by.

What does your daily routine look like?

At Bridge for Billions, I design, create, and manage online entrepreneurship programs in different countries of Latin America. Usually, I manage between 3-4 programs at once in the same or different countries, which is why my time involves things such as meeting with clients to let them know how their entrepreneurial programs are going, scouting for entrepreneurs and mentors to enroll in our programs, meeting with entrepreneurs and mentors to discuss their work in our methodology, finding new alliances within the entrepreneurial ecosystem or even attending a pitch competition to celebrate cohort graduation. In summary, my daily work depends on the timeline and phase of each program, and that is why it is complex and involves a high capability to juggle between activities.

Conecta event
Esthefany at Conecta event

Aside from my work related to entrepreneurial programs, Bridge For Billions is a genuinely international startup with more than 50 people around the world, so I spend my time also doing online meetings with people from Europe or Africa, mixing between speaking Spanish and English. In addition, I got the chance to attend our new on-site office in Guatemala City, where I shared with eight colleagues from different departments like sales, Marketing, and customer support.

Two women talking
Coaching entrepreneurs

One thing I love about working in my current position is that sometimes it feels like it did when I was volunteering in entrepreneurship, but now I get paid for what I love to do. I can help people and nurture the entrepreneurial ecosystem in LATAM. I will always be grateful for doing what I do now; it is fulfilling.

You have experience from coaching and supporting entrepreneurs, what is the most common question you get and what is usually your response to that question?

I can’t think of a common question, but a common saying I usually get from entrepreneurs I support: “I decided to become an entrepreneur because I want to be the owner of my time and business.” Still, being an entrepreneur is more than this and certainly more complex. That is why, when I hear this, I always reply that by being an entrepreneur, they are enrolling into the incredible and fulfilling journey that will involve:
Perseverance: As is commonly known, entrepreneurs will fall and lose money, learn from their errors, and celebrate significant milestones. Something that I learned is that no one will work for your startup harder than you. It would be best if you work daily on your business idea to get it up and running. It will take time and hard work to get a business to run smoothly and be profitable.
To Be a Doer: To be an entrepreneur, first, you need to picture your business and act, not staying still for too long imagining and not acting upon it. To get your business up and running, you need to test, redefine, find your potential clients, do tests again, and readjust everything based on experimentation and field research. In addition, you need to be brave and have confidence during each step of the journey and not let others get you down.
Great networking: Another thing I found true while being an entrepreneur is that you need to be great at networking or even look for it. Go to events, talk to people and potential investors, but more importantly, find what others are looking for, and see how you can create new alliances that will make yourself (and your business) remembered. Don’t forget to enroll with organizations that offer vital support, such as incubators and accelerations. Always be aware to find new opportunities that will make you scale up.

Zoom call
Zoom call within Bridge for Billions

By saying all this, to be an entrepreneur involves starting and running a business by yourself but it also consists of creating a positive impact in the world by solving a problem or a necessity for society.

What are the takeaways from your studies at Lund University that you find most useful when working for Bridge For Billions?

My professional and personal life changed after my studies at Lund University. With the people that I met and the great experiences I had; I couldn’t choose anywhere else to study.

I can say that one of the aspects that helped me the most was that Lund is super international; in my master’s alone, we had more than 20 nationalities. This opened my mind to new ways of working, ways of communicating with others, and, for sure, new ways of innovation. While studying, I also got to talk with founders, co-funders, investors, and key actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. These experiences helped me to deal with different clients around the world, and I am sure it also helped me to get the position I have now in such an international start-up.

Furthermore, I’m sure that all the opportunities I found within the Swedish entrepreneurial ecosystem shaped the entrepreneur that I am today and the support I offer through my work. I remember that while studying at Lund, each week, I looked for events related to entrepreneurship in Malmö and Lund, and I always found one. I attended and got inspired by all of them. The entrepreneurs I met showed me how important it is to fight for what you want and that the entrepreneurial journey is challenging but fulfilling.

In addition, my master’s mentor, Rita Lousa, helped me to find the potential and confidence needed to come back to my home country and support entrepreneurs. I remember she always encouraged me to challenge myself and think outside the box; now, I am trying to do it for my bachelor’s students and the entrepreneurs who enroll in our programs. I could find a friend in my mentor and the support and empowerment any entrepreneur needs when developing a business.

Reskilling and upskilling have become an area crucial for being able to meet the changes of the future. What are the skills that you feel you would like to learn or develop in your working life?

I recently experienced a massive reskilling while studying at Lund University. Before pursuing my master’s in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, I was enrolled in the Human Resources field, and I worked for seven years in related positions. But I got passionate about entrepreneurship and improving entrepreneurial support in Latin America. That is how I chose Lund to study and prepare myself to do a different job after my graduation.

On the other hand, in terms of upskilling at this new phase of my professional life, I have identified two aspects that I plan to learn and develop in the upcoming years:

  1. Project management: each entrepreneurial program that I start and close needs all the steps that the project management methodology encourages to do. I want to master the fundamentals of the PM methodology to find new and efficient ways to run our programs.
  2. Digital Marketing and E-commerce: I want to learn more about how to create content for social media platforms, how to manage the most important social platforms, and how to do great advertisements. I plan to learn and practice these new skills to become a Digital marketer consultant for entrepreneurs and continue supporting them.

I’m sure these skills will help me to foster my impact and continue escalating in my professional life in my new entrepreneurial career.

What are your favorite places to visit in your current home country Guatemala?

When someone asks me about Guatemala, I always say that here you can find warm weather and a beautiful blue sky. We have a perfect mix of adventures, from tropical jungles to active volcanoes, lakes, and beaches.

Antigua City, Guatemala
Antigua City, Guatemala

I am a lover of exploring my own country, so if you want to come for a visit, I can recommend these options that are my favorites:

Lake Atitlan: for me, it is one of the most magical places in Guatemala and, for foreigners, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. This lake is ringed by three volcanos and small towns entirely different from each other, full of markets and local crafts. One of the most amazing things about this lake is that it sits in a volcanic crater 1,538 meters above sea level, and you can explore it by boat. It is around three hours’ drive from Guatemala City.

Mayan Ruins of Tikal: It is one of the most significant archeological sites in Central America, with well-preserved ruins located within the jungle of Peten, where you can learn more about the Mayan empire that lived there between 600 BC and 900 AC. You can walk around the park looking at high pyramids, temples, and plazas while you hear monkeys and birds. It is located in the northern part of Guatemala, and now you can travel from Guatemala City to Tikal by plane.

Antigua Guatemala: This was one of the capital cities of Guatemala before 1773 and has a lot of remnants from the Spanish colonization and culture. History says we left the place because of constant earthquakes that struck the city. Antigua is also a magical place surrounded by volcanos; it has cobblestone streets, old colonial buildings, convents, and churches. It is an excellent place to go during the weekends to eat at the many restaurants that Antigua has and is only around 1 hour from Guatemala City.


We ask Lund: What are four things we should fear when it comes to AI?

WeaskLund_AI

In a dystopian future, a battle is raging between humanity and an artificial intelligence whose purpose is to eradicate humans. Does that sound familiar? Or perhaps, advanced biotechnical beings of the future, practically indistinguishable from humans, harbor their own emotions, intentions, and goals – sometimes, even terrifying ones. Countless movies have been made about AI over the years, long before the technology was in place. But are these dystopian Hollywood films an accurate depiction of our future if we are not careful? We asked Professor in Mathematics, Kalle Åström, and members of the AI Lund coordination group.

AI created this picture
If AI was to “paint” a dystopian AI future, it would look like this. Photo: AI prompted by the writer.

AI Lund is an interdisciplinary open network for research, education, and innovation in the field of artificial intelligence, coordinated by Lund University.

When Lundensaren posed the question, “What should we be afraid of when it comes to AI?” the network’s members had differing opinions on the dangers of AI. Several primarily saw benefits. Nevertheless, the group’s experts do recommend taking certain risks seriously, but the dystopian Hollywood scenarios are likely to be postponed.

Here are four fears associated with AI and the future, according to AI Lund.

AI list 1

Fear of fear

Perhaps one of the few dangers of AI is that we become too afraid to use AI in the future, and the effective and well-used AI becomes challenging to promote because public fears take over.

AI list 2

AI dependency

There is a risk that we might construct our society in a way that makes us dependent on AI solutions. What happens if it suddenly malfunctions or if the AI solutions are disrupted? This is something that policymakers need to consider.

AI list 3

Abuse of AI

As the tools become more powerful, there is also an increased risk of them being misused, for example, to spread misinformation, for surveillance or through autonomous weapons.

AI list 4

Human alienation

Increased automation and the use of AI can lead to people feeling alienated from work and society. Will we only have robot doctors in the future, thus losing the personal touch? Will research and political decisions be carried out by AI systems with reduced human understanding and insight?


Learn more about AI Lund

Research in artificial intelligence and machine learning at Lund University is conducted in many departments across most faculties. AI Lund is an interdisciplinary open network for research, education, Scientific collaboration and innovation in the field of artificial intelligence, coordinated by Lund University.
Visit their website here.

October 26, 2023

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Fear of public speaking? How to become less nervous about performing in front of an audience

Stagefreight

Do you belong to the group of people who start sweating at the mere thought of standing up in front of a PowerPoint presentation at work? Do you start trembling in your voice when you have to speak? You are not alone. Speaking or performing in front of an audience is one of the most common fears among people, which is why the Malmö Academy of Music addresses stage fright in its future “performers” through the course “The Performing Human Being.”

Fransisca Skoogh
The founder of the Performance Centre at the Malmö Academy of Music, Francisca Skoogh

The founder of the Performance Centre at the Malmö Academy of Music, Francisca Skoogh, is not only one of Sweden’s foremost concert pianists but also a licensed psychologist. She has used psychological theory, her clinical experience as a psychologist and her experience as an artist in the course “The Performing Human Being,” which is part of the master’s programme in music. However, the techniques she teaches can benefit anyone suffering from any form of nervousness, fear or sometimes anxiety about standing in front of people and performing.

One must see oneself from a broader perspective

An important part involves not tackling everything alone as an individual, but looking at oneself from a life perspective and sharing experiences with others. But also, the professional culture in which one operates, says Francisca Skoogh. Classical music, of course, has a specific tradition or professional culture in which it operates, just as there likely is within athletics, law enforcement, healthcare, law and so on. One must see oneself within a larger context. She emphasizes the importance of her, as a professional musician with many years of experience, sharing how she herself has been through it. She shares her failures, and how she has overcome difficulties with her students. Something that there may not usually be time for in teaching.

Scared of presenting

3 remedies for stage fright that can be applied to everyone

Look at an event you have experienced before
Look at a time when you performed, spoke, lectured or whatever it may be, and it felt good or at least decent. What did you do? Be specific! What worked? How? And in what way? What do you need to perform at your best?

Describe an uncomfortable situation and practice
How can you work on a situation that makes you uncomfortable? Can you practice it? Start looking at this well in advance, not the same week as your presentation. Make sure to use a good friend, teacher or colleague and try it out with that person. Constructive and caring feedback is important! Choose someone you trust!

Repeat in detail what you have succeeded with
When it goes well, note what makes it go well. We are quick to dwell on thoughts where we go through all the negatives we have experienced. Often at night, right? We go through everything that went wrong over and over again. We can all relate to that. Try to repeat, and in detail, describe to yourself what went well when something went well. It’s a good exercise, and we are not used to doing it. Use that information about yourself; it is, of course, valuable!

 

October 26, 2023

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A haunting at the vicarage! A Lund academic ghost story from the 1840s

Ghostly house

Supernatural events unfold in the rural countryside of Skåne around the year 1840. Join archivist Henrik Ullstad, from the University Archive, as he tells a story of deceased pastors, drinking curates, mysterious horses, unexplained fires and windows that have a life of their own. Beware in the October darkness, for now, there are ghosts haunting the vicarage!


Introduction

When my archivist colleague Fredrik Tersmeden and I were asked to write an article, preferably on a Halloween theme, for the October edition of Lundensaren, we thought at first that it would be a pushover. Surely there were plenty of ghost stories from Lund University’s history to unearth from the recesses of the archive!

Our first port of call was the Vice-Chancellor’s hearings. Perhaps some students had been warned by the Vice-Chancellor around the turn of the last century because they had dressed up as ghosts and scared Lund residents? However, with the exception of two students who had been brought before the Vice-Chancellor as they had been out in the streets dressed in “short sheets” (there was no information on whether the intention was to create ghost costumes), we came up with nothing.

What about trial records from the 1600s and 1700s? Had someone perhaps accused a well-to-do citizen’s wife of being a witch? We went through all the court cases involving women, but they mostly concerned illegitimate children, broken marriage vows and – in one noteworthy case – a student who accused a woman of slander as, contrary to what she claimed, he had absolutely not broken her windows.

Fredrik then suggested that we should write about the alleged haunted lift at the Historical Museum. I argued against this, as I had once taken the lift all the way from the top to the bottom without any occurrences.

the Historical Museum’s elevator and portrait of Claes Blechert Trozelius
Rejected article topics: neither the Historical Museum’s elevator nor Claes Blechert Trozelius were scary enough.
Image source for the Historical Museum’s elevator: the author.
Image source for Claes Blechert Trozelius: Wikimedia commons. Painting photographed by Fredrik Tersmeden. Licence: CC-BY SA 3.0

I wondered in pure desperation if the mass producer of theses and professor of economics Claes Blechert Trozelius had perhaps written about pumpkins. Perhaps, but in which of his many agriculture-related theses could it be found? And there was the risk that such an article would not have the right Halloween tone.

It was not until I looked up the second volume of Paul Gabriel Ahnfelt’s “Studentminnen”, a book that the encyclopaedia, Nordic Familjebok, describes as “far too rich in uncorroborated anecdotes and hasty and offensive judgements about many deceased people as well as those who are still alive”, and found a chapter in it of “telluric” memories that I sensed the ectoplasmic light at the end of the tunnel. What I found in it is, in truth, a spooky story that is commended to prospective readers.

A haunting at the vicarage!

Paul Gabriel Ahnfelt was born in 1803 in the parish of Gullarp in Skåne, where his father Jonas Ahnfelt was the vicar. After attending the Cathedral School in Lund, he was enrolled at Lund University as early as 1817 and earned his Magister degree in Philosophy six years later. Ahnfelt was very much involved in both the temperance issue and the revivalist movement. He belonged to the “rörelsepartiet” (movement party) in the diocese of Lund that stood for a low-church, almost liberal, reform tendency within the Church of Sweden. In 1830 he was called – without being ordained! – by the baron Fredrik Trolle to become the vicar of Bosarp, a parish for which the baron had the right of patronage to recommend a member of the clergy for a vacant position. It was an appointment that prompted Ahnfelt to take the ordination exam as soon as possible.

We thus relocate our story till Bosarp, a small village in the Skåne countryside north of Eslöv. Here lives the vicar, Paul Gabriel Ahnfelt, with his wife, merchant’s daughter Hedvig Sofia Ekstrand, and their three daughters. The household also includes the staff – labourers, housemaids and servant boys – who were needed to run a vicarage in the first half of the 1800s. Associated with the vicarage are a number of crofter families, and not far from there lives sexton Möller, a man who Ahnfelt described as “completely incapable”, at least concerning his role in teaching children. Around the vicarage is the parish of Bosarp, a district with about one thousand inhabitants, whom the vicar Ahnfelt – at least according to his own account – benevolently and paternally tried to elevate spiritually. In particular, the pious vicar and temperance zealot opposed the excessive drinking of the Swedish liquor, brännvin: “the biggest obstacle in my attempts to help the people to both a better bodily and spiritual existence”, as he expresses it.

Paul Gabriel Ahnfelt
Paul Gabriel Ahnfelt.
Image source: Swedish Portrait Archive. Licence: CC BY 4.0.

Strange things suddenly begin to happen at Bosarp Vicarage. One day, the vicar’s wife, Hedvig Sofia, thinks she hears her husband come home with a visitor and go into the study, but when she looks in only moment later, she finds the room empty and the windows shuttered despite it being the middle of the day. It turned out that Ahnfelt was occupied the whole day with his confirmands and has not been home. On other occasions the heavy window shutters at the vicarage – which normally need the strength of two people to close them – are mysteriously closed even though they should not be and on one winter evening in 1840 two unknown horses mysteriously turn up at the trough by the vicarage’s pump, even though all the gates are shut and it is impossible for unfamiliar beasts of burden to enter the vicarage courtyard.

What was the cause of these apparently supernatural events? In his memoirs, Ahnfelt, a progressive man, says he is at a loss for an answer, but comments that his parishioners had two theories. The first, that it was a portent of the vicar’s imminent death, was contradicted by the fact that Ahnfelt died in 1863, some 20 years after his spell as vicar of Bosarp. The second explanation was no less macabre but requires us to shift back in time to 60 years before the visitations in Bosarp.

“A blessed death from apoplexy”

On 19 June 1781, Sven Julius Sjöholm was enrolled at Lund University and the Skånska student nation. He was the son of a sexton and former Lund student in Stehag and intended, like so many of his student colleagues, to become a priest. According to the nation tables – reports on the nation members’ social situation and studies that the nations were obliged to submit to the University each semester – Sjöholm was initially a lodger with “cathedral attendant Holmberg”. Sjöholm went to lectures by theology professor Nils Hesslén and professor of rhetoric and poetry Nils Stobæus, and also had private lessons in logic.

After the spring semester of 1782, Sven Julius Sjöholm disappears from the nation tables for a long period but turns up again in the autumn semester of 1785, when he is staying with “cobbler Berggren’s widow”. It is most likely that he returned to the University to brush up on his knowledge before the ordination exam. In addition to attending lectures by professors in theology and philosophy, he had private lessons in Hebrew, theology and Latin. Sjöholm was finally ordained on 13 August 1786.

After his ordination, Sjöholm became the assistant vicar of Bosarp under the then vicar Carl Krutzén. Krutzén had been a student in Lund at about the same time as Sjöholm’s father, but in contrast to him had defended his thesis (written by the history professor Sven Lagerbring on “the Roman burning of foxes in relation to Judges chapter 15”!) and been ordained. So, it was here that the young newly ordained priest Sjöholm came to take up the first position in his ecclesiastical career.

If the reader thought that it was now time for Sjöholm to put his best foot forward and pursue a thriving career, you would be forgiven for this mistake as, on the contrary, in his duties the young assistant vicar quickly showed that he was extremely unsuitable as a priest.

According to Ahnfelt, Sjöholm soon began to socialise with “the lowest pack of the district” and engage in extreme drinking sessions at the vicarage. On one occasion he, together with his drinking companions, sang a hymn outside Krutzén’s bedroom window in the early hours, something that prompted the vicar to deliver such a strong reprimanding sermon that one of the participants was immediately gripped by remorse “and from that moment detested both the company of Sjöholm and the other ungodly vicars”. Krutzén’s admonishments clearly didn’t affect assistant vicar Sjöholm, who instead moved his card games and drinking sessions to the vestry, where it can be assumed that he could find greater respite from his superior’s objections.

Bosarp Vicarage
Bosarp Vicarage, pictured in 1954.
Image source: Skåne Regional Museum collections. Photograph: Harald Olsson, Lund. Licence: CC BY 4.0.

It was in these circumstances that Krutzén died on 5 August 1794 “through a blessed death from apoplexy”, as the parish register expresses it. Whether or not the apoplectic fit was caused by his unruly assistant vicar is not recounted in the story, but it is clear that Sjöholm quickly manoeuvred behind the scenes to exploit his vicar’s demise. Shortly after the death, Krutzén’s widow sent a letter to the Cathedral Chapter in which she requested that Sjöholm – referred to by malicious gossips as Krutzén’s “assistant in the marriage” – should be appointed to maintain the administration of the parish during her period of favour. Clearly, Sjöholm’s intention was to “preserve” his predecessor’s widow and seize the position of vicar by marrying her. The application was granted, but shortly afterwards the widow withdrew her application in a new letter in which she referred to Sjöholm’s “conduct”. A new vicar was consequently assigned to Bosarp, while Sjöholm was sent off to an assistant vicar position in Kverrestad.

The dark cloud that descended on Sjöholm in Bosarp followed him to Kverrestad. On 16 October 1795, the Kverrestad Vicarage burned down, and the assistant vicar found himself accused of arson. The court could not reach a consensus and referred the matter “to the future and the judgement of God”, but Sjöholm’s ecclesiastical career was over. When Sjöholm tried to get a new assistant vicar position in 1797, he was instead advised to devote himself to school teaching and was ordered to refrain from the priesthood, however without being formally defrocked. According to Ahnfelt, Sjöholm ended his days as an exile in Denmark where he earned a living as a journeyman executioner.

But, asks the attentive reader, what has this to do with the haunting of Bosarp Vicarage? Well, the scandal surrounding Sjöholm’s behaviour, manoeuvring and being sent to Kverrestad, along with the fire at Kverrestad Vicarage, meant that rumours began to circulate among Bosarp residents that vicar Krutzén had not died “a blessed death from apoplexy” at all. According to these rumours, still circulating in Ahnfelt’s time over a half-century later, Krutzén rather suffered a violent end at the hands of his assistant vicar. It was thus no less than the murdered vicar Krutzén who visited Bosarp Vicarage – closing window shutters, letting in horses and imitating guests in the vicar’s study – as a way to demand justice from beyond the grave.

Conclusion

Was there really a haunting at Bosarp Vicarage? In his Studentminnen, Ahnfelt adopts an ambivalent attitude to the whole affair. On the one hand, he does not explicitly state that he believes in ghosts, but on the other hand he says that he cannot explain the happenings.

And what do I believe? I must say that personally I do not believe in ghosts, but of course something must have happened to prompt the otherwise sober and progressive Ahnfelt to include these events in his memoirs. If I have to express some form of opinion concerning what happened, I would choose to concur with the anonymous publisher of the student memoirs, who offers his own particularly prosaic, but amusing, explanation. According to one of Ahnfelt’s successors as vicar of Bosarp, the “haunting” was actually payback from dissatisfied parishioners, tired of Ahnfelt’s instructional efforts in general and opposition to brännvin in particular. In other words, a kind of 1840s equivalent of trick or treat in the Skåne countryside.

Henrik Ullstad
Archivist at the Lund University Archives

The author wishes to express his gratitude to Lukas Sjöström for his kind help with proofreading.

October 26, 2023

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“If you’re pursuing a technology career, consider taking a course in human skills. Conversely, if you’re in a non-tech role, familiarise yourself with some technology courses”

Man sitting in an airplane
With both daughters having embarked on their own university studies, Christer has chosen to pursue a new adventure: learning to fly!

Hi Christer! You are an alumnus from LTH, the Faculty of Engineering, and today you are working as Enterprise Account Executive at Coursera in London. Can you briefly tell us more about your career path from LTH to your current role? What inspired you to work within this industry?
My career started 1986 when I completed my Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a specialisation in Energy at LTH, ending with my thesis work at Barsebäck’s nuclear power plant. This steered me towards my first job, advanced heat and fluid-mechanical calculations in the nuclear industry.

Man sitting by desk
Christer at the desk of his first job in 1986

In those early days, the workspace was rather different. As you can see in the picture (above), you’ll notice the absence of a personal computer. Yes, of course we did have computers then, but they were larger, less accessible systems with no graphical interface. A year into my role I did get a personal computer, though interestingly, it was first put on the side-table rather than directly in front of me.

But I felt drawn to more dynamic sectors seeing growth at the time: Telco, Media and IT, and I made the leap to the IT industry. Since then my career has transitioned gradually from technical-based roles to sales, along with the industry’s evolution. It has been a fascinating journey, and we are still just in the beginning of the IT era. The technology will keep evolving and will offer many exciting job opportunities for years to come.

What does a normal workday look like for you?
The role of an Account Executive requires a fair bit of multitasking. This involves responsibilities such as market research, project management, problem-solving, commercial awareness and technical skills. By and large, this role is a people-facing role, and you often have to be proactive to drive outcomes.

Looking back at the image from my first job, it’s clear that workplaces have significantly transformed. Like many other professionals, I now work hybrid – my time is divided between the shared workplace WeWork Waterloo in London and my home office.

Two photos of office space
Christer’s two office spaces: the shared workplace in London and his home office

I do wonder how our workplaces will evolve over the next 40 years ? But the pleasure of meeting customers face-to-face, I hope, will never become outdated. It has taken me to places I wouldn’t have visited otherwise, such as into the Icelandic prime minister’s office and out into the Saudi Arabian desert.

In your opinion, what are the most significant trends or developments in the field of lifelong learning and reskilling today, and how is Coursera contributing to these trends?
Workplace skills requirements are currently in a state of flux. Rather than a singular lifelong career with in-depth knowledge in one domain, many of us will transition through various careers requiring a broader skill set. Today’s focus often highlights tech skills, but human skills are equally important. Some of the human skills in-demand now are Analytical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Resilience, Flexibility and Agility (from The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report 2023).

Coursera, an online learning platform, is part of this evolving landscape. Accessible with just an internet connection, it enables continuous learning and skill development which you can carry out anytime from your work, home or even when you are travelling. In fact, Lund University is a valued partner of ours.

Click here to find Lund University courses on the Coursera platform

What advice would you give to fellow alumni and new graduates looking to embark on a journey of lifelong learning?
Be curious and keep learning – also for skills outside your comfort zone. So if you’re pursuing a technology career, consider taking a course in human skills. Conversely, if you’re in a non-tech role, familiarise yourself with some technology courses.

For instance, if you haven’t already, consider starting with a beginner’s course on Generative AI, a topic that’s receiving much attention currently. It isn’t just for tech enthusiasts. It’s accessible and beneficial for anyone, also those lacking technical skills, so take full advantage of it. It will have a profound impact, particularly for us with professional careers.

On that topic, here’s an interesting video showing Steve Jobs’ visit to Lund in 1985, he is predicting what we’re experiencing now, nearly 40 years later.

Click here to find the YouTube video with Steve Jobs in Lund 1985

What personal or professional achievements in your career journey have been particularly meaningful to you?
When I was young I had brief summer jobs in Germany and the UK. These experiences sparked my interest in working abroad, eventually leading to my relocation to the UK 25 years ago. I now feel genuinely at home in both the UK and Sweden, which feels like a privilege.

Now, with both daughters having embarked on their own university studies, I’ve chosen to pursue a new adventure: learning to fly. Currently, I am mid-way through this adventure, which involves both theoretical exams and flying lessons. It has the familiar sense of challenge similar to my student days in Lund: the gradual, often hard work with no end in sight, until one day, you suddenly realise you’ve achieved your long-term goal.

What are your brightest memories from your studies at LTH?
I still vividly remember the day I arrived in Lund in the autumn of 1982, unprepared for what lay ahead. Those four years were full of challenging studies, but also rich with fun memories of social activities at Lophtet, in the nations and corridors.

I remember all the biking, something I’ve never done so extensively since then. The biking to town from LTH was easy, but the return was always a bit of a workout.

Skryllegården, it set my standard for running 10 km trails. Luckily, I have a comparable track here in the Windsor Great Park in Berkshire, coming very close to matching the quality of Skryllegården.


“Considering long-term career goals, I decided to specialize in law and study the programme in Swedish, which would give me opportunities to work in a variety of areas and develop myself.”

Hi Emi! You came to Lund University as an exchange student from Waseda University in Japan autumn 2007 and then returned to Sweden in 2012 and studied Swedish and the Law programme (in Swedish!). Can you tell us a bit about your decision to move from Japan to Sweden?
Photo of Emi JohanssonI chose Lund University’s one-year exchange program because I wanted to study European and Swedish social policies and Lund University offered a lot of courses in English. I broadened my horizons and enjoyed my stimulating student life in Lund, and it was one of my best decisions so far to study at Lund University!

I was 19 when I first came to Lund. Having lived in Japan all my life before that, living and studying in Sweden with students from different parts of the world was a real eye-opener. I learned how Swedish society works and was impressed by society’s commitment to achieve gender equality. I also got the impression that the social structure and working culture in Sweden allowed people to pursue both career and family life. In Japan, it is still quite difficult for women to pursue their careers after getting married and especially after having children. After I went back to Japan, I worked just over two years for a Japanese company and was shocked to see many female workers give up their careers in their 20s or 30s.

The exchange year in Lund was also special for me because I met my husband-to-be then. He moved to Lund from Stockholm to study the same year as I came to Sweden for the first time. When we decided to get married after some years, we decided to live in Lund, Sweden. I wanted to continue my career even after having children, so it felt reasonable and natural for me to move from Japan to Sweden rather than my husband moving from Sweden to Japan.

It was not easy to choose my career path in Sweden, because I could not apply skills that I learned in Japan directly. Considering long-term career goals, I decided to specialize in law and study the programme in Swedish, which would give me opportunities to work in a variety of areas and develop myself. Law might not be the best subject to learn in your third language, because language skills are essential for legal expertise. But I prioritized my interest and passion and started the law programme (LLM) in autumn 2014.

Woman standing in front of Juridicum.
Outside the Faculty of Law building after the Law programme’s graduation

What have you been up to since your graduation from the Law Programme?
After my graduation in 2019, I started to work as a law clerk for Malmö District Court. I wanted that job to get experience in the court process, which is helpful for legal jobs in the future. I worked mainly with criminal law, civil law and family law at the court. After that, I worked as a consultant Legal Specialist at Mercedes-Benz Sweden for several months, before I joined Baltic Cable this August where I’m working as a Legal Counsel (in-house lawyer). Baltic Cable is an international company in the energy sector and a part of the European electricity market. As a Legal Counsel, I work with different types of contracts and provide legal advice and support to the team. There are a lot of new things to learn, and I enjoy working with a variety of topics in international contexts!

Woman standing in front of converter station
Study visit at Emi’s work – Baltic Cable’s converter station in Kruseberg

Tell us about your experiences from the Swedish work environment! Any culture clashes that have been advantageous or challenging?
In my experience, it is much easier to combine work and family life or other interests in Sweden compared to in Japan. The Swedish work environment is based on the premise that everyone, regardless of gender, should be able to have a good life outside work. I also like the fika tradition in Swedish workplaces. I have not experienced any culture clashes, only positive surprises.

How did you learn Swedish and can you share your top tips to everyone who wants to learn the language?
I learned Swedish by engaging in student associations and getting in touch with Swedish students and the Swedish language, in addition to classroom studies. I joined the student orchestra Alte Kamereren and played the saxophone and the clarinet – and it was there I met my husband!

Orchestra Alte Kamreren
Alte Kamereren during Emi’s exchange year at Lund University 2008

I was active in several organizations such as Spex (a kind of comedy musical). It motivated me to learn Swedish and I got a great opportunity to hear Swedish in use. One of my tips is to join at least one organization or group where you can use Swedish! There are many student organizations in Lund. I’d like to recommend Swedish courses at SOL-center at Lund University as well! I was able to master Swedish quickly thanks to the education at SOL.

What current fact about your life would most impress your five-year-old self?
I think the fact that I am living and working in Sweden and know languages other than Japanese would be enough to impress five-year-old me.


“Thankfully physics helped me directly when I was learning parachute flying for the first time”

Hi Narit! You graduated from the master’s degree programme in Physics in 2002. What have you been up to since your graduation?

Person holding a dog
Alumnus Narit Pidokrajt

A long story short, I went on to get a PhD in theoretical physics (black hole physics) from Stockholm University in October 2009. This wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t take the course general relativity (Einstein’s physics of gravity) in Lund and got the best grade! My master’s degree in Lund was in the field of solid state physics. After my PhD I did a bit more of research on black holes. In 2012 I was recruited to teach at a high school and that was something I did until summer 2020 before I re-entered the higher education sector, first at University of Skövde then the University of Borås, where I have been teaching mostly basår (preparatory year in math and physics) and a bit of engineering students.

Along the way I was also involved in sports and sports administration at local, national and international levels. The most memorable moment was when I was a part of the Swedish delegation to the IOC meeting during the summer of 2019. It was Italy that won the bid to host the winter Olympic games 2026. I had chats and handshakes with many well-known names in sports, Crown Princess Victoria and the then Prime Minister.

People with sign that says Sweden and a Swedish flag
The Swedish delegation to the World Championships in Parachuting 2022

I remember vividly the coffee break standing with a coffee cup in my hand with Prince Albert of Monaco who curiously asked me about my background. My answer was simple: “skydiving as a sport and teaching physics as a career”. As of today, I am part of the Swedish delegations to two FAI (World Airsports Confederation) commissions; one is the general airsports and the other one is the commission for aeronautic records. I have done skydiving in 9 countries so far. The first and the only international skydiving competition I will attend this year is in Germany in September.

Alumnus Pidokrajt and Prince Albert of Monaco
Prince Albert of Monaco and Narit at the Swedish delegation to the IOC meeting

The thrilling sport of skydiving seems to be an interest close to your heart. You have done over 1100 skydive jumps and hold two Swedish national records. Tell us more about how you found your passion for skydiving!

I was introduced to the sport of skydiving in May 2012 in Västerås when I went tandem skydiving after I was challenged by a student in my physics class who said to me that I could never be sure how it feels in the free fall until I have done it myself. It was when we had a physics lesson on gravity using skydiving as an example. In other words, the student was not happy enough with the Youtube videos that I showed. Fortunately, the skydiving club in Västerås gave me the video for free since it was for educational purposes. I did show it to the class and the students were super thrilled that I really took up the challenge. I was very nervous prior to the jump. It was an overwhelming sensation and I was sold to the idea that I should be a skydiver myself.

I passed my skydiving examination on the National Day in 2013. The national records are in team accuracy, accomplished in Denmark in 2019, and the Czech Republic in 2022, when I was a part of the Swedish national team to world’s championships in accuracy parachuting. I see skydiving as a challenging sport/adventure demanding me to think and act/react logically, analytically and decisively. It is basically about trusting your ability to handle uncertainties and unknowns. It is also about getting a dosage of adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin, which according to health experts is a very good thing. I once applied to be an ESA astronaut. In one of the text fields, you can write about your special talents (with suggestive words: mountain climbing, skydiving, scuba diving, something like that). It seems that quite a few astronauts have done skydiving, including the newest Swedish astronaut who has a background in parachuting.

Person skydiving in front of castle

I would also like to mention that the social part of skydiving is important. You are a part of a big family. Skydivers come from all walks of life: politicians, professors, police officers, doctors, nurses, fire fighters, lawyers, teachers, electricians, IT experts, architects, entrepreneurs, university students, you name it. I remember trying to find and locate the buildings I once lived in as an LU student while we were flying a few hundred meters over Lund to Malmö for a demonstration jump on the National Day 2022 with my fellow skydivers from Skydive Skåne in Kristianstad, which is my home club since 2018.

You have been able to combine your interest in skydiving with your research in physics, tell us more about it!

I always insert skydiving into my physics teaching since it is a natural part of discussion on gravity, air resistance and mathematical methods used in addressing them. Skydiving is a perfect example of how different forces come into play. At a high school level you have to simplify a great deal (like no air resistance at all!). At a university level you can add more math and a bigger scope of problem solving. I am particularly interested in a so-called speed skydiving, which is a young sport. Sweden has been successful in this sport discipline as a matter of fact. It is, to me, a space-age sport where a human body encounters 500+ km/h in free fall. No other species on Earth can dive through Earth’s atmosphere as fast as this! It is the fastest non-motorized sport for mankind – it incorporates both theoretical and practical know-hows while we are pushing the limits. I can also add that I am driven by thoughts of exploring new frontiers.

Skydiving today is far more advanced than it was for 40 years ago, like in aviation. I do not practice speed skydiving but I wrote a paper on this. It was the first physics paper on speed skydiving. The paper was cited and I also got a phone call from a journalist in the United States to give some explanation. In fact, this makes me remember the topic I chose for my PhD thesis. My first paper on black holes as a part of my PhD thesis is cited over 200 times to date, but it took some years before someone found the use of it. So I hope that my paper on speed skydiving will find more readers in the future. I simply like exploring unfamiliar areas/things/ideas!

Person jumping out from a plane.

Do you apply the laws of physics onto your skydive jump? If so, how?

It is indeed a secret … he he. Just joking! Yes, I do apply my theoretical understanding of gravity, wind directions, angles of attack and how thermal winds work when I fly my parachutes to a designated target. But to be good at it you have to practice and repeat. In many sports it is important to have a correct understanding of the underlying theory (how everything works) but it boils down to “practice makes perfect” that takes one to the next level.

Thankfully physics helped me directly when I was learning parachute flying for the first time. I remember having to explain to comrade skydivers the concept of cross winds, ground speeds and wind speeds. All these are basically vectors used in physics. This is probably why I learned accuracy landing quickly, and instantly picked up this discipline as my new sport. It is the sport that demands immense concentration, especially in the last portion of the jump when you have to hit a target 2 cm in size.

What thoughts run through your head just before a jump?

A wide variety of thoughts I would say. I remember thinking about a math problem I could not solve while the plane was taxing to the runway or about phone calls to make the next day, etc. But most of my thoughts prior to a jump are skydiving-related like different procedures to follow during the jump or what I anticipate to happen (like thermal winds, clouds, turbulent cross winds at the landing site).

When I do a demonstration jump I would visualize the landing site and the flying patterns and potential hazards (power lines, trees, etc) and spectators. You have to make sure to commit zero error during such a performance. During competitions you also have to think about aerial separations from your team members. However, most skydivers would agree that we do not worry about things while engaging in the activity of skydiving. We are just fully focused on the skydiving and what comes with it. You might have heard that skydiving gives mixed and intense positive emotions that you will hardly feel in another activity.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

First of all, I hope that within five years from now, I will do at least one skydive over Lund. That would be absolutely awesome! It would also be awesome if I can engage more in research on sport sciences/technologies.

Ultimately, I would one day like to use my background in the education/research/sport sectors and experience in intercultural communications and organizational works as a leader/consultant for national/international organizations. There are published papers on leadership and parachuting suggesting that people with a skydiving/parachuting background can be good and effective at leading since they are used to handling unknowns with self-efficacy. Skydiving also trains one to be self-assured, persevere and take calculated risks.

Person in front of machine

My first year in Lund was an eye-opener for intercultural communications. I became interested in learning about different cultures. My time in Lund in the international environment was a perfect preparation for my work, my life and my perspectives of the world today.

September 14, 2023

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Enjoy the autumn with your alumni discounts!

Autumn is here with many interesting events for the old, the young, and everyone in between. Don’t forget that as a member of the Alumni Network, you get discounts on tickets and admission to various attractions and events.

Log in to your alumni page to find the discount codes and take the opportunity to update your information.

Log in to your alumni page

Vattenhallen Science Center

At Vattenhallen, both children and adults can try various experiments focusing on natural sciences and technology. This autumn, Vattenhallen is open to the public throughout the autumn break (höstlovet) and the Christmas break (jullovet). They also offer free admission to ForskarFredag (Researcher Friday) on 30 September.

By showing your alumni membership card, you get a 20% discount on the entrance ticket.

Go to Vattenhallen’s calendar for autumn 2023 (in Swedish)
Visit Vattenhallen’s website (in Swedish)

Odeum Music Center

Collage with orchestra and choir

Odeum Music Center has its roots in traditions dating back to 1745 when the Academic Chapel was founded and is today Lund University’s center for student-based music, concerts, lectures, and education.

The theme for this autumn’s events is Spirituality. A broad theme where Odeum collaborates with Lund Cathedral in honor of its 900th anniversary. With spirituality as the focus, there will be a concert featuring the Academic Chapel, the university’s own symphony orchestra, and the Cathedral’s choirs, among other events. In addition to events revolving around spirituality, Odeum also offers a magnificent anniversary concert in mid-November when the Academic Choir celebrates 75 years as a mixed choir. The autumn concludes with Odeum’s traditional Christmas concerts with the Academic Choir and the Academic Chapel to create a festive atmosphere for the upcoming holiday season.

Alumni with membership cards are offered a 20% discount on the ticket price.

Go to Odeum’s autumn program for 2023 (pdf) (in Swedish)

Go to Odeum’s calendar for autumn 2023 (in Swedish)

Visit Odeum’s website

Malmö Opera
Malmö Opera is a music and drama institution with a music and opera house in Malmö. It is one of the largest opera houses in the Nordic region and presents a full range of music theater with a focus on opera and musicals.

This autumn, you can see the musical Everybody’s talking about Jamie at Malmö Opera. In the musical, you meet Jamie, who dreams of becoming a dragshow artist. A musical about dreams and identity featuring Oscar Pierrou Lindén and Loa Falkman, among others.

With the Malmö Opera LU alumni discount, you get a discount on Everybody’s talking about Jamie as well as a selection of other shows during the autumn.

Musical with dancers and singers
Photos by Christoffer Lomfors (left) and Jonas Persson (right)

Go to Malmö Opera’s website

Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden is a beloved oasis for many and a delightful spot in the heart of Lund. For over 300 years, researchers and students have used the garden for teaching and research. With a discount code and by presenting your membership card, you get a 10% discount on admission tickets and a 10% discount in the shop.

Visit the Botanical Garden’s website

Go to the Botanical Garden’s calendar for autumn 2023 (in Swedish)

Lundagård – Sweden’s oldest student newspaper
Members of the Alumni Network can subscribe to Lundagård at a student price. Log in to your alumni page to find more information.

Electrolux Online
Members of Lund University’s Alumni Network receive a 25% discount on Electrolux’s complete online range. Log in to your alumni page to find more information.

GoinGlobal
GoinGlobal is a career tool where you can learn more about job searching and working in different countries. GoinGlobal is completely free for all members of the Alumni Network. Log in to your alumni page to find more information.

September 13, 2023

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Alumni Reading Challenge #3: “A book by an alum from Författarskolan”

Many of us are back in the office again after the summer holidays. But let’s keep those memories of reading at the beach, in the garden or on the sofa alive by continuing our Alumni Reading Challenge. We have arrived at challenge number 3 and now it is time to get familiar with “Författarskolan”, the Creative Writing Programme at Lund University, and its alumni.

The Creative Writing Programme is a two-year long programme at the Faculties of Humanities and Theology. Fiction writing runs like a common thread throughout the programme and occupies a significant part of the studies.
About the Creative Writing Programme (in Swedish)

Below you find three books by the programme’s alumni, however, there are of course many more to choose from.

The magazine Skriva’s article about alumni from the Creative Writing Programme (in Swedish)

Before the River Takes Us by Helena Thorfinn

Photo by Magdalena Vogt

Thorfinn is a bestselling Swedish fiction writer and journalist, born in Lund and studied at Författarskolan 2010-2012. Her books are noted for their interest in international development, poverty, human rights and ex-pat experiences. Before the publication of her first book, Innan Floden Tar Oss (Before the River Takes Us) in 2012, Thorfinn worked in international development.

The novel Before the River Takes Us is set in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and gives us a glimpse of a world where hard working diplomats, in this case Swedish Sophia and her family, cross paths with struggling garment workers and shady factory owners. The novel has been translated into Polish, Norwegian, Icelandic and English.

Fjärilsvägen by Patrik Lundberg

Photo by Stefan Tell

Patrik Lundberg, born in 1983, is a writer and journalist and studied at Författarskolan from 2010. He is the 2020 recipient of the Publicists Club’s Gold Pen Award and in 2021 he was one of the recipients of Stora Journalistpriset (a major journalism award) in Sweden. He has written several books, including; Gul på utsidan and Berättelsen om Sverige: texter om vår demokrati. Fjärilsvägen is his first novel. It is a story is a declaration of love to his mother Birgitta Lundberg and a story about Swedish society.

My Brother by Karin Smirnoff

Photo by Johan Gunséus

Karin Smirnoff started as a journalist but after some time she was eager to work with something else and therefore bought a carpentry factory. After a few years, she missed writing and applied to Författarskolan with what would become her debut novel: Jag for ner till bror (My Brother). It is a novel steeped in darkness and violence – about abuse, love, complicity, and coming to terms with the past. My Brother was received with great enthusiasm, and she was nominated for the August Prize in 2018 in the literary fiction category. Book two, Vi for upp med mor (My Mother), was published in spring 2019 and the trilogy was completed in 2020 with Sen for jag hem (Then I Went Home). By December 2020, her series about Jana Kippo had sold more than 500 000 copies.

In December 2021, Smirnoff was announced as the new author in the best-selling and award-winning Millennium book series, originally created by Stieg Larsson. And in autumn 2022 the first book by Smirnoff in the Millennium series, Havsörnens skrik (Girl in the Eagle’s Talons) arrived in the bookstores.

August 9, 2023

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