This week we saw one of our own, Alexandra Strömberg, recognized as one of Sweden’s top 75 future female leaders (28th actually!). Being the 11th consecutive year Ledarna have compiled this list the amount of nominations received are now well into the hundreds. It’s not easy being recognized with all candidates benchmarked against criteria such as performance and position, the individual’s personal attributes and their potential. For those who nominated, an interview is conducted to further ensure the candidates qualities.
To highlight this achievement and to celebrate Alexandra a little bit a mingle was hosted in the atrium and I (Chris) also asked her a few questions to understand just what makes Alexandra….. “Klarna’s Beyoncé” – Fia Engström
SPOILER ALERT: Early on I realized there seems to be one key moment in both Alexandra’s and Klarna’s founder and CEO Sebastian’s past that has shaped their careers…… working at a burger joint!
Can you give me a little timeline on your life at Klarna?
I started at Klarna 4 years ago building up a new function and team named Customer Relations. Our task was to gather and analyze customer satisfaction data and improve the customer experience from a post-purchase perspective with the aim to diminish any bump on the customer experience road. Today we have an average customer satisfaction of 88% – that is better than best practice!
Now I’m responsible for our Service Teams in Europe. It’s almost 1,5 year ago I changed roles. It’s been great and I’m constantly impressed by everyone. Not only because they support our customers indirectly or directly every single day, but that they’ve also had an open and engaging mindset. As we all know – change is necessary, but that does not mean that it’s pain free.
In recent years I’ve also been part of other Klarna projects. For instance I’m part of the Klarna Executive X network. It’s a network for Female Leaders at Klarna where we can meet, share experiences and support each other. We have the ambition to support Klarna overall in how to improve ways of working and share knowledge on why and how gender equality can improve companies. It’s a topic for everyone and I’m very proud and glad that our management team is so open to this topic.
What defining moments, good or bad, have shaped your career?
The first moment that shaped my career was when I got my first job after high school. I applied as a clerk at Max (Chris: Cue my realization that I need to get a weekend job in a burger joint to get anywhere!). After a couple of interviews they then offered me a position as an assistant restaurant manager instead. They saw something in me that I had no idea existed and one year later I was on my way to study management for 5 years. That was the first time someone saw something in me and gave me the opportunity to grow. After one year I also realized that I was capable and developed a self-esteem when it came to my career.
That is also one of the reasons why I love working at Customer Service. We have so many great talents beginning their careers. If we as an employer provide an environment where personal and career development is encouraged, we become a gateway of great knowledge and talent for all of Klarna. Most importantly – if they don´t stay and instead take another direction – they will spread that to others and have been happy when working with us. Win-Win.
What attributes do you recognize in yourself that position you as a future leader in Sweden?
I don’t think that I have anything more special than many other leaders we have around us. I’ve found a way to be authentic, present and clear. I think that people around me appreciate that.
What qualities do you believe makes a great leader?
Being a great leader isn’t about some theory that should be followed as a check-list, it’s about you finding your own style and that you are willing to see other people’s style. Everyone has something great in them, but the ones who really are the best in my opinion are people who are comfortable with themselves. They know who they are and have a very high tolerance level, but will always set clear boundaries on what is ok or not. I truly think that you can be a nice leader and still get a team to deliver brilliant things. Being a great leader today could be something else tomorrow.
Although there is one thing I think is necessary for leaders who want to be part of leading the future. Lead yourself and help others to learn how to lead themselves.
Has there been anyone in particular who you used as a mentor or role model… past or present?
I’ve never had a formal mentor. I’ve gladly picked, stolen and reused inspiration and methods when I’ve seen something great. My latest inspiration was from Brene Brown. She said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change”. I tell myself that every time I meet change or need to see things in new ways. Being a bit scared or actually daring to meet the feeling of vulnerability can be terrifying, but when we dare to push ourselves a little extra, great things can happen.
It’s been 4 years since you joined Klarna, a lot has changed. Where do you see yourself and Klarna in a further 4 years?
In 4 years I think Klarna will be a global player that not only fosters more and more talents, but also makes life a little bit easier for consumers and merchants by offering an even better and more innovative service. We will continue to disrupt and change. If I am at Klarna in 4 years, it’s because I still bring value to the company and that Klarna does the same for me I enjoy going to work knowing that I am part of this journey.
What advice can you give young and aspiring future leaders?
You will only regret what you did not do. Give it a try. Learn from it. If you find a brilliant leader or mentor that can help you to learn more about yourself and your great capabilities – be open and follow.
Alexandra is without a doubt a popular, successful and appreciated colleague here at Klarna. This recognition comes quickly off the back of receiving Klarna’s Most Inspiring employee in December. I have no doubt there are even bigger things to come from Alexandra, so look out!
It’s hard to say it better than how Fia Engström put it. “To me Alexandra is Klarna’s Beyoncé, she’s empowering us woman to take the stage and speak up. She’s a true inspiration and a superhero to me!”
Along with Fia, Caroline Söderström nominated Alexandra to Ledarna with Caroline adding “I’m very lucky to have a manager that is not only a great leader, but an inspiration and a role model. She’s showing what challenging the status quo is about and doing it with a huge amount of humbleness and care for others. One of my colleagues once said; something changes in the room when Alexandra enters, there’s an extra boost of energy in the atmosphere. She’s got that special something and it’s so encouraging to see her use it to make a difference”.
On behalf of everyone at Klarna, congratulations Alexandra!
//Life at Klarna