AUG 15, 2022

Freedom to move within Volvo Cars

Whether our people want to change careers, take on more responsibilities, or explore a new market, we want to encourage them every step of the way.

Susanne Hägglund, managing director at Volvo Cars Portugal

Would you uproot your home, your family and your life for a job? What about for an adventure?

For Susanne Hägglund, who has worked at Volvo Cars for just over four years, the job was the adventure, and having an open-minded approach towards meeting new challenges has always been her approach.

According to Susanne, we need to challenge the common definition of “career.” “It is so easy to think that it is a straight line and that it is all about level in the organisation, title, budget and people that you manage”, she says.

But for her, it is so much more; learning new things, getting a wider perspective, being challenged and having fun at the same time.

“When I decided to join Volvo Cars, I actually took a step down in my career. I went down two levels in hierarchy from my previous job and lost both people and budget responsibility. But I'm so happy that I did it because it opened up the door to be part of a fantastic brand and an exciting journey,” says Susanne. “This way I could actually focus on learning about Volvo Cars, the task I had and creating a network.”

The approach paid off; only four months after Susanne joined, she succeeded her manager to become head of Strategy and Transformation, then quickly head of Global Commercial Transformation, then head of Volvo Cars Service Business.

In December of 2021, Susanne took her biggest Volvo leap yet to become managing director at Volvo Cars Portugal.

“I made it very clear to my managers from the very start of my time at Volvo Cars that although strategy and transformation are my areas of expertise, I do not want to only focus on staff and the headquarters. I wanted to get closer to the customer and the markets to learn about the reality of Volvo Cars. So, in time when I was asked if I would be interested in being a managing director and move to another country my answer was ‘absolutely!’,” she says.

Susanne’s family has taken the leap with her, and she is delighted at how well they’re doing in their new home in Lisbon. “I’m actually most proud of how my kids have handled everything. We took them away from everything they knew and from their safety zone, but they have been so strong, brave and positive, which is amazing,” says Susanne.

“The thing is that it really is not only about you and your career; the entire puzzle of things needs to come together. If my children hadn’t liked it or wanted to come, I would never do it.”

For Susanne, a career is learning new things, getting a wider perspective, being challenged and having fun at the same time.

One of the crucial puzzle pieces was all the organisation and administration behind moving to a new country. Luckily, Volvo Cars’ relocation experts took the wheel and helped with an international package that included assistance with finding a home, dealing with bureaucratic challenges and cultural training, which helped Susanne better understand typical Portuguese culture and work style.

This proved especially important to her in the leadership role since techniques that work in Sweden do not necessarily translate in Portugal.

“I learned a lot from the cultural training and got insights related to areas that could be of challenge because of both cultural differences and my leadership style. But in the end, I always come back to the fact that we're all human beings,” explains Susanne.

“Regardless of your cultural heritage, everyone wants to be seen. Everyone wants to know how they fit into a bigger perspective. Everyone wants to be appreciated for what they do, to feel trusted and responsible for something.”

For Susanne, this trust proved crucial at the start of her new role, since the language barrier means that she had to rely on her management team and other colleagues.

“I am trying to learn Portuguese and think it is very important to show respect. It is me who is the foreigner that needs to adapt,” says Susanne. “With the language barrier I have to fully trust my team. Thankfully, since it is part of my leadership philosophy to be transparent, to empower and give accountability, it is very natural to me. I truly hope that I can make a difference and help the team to achieve more together.” Susanne and her family are thriving in Portugal, and the Portuguese office is benefitting from Susanne’s insights gained during her time at Volvo Cars headquarters. It’s a win-win situation, and we’re proud to play a part in improving our employees’ lives, sharing learnings and boosting our Volvo Cars culture around the world.

If Susanne’s story has inspired you to seek out your next adventure at Volvo Cars, head over to https://jobs.volvocars.com.

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