The Wallenbergs are a household name in Sweden. Their holding companies have extensive portfolios with partial or complete ownership of some of the largest firms in the country. Through their history, philanthropy and business prowess they are one of the richest and most powerful families in the world. One of the three Wallenbergs that currently leads the operation is Marcus, who attended Georgetown in the late 80s. He supports the university and developed this fellowship that bears his name. Each year three Georgetown students from the School of Foreign Service who are also candidates for the International Business Diplomacy (IBD) Honors Certificate are selected to spend their summers working in Stockholm at an organization in the Wallenberg portfolio, and three students from the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) travel to D.C. for the summer and fall semester. This is the fifth year of the fellowship and this past weekend there was a five-year reunion to celebrate the resounding success that the program has had thus far.
Although the formal activities didn’t begin until Saturday, Luis, Christina, and I (the three Georgetown Fellows from this year) met with Rosie (deputy director and program counselor for IBD) to discuss our Myers-Briggs personality assessments. I’ve always been a skeptic of anything that attempts to categorize personalities, characteristics, etc. However, looking over my results I was astounded at the accuracy to which it picked not only my individual 4 representations (INTJ) but also the scale within each of them. A few phrases that I thought really encapsulated my personality were: “introverted but comfortable initiating in a small group or when the people are interesting to you,””readily envision what is needed for the future and enjoy strategic planning,””believe that logical analysis is best for decision making,” and “arrange your world so you don’t have to deal with last-minute rushes.” With better insights into my own preferences, I can focus on being more aware of when these tendencies supersede and suppress alternatives.
On Friday evening, after concluding my second full week at Electrolux, the current fellows (or Wallies as we sometimes refer to ourselves) from Georgetown and SSE had dinner with Rosie, Dr. Moran who is the head of IBD, and Professor Murphy who teaches IBD courses and focuses on entrepreneurship. Christina and I arrived at the restaurant, Tutto Bello, after having visited an Ikea competitor called Claus Ohlsen. She needed some shelving for her room and I needed a sleeping bag since it was the only item for camping that I couldn’t fit in my suitcase. With bulky bags over our shoulders, we entered the restaurant and immediately realized that there were about five tables and our bags took up a large amount of space in this small area. Thankfully we managed to stuff them into a corner where they acted as an armchair for me. We ate a full Italian meal and stayed late into the night chatting with each other and Professor Murphy who remained until the end.
I imagine it’s difficult to be three paragraphs into a blog post about a weekend-long event and still not have reached the start but I’ve managed to do just that. Saturday was the official kick-off of the event. It began with an informal meet and greet between the fellows, followed by lunch, and then an ice breaker. Throughout the entire weekend, I constantly reflected on how incredible it was that 21/30 fellows were able to make it back (and others desperately wanted to but couldn’t due to other obligations). Rosie had sent us all an email a week or so beforehand requesting two pictures: one that represented something significant to us- be it achievement or grounding, and another that was related to our professional goals. We all stood up and presented our two photos in Pecha Kucha style which is when the powerpoint slides are timed and you have to finish speaking the second it changes. We each had one minute per picture. It was without a doubt the coolest ice breaker in which I’ve ever participated, and I felt it really set the tone for the weekend. There we were in this room, surrounded by accomplishment and brilliance, able to get a glimpse into all of our unique situations while knowing we were all connected through this remarkable opportunity.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at an ethics, integrity and self-leadership workshop. Still in a daze from the overload of new faces and information, I hustled home to grab my GoPro before the evening’s festivities. We all met downtown and boarded a boat for an evening dinner in Stockholm’s archipelago. It was magical. I sat next to Jessica who is the director of alumni relations at SSE. She is a native Texan and gave me some BBQ recommendations for Stockholm. Across from me was Olivia, from the first cohort, who also worked at Electrolux in the mergers and acquisitions department. She now resides in Beijing, China, working at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and pursuing various entrepreneurial opportunities. I ventured up onto the roof with Greg, a fellow from the third cohort and fellow college lacrosse player. He’s returned to Stockholm since graduating Georgetown and is back working at the bank where he interned during his time here. He had some fascinating insights into the city and I was thrilled to have someone to talk about the college lacrosse championships with.
On Sunday we ventured to the Vasa Museum, which is the most popular museum in all of Scandinavia. In 1629, the newly commissioned warship The Vasa sank only a few hundred meters after the start of its maiden voyage. Three hundred years later it was discovered and, due to the brackish condition of the water, it was able to be salvaged practically in its entirety. We used our time at the museum to learn about Swedish history as well as discuss management challenges. In small groups, we analyzed the case, which has been featured in Harvard Business School and presented our analysis of who was to blame and what could have prevented this tragedy. The remainder of Sunday was spent at a bar called Churchill Arms filled with hearty bar food and as one fellow put it, a ‘thanksgiving like atmosphere.’
Monday was the finale of what felt like weeks of programming. Although we were busy each day and being constantly barraged with information, I never felt for a moment like it wasn’t all valuable. Just reflecting to write this post I realize how impactful the weekend was in a myriad of ways. We started our morning at SEB bank where we were given a presentation about how they’re using fintech to innovate within their sector. Afterward, we had lunch with our benefactor, Marcus Wallenberg, and each had a chance to greet him and introduce ourselves. He and Dr. Moran gave speeches highlighting the importance of this partnership and acknowledging its successes, both current and expected. As one might imagine for one of the world’s most important people he keeps a very tight schedule, and soon after lunch, we were on our way to Ericsson to learn about their innovate technologies. We were given demonstrations about virtual reality, self-driving vehicles and heard from their head of business about how they encourage and incubate employee ideas and bring them to market.
Last and certainly not least was the official kickoff dinner. In a full-circle sort of sense, we ate in the same room where we had our first lunch on Saturday. The head of the Electrolux Food Foundation and my supervisor, Ingrid, joined us as well as representative’s from Christina and Luis’ companies. We ate well, as we had all weekend, and heard more toasts celebrating the first five years of the fellowship and alluding to many more successful ones in the future. At the conclusion of dinner, Greg, Beatrice (an SSE fellow from 2017) and I presented the three administrators with flowers for all of their hard work and planning to make the entire reunion possible. There was Pia who helped all of us on the Georgetown side find and secure our internships in Swedish companies, Anna who is the main representative from the SSE side, and of course Rosie who wears many hats at Georgetown and never ceases to be involved in something exciting while always being available as a resource. Like most nights over the weekend, we ended at a bar seated outside, beers in hand and blankets on our laps, reflecting on the various Ted-isms (Dr. Moran memorable quotes) and cementing these newly found friendships.
I am already looking forward to attending these same reunions as an alumnus.
Until next time,