In Conversation With Elinor Zetterblad
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Head of Practice DCX at Capgemini, A Woman With An Entrepreneurial Mindset, Leader & Mentor

A leader known for her innovative ideas, agility, and open mindset, to improve both herself and her team alikeElinor Zetterblad is one of the humble leaders we have met. She leverages her strong experience and expertise to not only support the digital transformation journey but also encourage a growth mindset in her team and guide them to deliver the best results. Elinor’s curiosity to learn new things and be bold to make the right decisions are just a few feathers in her cap. Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology alumnus, Elinor Zetterblad, also actively explores ways to welcome more women at all levels in her organization. With a proven track record of over two decades of experience around leadership, sales, and marketing, Elinor also has an Executive leadership program from the Stockholm School of Economics.

While Elinor Zetterblad is currently the Head of Practice DCX/CSD at Capgemini, she also contributes to closing the gender gap at work and stands for campaigns such as #EachForEqual. In her commitment to making the company a gender-diverse workforce, she takes initiatives to launch and drive recruitment campaigns specifically for women, pays attention to making sure an equal number of men and women are recruited during the strategic recruitment process, and makes Capgemini an attractive workplace for both men and women alike.

She has a keen interest in digital transformation and adapting current solutions for the future. In addition, Elinor is a leader who is willing to listen to her team and dares to make outside-the-box solutions to achieve business goals. Great energy, excellent team management skills, the ability to foresee what comes next, and drive others into that, are some of the traits that her colleagues share to describe her.

As a young girl coming from an academic family, Elinor had interests in the Fashion industry and Engineering. As she grew up, she found herself inclined towards the opportunities the latter has to offer. Elinor’s mother stood by her decisions and motivated her to opt for engineering fields during college.

A mother of two kids, a woman with an entrepreneurial mindset, leader, mentor, and a loyal friend, Elinor says, “If I don’t have the time to spend with my friends, or play golf, or be with my family, then I don’t think I’m successful. Success to me is being happy and doing the things I love to do.”

Join us to discover her incredible life journey, the challenges she faced along the way, and the choices that led to where she is and what she has become today!

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With her future-proof solutions and out-of-the-box thinking, Elinor Zetterblad doesn’t shy away from taking bold decisions in her role as Head of Practice Digital Customer Experience/Custom Software Development, Capgemini.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

As a child, I had narrowed it down to two different professions. One was to become an engineer. However, I did study Mechanical Engineering, and the other career choice was to become a Makeup artist in Paris.

I pursued a career in engineering mainly due to the experiences that I had while studying; I got the opportunity to travel to Australia and meet with people across the world. On top of that, my mother also helped me decide to go for the engineering career path.

What was the turning point in your whole career then? What led to where you are?

I do not necessarily have a turning point. I come from an academic family with my father being a researcher, and my mother worked as an HR. Right from a young age and during school, my mother suggested I have a career in engineering.

Also, as an individual, I’m very curious to learn new things and take up new roles and responsibilities. So, for instance, when I was offered this position as the Deputy Head and COO of Practice, Digital Customer Experience, I did not shy away from it. On the contrary, I wholeheartedly accepted it and brought the best out of it with a positive mindset.

What is your definition of success?

Being successful to me is to be happy. So if I feel burnout while working without having time to spend with my friends, play golf, or be with my family, then I don’t think I’m successful.

Some people fancy working extra hours and burning themselves out, which I experienced when my kids were young, and family members were very sick. But, it was temporary, and I came out of it. So, I think being happy above all makes me feel successful.

Do you think a college degree or formal education is paramount to achieving great heights in life?

Yes and no! I did go through a formal engineering degree and graduated as a Mechanical engineer at the KTH University in Stockholm. What I enjoyed the most about formal education or studying in college is the fact that it provides the opportunity to learn a lot of things in a short span of time. It brings out so much creativity within you, which I don’t think is possible through other ways of pursuing higher education.

But, on the other hand, some people do not enjoy formal education, yet have all the talent and abilities to fulfill tasks at hand. So, a college degree may not be for everyone. However, I think finding a job, especially as a fresher, can be difficult if you don’t go through formal education or have a college degree.

Can you share with us a glimpse of what “A Day in Your Life” looks like?

I generally start my day with some workout or a morning walk. After a good morning routine, I switch to work quite early, from 7.30 or 8.00 am. Most of my mornings, I’m booked with business meetings. Now that we work in a remote environment, I also prefer having little conversations with my colleagues and connecting over coffee breaks, something equivalent to the coffee-machine-talks in an office environment.

What were the challenges you faced, perhaps early in your career or even as a woman? And how did you overcome them?

As I mentioned, I did feel burned out after having kids, especially when they were young. Now my kids are older and can manage more on their own. But I had a tough time managing responsibilities during which I also needed rehab. With much-needed support, I came back to work full time, and since then, I have tried to plan and schedule my work better. I am also lucky to have an assistant of my own who helps me schedule important meetings or try to block my calendar. So, I try to book all the things ahead and follow my calendar. I also tend to set up some free time to clear up my mind and restart myself to make better decisions for the next meeting in line.

Decision-making – I think it’s a very critical subject that you have mentioned. Do you have any tips for leaders to make better decisions or to ease decision-making in their teams?

When it comes to decision-making, the final decision, of course, is my responsibility. But I think there are a couple of things that you can practice implementing better decisions to help you come to a final decision.

The primary thing that I believe is not every leader, in this case, I speak for myself, has the best ideas, or the essential data, to conclude on to a decision. For instance, I manage a team of 1200 people, so when required, I let the ideas of these 1200 smart minds help me make the best decisions. So, leveraging such an abundance of ideas from your team members would be a good start.

Secondly, I think making your peers believe that they are part of the decision-making process can help all members across teams be on the same page, reduce conflicts, and align with the agreed decision, thereby making the decision-making process easier.

In your opinion, what are the key characteristics that would allow someone to thrive as a leader?

As a leader I think, we need to be bold but also fair. Truly listen to others and accept that people make mistakes. But you need to learn from your mistakes; I don’t appreciate repeating the same mistakes over time.

Despite so much awareness, the number of women in tech is still low. What do you think needs to change?

Yes, I agree, and this needs to change. I can share a personal example. Both my son and daughter are studying technology courses in school. But the sad truth is there are just two girls in my daughters’ class who are interested in tech classes compared to 29 boys in the same class, whereas the rest of the girls have opted for design classes.

I think, to some extent, part of this is because of what we feed young girls. One such example is that we provide barbie dolls to girls to play with, whereas we offer trucks to boys. Instead, perhaps we should offer girls robots to seed interest and create curiosity on tech from a young age.

At Capgemini, I also take the opportunity to arrange tech hackathons for women to encourage women and help them participate in tech. However, I think we have a long way to go when it comes to this, and we need to bring more awareness to young girls right from mid to high school.

What have you learned by working remotely? Any tips to better lead a team virtually or in a remote work setup?

First things first! I would say having a proper workspace is crucial to a healthy remote work environment. I can understand not all of us might have a spacious house, but at least the basic setup of a work desk is essential. Then, I think it’s also about the mental state of acceptance of this uncertainty. We don’t know when the pandemic will end, so accepting this new normal and moving on with a positive mindset can bring great benefits while working remotely.

Would you like to share any advice for the young generation?

Always stay curious, dare to learn new things. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes but learn from them. Don’t make the same mistakes twice.

Well, it was lovely talking to you, Elinor. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with AlignThoughts!

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