A Reflection on the Graduate Programme of 2016

As the Saab Graduate Leadership Programme draws to an end for us graduates of 2016-2017, we would like to do something special for you in this blog by sharing with you a reflection of our year in the programme. We hope that you will find our insights interesting, and perhaps even learn something new about the programme!

What are the main things you’ve learned from the graduate year?

Mike: As a graduate from the U.S. who has never had the opportunity to travel to Sweden before this, one of the most important things I know I will take with me forever is a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the Swedish culture. I want to stress the appreciation part, because I strongly believe that it is not enough to just be aware. It is important that we consciously keep an open mind and learn to embrace our unique differences, because otherwise these differences can act as barriers that divide us. For example, I’ve learned that Swedes and Americans differ in our style of working. Despite what we may want to believe, neither is better than the other. The beauty of working together in an international company like Saab is that we get to learn from generations of trial-and-error from multiple cultures, including but not limited to American and Swedish culture. By learning to embrace our differences and adopt the best ideas of our cultures, we truly can attain the “best of both worlds”.


Have you learned something you didn’t expect to learn?

Therése: Definitely! I applied to the graduate leadership programme because it seemed like a good way of learning as much as you possibly can in a year about Saab as an organization, our different areas of expertise and of course; leadership. But there are so many things that come with that. For example, when doing my assignment abroad in the U.S. – sure I expected to learn a lot both organizationally and individually – but the fact that I would develop as an individual in so many ways was beyond my understanding. I could physically feel it. I went from being almost afraid of going out for a meal by myself to not even reflecting over doing it. At the end of the assignment, I actually found myself on a solo 5 hour road-trip to Nashville. Although unexpected, these developments prove to me that I’ve grown stronger over the course of the program.


What were the high and low points of the year?

Freddie: It is really hard to pick out a low point from these past 14 months. Of course not everything can be great every single minute, but I never found myself wanting to do something else or feeling discouraged. In fact, if I could do it all over again, I think that the only thing I would have done differently is to try to include one more rotation. They are a great opportunity to broaden your knowledge and network within Saab, and to develop personally as well as professionally. 

As for the high points – where do I even begin? The rotation at MA Europe in London and being able to participate in our operations in South Africa was something really special. But for me personally, our team weeks in the U.S. were the most unforgettable. Not only did we get to see our operations in Syracuse and Washington, but we also had the privilege of going to the Swedish embassy in Washington. During these weeks we met some really intriguing people and had training in useful topics like branding, personal development and authentic leadership.  On top of that we were invited to a wine tour for a day in the beautiful surroundings of New York State. All in all, this was the highlight of the year.


What steps forward have you taken in your personal development?

Ylva: I have developed my ability to plan and coordinate my work – including prioritising tasks according to importance - and practised reaching out to people. I've learned how to act professionally but still genuinely, as well as practised my communication skills and how to apply them in various settings and situations. Although I am often the junior colleague I feel confident with my contributions and know that I have the ability to take in new concepts fairly quickly.


How have you developed as a leader?

Eva: I have developed as a leader in many different ways during my time as a graduate. First and foremost is my business understanding; I now better understand the complexity of what Saab is doing and how many different activities needed to be coordinated to ensure efficient work. This knowledge has made me more humble and in general more interested in the company. I have also gathered insights into different cultures and have for instance seen how differently Swedes and Americans think. This cultural understanding is something we need to all be aware of as well as respect in order to succeed as leaders at Saab.

I have also learned more practical things when it comes to leadership – I have noticed the importance of clear roles and responsibilities as well as the need of setting deadlines to make sure work gets done. The many courses I’ve gone through during the programme have been amazing as well. Meeting professionals within psychology, attending workshops in conflict management, learning to give and receive feedback, improving presentations skills, etc. have given me the tools and experience to handle the various situations that leaders will commonly find themselves in.


Can you see any common values or leadership skills that have been fostered in the graduate group as a whole throughout the programme?

Björn: The ability of taking ownership and responsibility of one’s tasks and actions, combined with a high emphasis on inclusiveness, is something that has truly been fostered within this group throughout the year. This self-awareness is one of the main factors to why we have worked so well together as a group, and something that I believe is one of the most important qualities in a future leader.


How can you as a group and you individually impact the leadership at Saab for the better?

Elin: I believe that we as a group can influence the leadership culture through sharing our experiences of the different types of leadership that we have encountered during our graduate year. Once we find ourselves in a leadership position, it is up to us to lead by example. We can pick and choose from what we’ve experienced so far and incorporate it into our own leadership style. Through continuously requesting feedback from our colleagues and managers, we can continue to grow as leaders and hopefully inspire our colleagues to do the same. From what I’ve seen, we have many good leaders with different management styles throughout Saab, and we can help our colleagues learn about them.


How can you contribute to Saab’s and your own organisation’s development now that you have completed the graduate programme?

Erik: As a graduate I had the privilege of visiting numerous business areas and sites which gave me a deeper understanding of the company and the industry that it operates in. By sharing my experiences with colleagues, both close as well as from other departments, I can improve the general understanding of the company.

The graduate programme also enabled me to build an extensive network within the company. I as a graduate I therefore act partly like a bridge builder between departments; I am able to support my colleagues in finding the right people within the functions that I have visited during the year.


How will you use the network that you have gained throughout the programme?

Henrik: During the entire year as a graduate you get to meet, greet and interact with many people from different parts of the organization, which is an invaluable opportunity and experience for us that participated in the Saab Graduate Leadership Programme. And with such opportunity comes responsibility. It will be up to us to keep maintaining and growing the network by asking questions and connecting people within the network to each other and other activities. It is important to remember that the established network is something everybody should be able to benefit from and be seen as a tool for all of us, in order to keep moving forward and add value to Saab.

As for how I will make the most out of the network; it is by being visible by asking questions and seeking help from others to get different perspectives. But it is also about keeping in mind that the network is not a one-way street. Information, questions and connecting people to each other should travel both ways in order for the network to grow stronger and bigger.


What are the most important factors for you to be able to thrive in your future career?

Wonhee: I believe that the most important factor for me to thrive in my future career is being responsible. A great power comes with a greater responsibility. We should never forget that the success of our company is based on the joint effort of each and every member. As everyone starts to fulfil his/her unique and distinguished responsibilities at every level of the company, that dedication becomes an important piece of a puzzle which in the end, we have to put together to turn our vision into a reality. Therefore, as one of the pieces of the puzzle, I will continue to fulfil my current and future responsibilities.


Well, that’s it for us for now! We hope you enjoyed reading about our thoughts and experiences.


Grads of 2016