The Swedish-Australian Notebook: Part I

As the only 2019/2020 SGLP grad based outside of Sweden I am now working in Sweden for the next few months! This is only my second time visiting Sweden (the first being our first team week in October) but I’m already falling in love with the country. Despite not experiencing the incredibly cold winter with lots of snow I was promised/warned about, I have made many new and exciting discoveries about this Nordic nation. 

As an Australian I think I'm obliged to marvel at snow and take a photo whenever I see itAs an Australian I think I'm obliged to marvel at snow and take a photo whenever I see it

I’m writing this after having some old friends from Australia come visit. They work in Europe now and after sharing stories we realised that the small, almost insignificant differences (like having to weigh my vegetables before going to the checkout) are often the most interesting and so I’ve decided to mix the more significant observations about work with some more fun, silly stories (mostly about food?).

The Cafeteria Proposition

Saab’s Adelaide office has a cafeteria in the building. This isn’t entirely unusual but is also not common across lots of companies in Australia. Apparently it was considered a vital part of the design when the office was being built and coming to Sweden makes that all make sense. Almost every Saab office here has a cafeteria and they are considered an important way for people in the organisation to meet each other and talk. This is true in Australia as well as grabbing lunch in the cafeteria is probably the best way to meet more people in the company.

Our cafeteria is a vital part of the office

Our cafeteria is a vital part of the office

General Work Tools and Processes

One of the first tasks you always have as a grad on rotation is to understand the new tools, processes, and ways of working that are used by the team or office that you’re working in. An exciting side effect of this is that you slowly acquire a toolbox of what you think are the best ways you have seen to solve a problem. An interesting example is the Floor Plan tool we have in Australia. You can search our interactive floor plan to find where anyone sits or where exactly is that meeting room you need to get to (you can see a screenshot above showing off our cafeteria). Sometimes I wish there was an equivalent here in Sweden to make it easier to find all the people I’m trying to meet, though Fika and just hanging out by the coffee machines works pretty well! More broadly there are tools and processes here in Sweden that I would love to implement back home and there are things from Australia I think could be really valuable over here. This is one of the reasons there’s a regular exchange of software developers between Järfälla and Adelaide, it helps spread best practices and processes.

The Lunch Window Shift

I thought people at Saab Australia ate lunch rather early. In Australia most people probably grab lunch somewhere between 12:30 and 1:30 but at Saab Australia lunch is definitely at 12:00, if not a little earlier. In Järfälla this is 11:30 and potentially earlier, I’ve had lunch at 11:00 and not really found it strange, but by 1:00 the cafeteria is basically a ghost town.

Knowledge Sharing

When I first joined Saab Australia in 2017 one of the first things I noticed was how willing everyone was to share their knowledge. For a while I thought this might be just because I was one of the new hires straight from university and so everyone knew we needed to learn as much as we could, but as I spent more time at work it became clear that everyone in the organisation was happy to help each other and share their knowledge. My time here in Sweden indicates that that’s just as true here as it was in Australia; everyone is willing to help each other and share their knowledge to build a stronger and more capable overall organisation. As someone more junior who is trying to learn as much as they can, this is so valuable and a real advantage of working at Saab but I think it is also a real asset for the whole company and plays an important role in honing our “Thinking Edge”.

The Pancake-Scone Equivalency

There is a ritual that occurs every Thursday at Saab involving flour, milk, and baking. I’m not talking about pancakes but am instead talking about scones! Thursday is scone day at Saab Australia; the cafeteria in Adelaide bakes fresh scones at 10am and much of the office comes down to buy a scone or two. Having now experienced the joy that is pea soup and pancakes on Thursday in Järfälla, I have to assume that Thursday scones originate from Thursday pancakes. At some point the pancakes morphed into scones and shifted from lunch to a more classically Australian morning tea slot. Interestingly the 10am scones also have a trace of Swedish fika about them as it’s often an opportunity for teams to informally meet and chat about what they’re doing.

A typical Saab Australia daily menu A typical Saab Australia Thursday lunch menu :)

Staff Longevity

In Australia, we are given a certain amount of leave every year and if you don’t take all the days it builds up. This needs to be reported on our financial books every year as a liability, along with the Long Service Leave you earn after being with a company for a number of years. Apparently every year when we have an auditor check our books the auditor complains that our leave liability is too high. Our CFO then has to politely explain that the number is correct and that actually the auditor just isn’t aware of how long many of our people have been at Saab. For a company that is only slightly over 30 years old we have an amazing number of people who have been working for Saab Australia for 15, 20, 25 years, or more. Globally Saab is older and so there are people who have been here even longer! The general pattern holds globally that people work for Saab for a long time and I think this symbolises both that Saab is a great place to work and also how passionate our employees are about building a great capability for our customers. Along with the benefits of this long-term expertise the company also wants to make sure it capitalises on new ideas and so you meet so many people that are excited about Saab’s graduates and younger employees and the new ways of thinking we can bring to the company.

The Adelaide office is full of amazing people I loved getting to know and now I get to meet amazing people on a whole new continent!

The Adelaide office is full of amazing people I loved getting to know and now I get to meet amazing people on a whole new continent! 

This blog post has gotten very long; I’ve found Sweden a very exciting place so far and so I hope you’ve also found this blog post interesting. Join me next time for more Southern observations of Saab’s Northern offices.