From Childhood Dreams to Digital Leadership

Av Marie Bredberg

Embarking on a journey that spans continents and defies expectations, this is the tale of a carefree Florida girl whose adventures gave way to orchestrating transformative IT projects in a distant land. From youthful dreams to unforeseen turns, her path winds through challenges and triumphs, revealing the profound impact of perseverance and purpose.  This narrative unveils the fusion of entrepreneurship and academia, the embrace of risk and growth, and the pivotal role of family wisdom.

Picture a carefree Florida girl roller-skating around the coastline, relishing the ocean's embrace. Who could have foreseen that her path would lead to coordinating massive IT digitalization projects in Gothenburg, Sweden? As I reflect on my journey, it becomes clear that it's a story woven from a mix of personal and professional experiences converging in the present. What's kept me going? A steadfast commitment to chasing my dreams and embracing my purpose.   

Initially, my dream was that of a performer who could captivate an audience with their talents. It's funny how my entrepreneurial spirit naturally intertwined with this dream. Whether it was starting a roller-skating club at the age of 9, coordinating lessons that culminated in a community performance, or leading my dance troupe to triumph in competitions – those dreams always found a way to shine through.    Today I describe my dream as becoming a successful businesswoman, using genuine leadership to spark transformative change. My passion is forming real connections and making a positive mark in every interaction. Even though I can express this dream more eloquently now, its essence was alive even during my youthful escapades. 

However, life wasn't without its challenges. I wasn't the best student due to dyslexia, which led to a notable disinterest in traditional schooling. While my spirit was outgoing and entrepreneurial, my academic struggles cast a shadow on the possibility of realizing my dreams.

But life often surprises us. An unexpected twist came when I lost my mother at the age of 21, propelling me towards a newfound appreciation for education, purpose, and the value of each moment. This clarity steered me toward economics, a subject that lit my path. Although my initial dream leaned towards becoming an economist shaping global institutions like the World Bank, life had its own plans, steering me into financial management and consulting with non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) in India and eventually the United Nations, supporting programs aimed at fighting human trafficking in South Asia.  

My journey took me to India and Sri Lanka for more than five years. There, I worked with organizations such as US AID, Geneva Global, and the United Nations, collaborating and consulting NGOs to pursue effective anti-human trafficking programs, from prevention to rescue and rehabilitation. At the heart of these programs was a commitment to addressing economic, social, and cultural factors underpinning the issue of human trafficking. Together, I worked with a team of researchers, donors, and sector analysts to develop targeted programs. One program we developed consisted of a three-year grant program designed to confront human trafficking head-on in the State of Bihar and the Union Territory of New Delhi, India. 

A significant achievement of mine lies in the research I conducted as part of the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. This project went deep into critical areas such as criminal justice statistics, legal frameworks, legislative landscapes, and the essential support structures offered to victims throughout South Asia. The culmination of these efforts materialized into the first publication—Trends on Global Human Trafficking (Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, 2009)—a significant resource that illuminated the contours of this issue. *

That experience reshaped my perspective fundamentally. Traveling opened my eyes to the world's complexity, making me more receptive to uncharted territories. Returning to study for an MBA in International Economics, my dream evolved. It expanded beyond economics to embrace dynamic leadership with a global impact, centered on connecting with people and fostering positive change through every interaction. 

Where  you are.  Is not  who  you are.
Nayyirah Waheed, Salt 

Taking leaps into the unknown became a defining feature of my journey. I embraced risks as steppingstones for growth, always eager to seize opportunities that pushed my boundaries. The quote by Eric Schmidt, former Executive Chairman and CEO of Google, resonates with me, "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don't ask what seat. You just get on."    

Whether it meant relocating across the globe, shifting industries, or taking on roles that stretched me, embracing risk became the backbone of my journey. Each new endeavor allowed me to harness my strengths, capture opportunities, and contribute authentically.  Surmounting obstacles and facing fears head-on has been pivotal in my journey. Cultural differences, language barriers, and venturing into unfamiliar domains were trials I encountered regularly. And let's be real – I didn't always get it right. Failures and mistakes peppered my path, yet I understood that grappling with fears, learning from blunders, and hitting the reset button were lessons I had already embraced and could apply, even amid challenging times.     

Recalling the encouragement of my mother, I confronted my fears. A significant setback during my early university days (prior to my mother’s death in 2000) – flunking university – taught me about resilience and the need to align with a greater purpose. When I faced being academically dismissed, she told me to go back to Florida State University, make an appointment with the dean, and convince him to give me another chance. And that is precisely what I did, despite being afraid and embarrassed. She taught me that taking accountability and accepting responsibility can pivot your road from failure to success. My mom refused to let me accept failure as the final chapter; instead, she nudged me to overcome the obstacle and continue the path of my original vision. Her wisdom became a beacon, illustrating that in the face of adversity, our willingness to take charge and own our actions can reorient our course toward success. 

The connection between my original vision and the realm of IT surfaced in an unexpected twist of fate. In 2011, after dedicating nearly two years of my life as a Program Coordinator for AECOM in Tripoli, Libya, I suddenly found myself seeking refuge in Sweden. Allow me to share how this intriguing journey unfolded.   

AECOM was responsible for overseeing a program worth over US$50 billion in partnership with the Libyan Housing and Infrastructure Board (HIB), aimed at enhancing housing and infrastructure for Libyan residents. As Program Coordinator,
I was responsible for our project management methods, monthly reporting and communicating with our client. When I started, processes were chaotic, steadily eroding the trust between us and our client. I was granted the freedom to find a solution to the problem. So, I devised a model – a strategy that entailed crafting tools for data tracking, establishing clear monthly protocols to ensure quality and timeliness, building a team of Operations Specialists to cover various regions, and mapping out a comprehensive communication plan.   

While the model was simple, it proved that sometimes the most effective solutions are straightforward and methodical. Over approximately a year and a half, our efforts bore fruit. Client expectations began to align more with our output, the internal skepticism regarding our reporting dissipated, and our trajectory was on a definitive upward slope. 

The vastness of the program in Libya attracted an array of international companies, including Swedish firms, keen to contribute to various aspects of the initiative. I met Marcus, an engineer with a Swedish construction and engineering firm, during my initial months in Libya. Little did I know then that he would eventually become the father of my two incredible boys. Over the two years I spent there, Marcus and I developed a relationship and saw me traveling back and forth between Sweden and Libya. 

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
Susan Jeffers 

During one journey to Åre in February 2011, carrying only a carry-on suitcase, life changed drastically for me. As fate would have it, I didn't return to Libya as planned. 

Amidst political turbulence and uncertainty, the situation in Libya took a dramatic turn, forcing AECOM to make a hasty exit, and I sought asylum in Sweden. I never returned to Libya and instead embarked on a different journey. This unforeseen turn of events was a stark reminder of the unpredictability of life's course. As I settled into my new life in Sweden, an opportunity knocked on my door – my first job as an IT Project Manager with Hewlett Packard. In this role, the undeniable truth that IT is the powerhouse propelling contemporary business disruption became clear, illuminating a path that has guided me to my present position.   

Working with Hewlett Packard, I entered the dynamic world of IT Project Management. The experience was nothing short of an eye-opener. Here, the realization hit me like a bolt of lightning – IT wasn't just an auxiliary tool; it was the engine driving the radical transformations sweeping through modern businesses.   

After a rewarding six years of experience with Hewlett Packard, I took a significant step forward by joining Biner as a management consultant. I first learned about Biner from a colleague I knew at HP. He had joined Biner and encouraged me to consider applying. The memory of my very first visit to the Biner office is still fresh in my mind. Walking in for my initial interview, I met friendly faces that instantly made me feel welcome. The office had a vibrant and energizing atmosphere that was hard to miss. I noticed people engrossed in passionate discussions in a nearby room, creating an exciting environment alive with possibilities. 

My interview experience at Biner was unlike any other I had encountered. They were more interested in hearing my story than just evaluating my skills. A bit like what I'm doing now through this personal essay—sharing my journey and experiences. Biner wanted to know about me, the path I had taken, and how it all led me to pursue a career as a consultant. This introduction to Biner marked the beginning of something special. The organization's genuine curiosity about my background and how it contributed to my role as a consultant left a strong impression. It was clear that Biner wasn't just looking to fill a position; they were interested in the unique stories that each person brought to the table, enriching the company's culture. 

Initially, I must admit I had reservations about my ability to excel in this role, and truth be told, I hadn't intended to make Biner a long-term commitment – maybe just 2 or 3 years. As I immersed myself in the consulting world, I realized this was where I truly belonged. Despite not following the conventional coding or architecture route, my diverse range of experiences offered me a comprehensive perspective and a toolkit uniquely suited for success in business and IT management consulting. Digitalization is not just about making technological changes but also about people and change management. The experiences and lessons learned from my journey empowered me to be effective beyond managing digital transformation, instead enabling people to change, ultimately allowing me to be a digital leader within management consultancy. 

This is more than a personal essay; it's a testimony to a journey marked by realized dreams, unlocked potential, conquered barriers, and transcended fears. Examining the dots that connect my journey, I recognize how my dreams and purpose guided me to an unforeseen yet fitting role in IT management consulting. This journey shows that the less-traveled road can sometimes lead to the most extraordinary destinations.