I am currently Head of Volvo Cars’ Asia Pacific region, which totals 12 national markets including Australia, NZ, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, and India. My role involves guiding the strategic direction of the APEC region and each individual market and then ensuring that we have the right resources and products available to optimise the potential volume and profit in those markets. The most important element in this is ensuring that we have the right people working for us, with the necessary competencies and attitudes.
Over the course of my career, I have been most proud of the fact that the businesses I have led over the last decade (Volvo Car UK, Polestar, Volvo Car Australia) have all continued to grow and prosper after I have moved onto my next role, and as a result of nurturing the next generation of talent.
I am very focussed on ensuring that both I and my colleagues look after their health and well-being. This obviously has its own benefits but is also essential to attract the very best people to our organisation. Volvo Cars has been a leader in flexible working for some time. We actively encourage people to find a work pattern that works best for them. Of course people have different requirements and preferences and if we are to attract and retain the best people we should, as far as possible, accommodate those preferences. Volvo Cars has led the way with our ‘Family Bond’ parental leave policy that provides employees, globally, with 24 weeks of paid parental leave inclusive of parents of all genders, including LGBTQ.
To succeed within a senior leadership role, you must be determined and focussed to get results across any large organisation. The need to adapt quickly is more essential than ever too. Ultimately though, you need to maintain a positive outlook. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are vital - both internally and externally. A lot of my time is spent persuading and encouraging people to pursue a particular path that they may not initially feel comfortable with. It’s a form of advocacy.
When considering employability, my advice applies equally to Volvo as any other employer and that is - to really do your research on the organisation. Understand its broad industry and its specific strategy but, most importantly, identify its values as an organisation and ensure that those reflect your own.
I really believe that a legal education is excellent preparation for life in the corporate and commercial world and not just for an in-house lawyer. ULaw provides its students with critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as advocacy training, all of which are essential to corporate success. In my time in commerce and industry I have seen many more in-house lawyers develop into leaders within their businesses. I would argue that a legal background provides a broader and more useful training than many more traditional routes.
I am responsible for 12 markets, geographically spanning India to New Zealand. There are actually a lot of commonalities across countries. All customers, wherever they are from, want to be treated fairly and be provided with excellent products and services. There are, unsurprisingly, very significant cultural differences and sensitivities between such markets. The really interesting part of my role is understanding those differences and finding ways to accommodate them and use them to our commercial advantage.
The shift towards electrification is gathering pace in many markets and will continue due to legislative requirements. There are numerous battery developments underway, which will lead to increased vehicle range and battery longevity. Battery powertrains are considered by many to be an interim solution before a switch to hydrogen fuel cells. However, the commercialisation is, I believe, at least a decade away. There will continue to be improvements in driver assistance technology with the ultimate goal being fully autonomous vehicles. Again, the technological challenges to deliver this are still some way off, despite what some manufacturers may claim.
On the commercial side, most car manufacturers are moving to online direct sales. I believe this development will accelerate with the aim of being able to provide an easier and more transparent transaction for customers. There are also many new entrants, particularly from China, which will shake up some of the established players. It is a fascinating time for our industry.
I think the principle that you should do what you are interested in, and ideally feel passionate about, is still sound. Of course it is easier said than done, but it is good to set out with that objective. For any students aspiring to work at Volvo, I would say - make sure that Volvo’s values align with your own. If they do, then consider whether you want to pursue a pure legal route or have a broader approach. Ideally, try and speak to someone at Volvo to understand what opportunities exist. We try not to pigeon-hole people into specific roles and I can think of plenty of people I know that have come in on one discipline and moved across many others with us.
We obviously look for core competencies for each role but beyond that we look for people who are engaging, positive and flexible. We genuinely value diversity and look for people who can bring extra experiences and viewpoints to the organisation. We take on a number of interns around the world each year. These are managed on a market-by-market basis. By way of example, a recent overseas student in Australia worked in our Sydney office as an intern and has just started a full-time role in our marketing department having completed her studies.
We also run a Global Graduate Recruitment programme which is initially based in Gothenburg in Sweden and then provides opportunities for placements around the World. The graduate programme referred to is manged from Gothenburg and includes aptitude tests, presentation work, team-work projects and interviews. Our recruitment processes are thorough, but we are very focussed on getting the right people into our organisation.
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