Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Half through what the Swedes call sensommar, the period between summer and autumn, I thought it's about time to write a transition-post. Let me talk about the past 3 summer months and close this blog with my plans for the future...

StudentLund Nations.

Since midsummer, I have been working at BrandProx, in Lund, Southern Sweden. BrandProx is a very young start-up created by two graduates from the Master Program in Entrepreneurship of Lund University. They developed a platform, BrandProx.com allowing Facebook users to merge their profile pictures with a brand's logo and get rewarded from the corresponding brand in exchange. I was in charge of business development and marketing operations.

Ideon Gateway, Lund.
Daily-life in a start-up is fun! There is always something happening and stuff to be taken care of: whether it is a meeting with business angels, potential partners or future customers; a fika or a ping-pong game with colleagues at BlackPearl; the design of a logo, poster, presentation or website; applying for funds and grants; writing web content, getting involved in other projects, etc.

This 3 months experience was really beneficial for me. I learned a lot about entrepreneurship and I extended my professional network.

Eventually, it granted me access to the European conference Innovation in Mind which, for the 5th time in Lund, hosts diverse keynotes and workshops (Sept. 18th-20th).

Living in Lund was quite enjoyable too during the summer. There were less students than usual, the weather was particularly nice and warm, and there were a handful of great events in the region. My weeks were punctuated with good week-ends among friends in the city, but also in Copenhagen, Malmö or even Lomma Beach! I thought that a few pictures are worth more than words here...

Christiania, Copenhagen.
Usual evening in Lund...

Nyhavn, Copenhagen.

Smørrebrød, Copenhagen.

Best Restaurant in Lund.

Malmö Festivalen

Moving-in, Moving-out. 

Way Out West, Göteborg.

I managed to get away one week-end to Berlin, Germany and two weeks back to France. It's been 6 months since I didn't go back home. Thus, I was pulled apart in between family dinners, friends' reunions, events and so on. I had a great time :)



Sunset, Île-Tudy, France.


My thirst for learning new things seems unquenchable and I am constantly looking for opportunities to develop my thinking skills. I wanted to continue doing research and that is why I applied for doctoral studies at the Department of Management and Engineering of Linköping University. I enjoyed writing my Master Thesis but one semester was too short to conduct an in-depth study. I want to be able to holistically investigate a phenomena, profoundly analyze practices and use more insightful methods, which require more time.  

I got accepted as a Ph.D. student in marketing at FEK — the division of Business Administration. I will start on October 1, 2013 and my supervisor is Lars Witell.

I am really happy about it. I will be moving back to Linköping, where I have a few good friends. I will have my office in the same corridor as my former-professors-slash-my-new-colleagues. I will be able to continue learning Swedish. A new chapter of my life is about to begin and I am looking forward to it!!

During the last 2 years, I was writing about my daily-life experiences as a French expat in Scandinavia, as an Erasmus student in Belgium or as a student of a MSc. program. Half of it in French, the rest in English. 

50.000 views is quite rewarding for such a blog and I thank you all for reading my blogposts. This audience allowed me to put my ideas together, share information and practice my thinking and synthesizing skills. 
Now it's time for me to move on something differentSee you next time!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

This is the end

A lot happened during the last 2-3 weeks. Long story short: I graduated, I visited Stockholm and its archipelago and I celebrated Midsummer. That's how this long article is divided :)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Master Thesis (6)

Thesis Defense
After several months of hard work on the Master Thesis, the final seminar represents the last step of the semester, and thus, of these 2 years within the SMIO program. As discussants, the aim of the final seminar is to critically scrutinize a thesis and bring out both strengths and weaknesses through dialogue a dialogue with its authors. The authors should have the opportunity to shine and show off their great knowledge by answering both intelligent and tricky questions.

A usual thesis is 70 to 100 page-long, which gives enough room for questions and comments from the opponents to the authors.

The final seminar was structured as the following:
  1. The authors have 2 min. to point out critical mistakes they have discovered after printing the thesis (as forgetting a 'not' in a sentence which completely changes the message).
  2. The opponents hold a 10 min. presentation of the authors' thesis. As the audience is supposed to have read the thesis as well, it is basically a concise summary to show how it has been understood. It is customary to ask the authors if the presentation did their work justice or if they would like to add something (approx. 2 min.).
  3. Then, the discussion/defense begins and lasts 45 min. The discussants lead the seminar, ask questions (big and important issues, first; small details come if there is time left), initiate discussions, point-out strengths and weaknesses in the thesis, and invite comments from the audience. The authors should answer the questions, explain their reasoning, and show extensive understanding. The discussants normally end their section by giving some sort of judgment of the qualities of the author's thesis.
  4. The advisor and co-examiner have the word for 15 min. to give an overall judgment of the thesis as well as the defense and they can ask some final questions if needed.
  5. The opponents give to the authors a 5 pages-long hand-out with all their comments and questions. Additionally, the opponents can also provide the authors with the annotated manuscript if desired. 
  6. Once all the defenses are held (over two and a half days), all advisors will convene and discuss the quality of the theses and decide upon the final grades.

This 1h15 final seminar is the place to shine for the authors. It is a final test of explanation. Discussions can even go beyond the thesis' borders. Although some of the groups exchanged their questions beforehand, including the audience in the discussion bring criticism and make the discussions more alive.

I personally enjoyed defending my thesis. Mario and I had the chance to show our understanding of the concepts we used, the reasons behind it and to open-up for further research as well as implications for the existing theories. We received really good feedback from the supervisor Marie Bengtsson and co-examiner Jonas Söderlund, thus we are expecting a decent grade reflecting their opinions :)



Overall, this Master Thesis was a good experience. Quite stressful when nothing work out as planned, of course, but it helped us to understand the situation that expert engineers encounter in their daily project work! I very much enjoyed the process of research and discovery. I learned a lot during these four months, included myself. I am also very grateful to Mario, he is a dedicated hard worker with the ability to combine different abstract concepts and think them through. It was definitely a good partnership and I sincerely hope that we have more opportunities to work together in the future.

Next on the agenda is June 12thLinköping University's Farewell Ceremony AND the SMIO Diploma Ceremony. A busy day, which I am really looking forward to!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Master Thesis (5)

Week end? What's that!?
The last 3 weeks have been insane. Every damn day was spent in a library room (think: cold and without window) to significantly boost our thesis from the feedback received during the Pre-Final seminar. Now, we submitted our final version a few days ago and we are satisfied with it! You cannot imagine the mix feelings of proudness and relieve when we eventually have the printed version in hands. 

Giving birth after 4 months of hard labor, it's called: Knowledge Integration under Uncertainty.

Our study takes a sensemaking perspective on how do expert engineers communicate within a New Product Development (NPD) project team when they integrate their individual knowledge and overcome the environmental uncertainty—which should paralyze the team instead.

Through the belief-driven process of Karl Weick's sensemaking concept, we analyze the verbal communication during a meeting of experts from a NPD project aiming to design a new steam turbine.

The meeting's structure was the following: informing each other, discussing and planning. Taking a deeper look at how do the experts discuss, we identify punctuated forms of expectations and frequent arguments.

Eventually, arguing itself is characterized by elements of questioning, rewording and summarizing. Hence, we see arguing as a facilitator of knowledge integration under uncertainty.

What's next?
The next step is the thesis defense, publicly taking place on June 3rd-5th at Linköping University (1h15 for each thesis). Next to their own defense, each pair of authors is required to make an opposition on one other thesis and actively participate in four other thesis defenses.
Afterwards (and only then), we all will be able to enjoy the great spring weather in Linköping!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Villa Bråviken

Last year, for an assignment from the course Advanced Customer Marketing, my group and I visited a renovated villa near Norrköping, on the Baltic Sea, in an area called Bråviken. It is an example of a fjard, a drowned shallow glacial valley. The current owners of the Villa Bråviken bought it 5 years ago, renovated it and now can welcome 30 guests in their bedrooms as well as host business conferences.

Villa Bråviken

Winter pictures

One of our marketing recommendation for them was to be more present online, using pictures to attract more customers to their cosy villa. That's why I took a few images to serve as an example. It turned out they have been using them since then. However, these pictures were taken during the winter and thus, reflecting neither Spring nor Summer atmospheres. That's why I went back there to take a new set of pictures, suiting better the current season.

My parents will actually stay there for 3 nights in June so I will probably go back to this great area :)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Master Thesis (4)

As I said previously, the previous weeks have been really dedicated to the master thesis. For a 'Pre-Final seminar', our supervisor, Marie Bengtsson, asked to provide her with a complete version of our thesis by April 30th. To describe what she expects, she uses the metaphor of a Swiss cheese: our thesis can have holes and parts missing but it has a form and be held together.

Indeed, we managed to write the missing parts, namely the analysis and the conclusion, before the deadline. Although it was a bit sloppy and we knew it was not perfect, we felt pretty good once we uploaded our thesis draft. This version was supposed to serve as the basis for a first evaluation regarding whether we would be able to present our final master thesis in June. If we are too far behind or the quality is not sufficient, we would have to present in August.

Hopefully, Mario and I managed to hand in a complete thesis, even if it was of a lower quality. Indeed, most of the other groups did not manage to finish in time and are wondering if they'd ever manage to finish before May 27th, the final deadline!

The 'Pie-throwing' seminar was held a few days later, leaving time for each group to read at least 2 theses and give a detailed feedback on one of them. That's how I could combine working / hosting friends for a few days, playing with Swedish red days (Valborg/King's Birthday and Första Maj) and the week-ends. 
Anyway, Mario and I really appreciated the comments from our colleagues. It gave us guidelines to go forward and make our draft better! However, since the seminar, we feel really frustrated as we basically spent half a week trying to go deeper in our analysis. The preliminary step was to reformulate our research question, which made us reconsider various theories and rewrite our methodology and empirical chapters. In short, we lost confidence in our work for a moment.

Receiving feedback is helpful and devastating. Of course, there is no point in receiving only positive feedback as we have 3 weeks left before the final hand-in. Yet, there are some comments that we would have preferred to receive earlier as we could have tackled our issues directly!

In other words, we are going through a really stressful period. I find it really hard to lock ourselves in study rooms on a 8.00-18.00 shift everyday, when the sun is shining hard outside and the thermometer exceeds the 20°C!!! But I rather remind myself: why give-up now? After 4 months, there are only 3 weeks left :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Scandinavian Journey!

In France, there are the Spring Holidays, beginning at the end of april, which allowed my friends to pay me a visit. It was a great deal of organization to combine sightseeing and thesis-working, but it was definitely worth it! We managed to spend a week-end in Stockholm, visit Linköping, travel to Lund and have a day in Copenhagen :)

Gröna Lund, Stockholm
Moderna Museet, Stockholm

We began with 2 days in Stockholm where we walked around a lot between Södermalm, Djurgården, Gamla Stan, Skeppsholmen and Norrmalm. Even though it was pretty sunny, the blowing wind was exhausting us!

I brought my friends to some nice places as Vigårda Barbeque for the greatest  burgers in Stockholm, Kelly's for cheap beers (a challenge in the city), Café String for a big brunch, Koh Phangan for an exotic dinner, etc.


Then we came back to Linköping for a short while but I had to go to the university and let my friends alone. Anyway, they visited Gamla Linköping, the Valla forest and the city center until the Stångån river.

Also, they were asking me what was the typical dish/food in Sweden... I couldn't answer anything else than the köttbullar (meatballs) :/ We tried to find some kinda moose-meat but didn't succeed. Yet, they got to try the kanelbullar :)

Caro in Lund

Then we went to Lund where my friends discovered Valborg! It was quite something... Hopefully, we had time to walk around the city in between the Stadspark, the old university (dating from 1666), the botaniska trädgården, and in the colorful cobbled streets.

View from the 'Church of Our Saviour', Copenhagen

Christianian demonstration

Unfortunately, two of my friends were flying back to France from Copenhagen on the next day. I thought it was a good opportunity to spend the morning there. We went around Tivoli, in the touristic streets towards the Church of the Holy Spirit, and we continued until Christiania, passing by Slotsholmen.

I believed my friends enjoyed their trip to Sweden, even though it was only a few days, these days were quite busy!!

Bike-ride throughout Linköping: Trädgårdsföreningen, Gamla Linköping and Tannefors lock.

Me and my friend who stayed for five more days, went back to Linköping once again. The weather got way warmer and we could enjoy bike-rides, forest walks, play kubb, and chill-out in the evenings around BBQs with friends!

I'm really glad my friends paid me a visit! That was a really appreciated "break" in the thesis schedule. Much appreciated!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Doing international business?" / SMIO presentation at Mjärdevi Science Park

At Linköping University (LiU), the SMIO master program being followed by 95% of international students represents the diversity of the world cultures. Our differences can be interesting and we learn everyday how to build stronger relationships. 
"We didn't all come over on the same ship, but we're all in the same boat."  — Bernard M. Baruch.
Last Friday (May 3rd), Shideh, Andy and Sunny gave a breakfast presentation on the hidden aspects of cross-cultural communication between Sweden and Canada (Shideh), the U.S. (Andy) and China (Sunny). It took place in the Mjärdevi Science Park (nearby the campus) in front of 70 participants: mostly entrepreneurs or experienced businessmen or women engaged in international business, as well as supporting classmates interested in their multicultural experience.

Shideh Tabe, Andrew Wind and Yangzi Sunny Wangsun 

Hofstede's cultural dimensions comparison
between Sweden and Canada
Originally from Iran, Shideh kicked-off the presentation based on her 11 years of experience in the banking sector in Canada: this large country where people hate to be mistaken for Americans! She emphasized that the Canadian culture largely influences their communications in terms of tone of voice, body language, personal space, greetings and most importantly: small talks! Taking into consideration Hofstede's cultural dimensions, she noted that the main differences reside in the masculinity (MAS) and uncertainty avoidance (UAI) of Canada. However, when she arrived in Sweden, she noticed that Canadians focus more on attracting new customers, their satisfaction & loyalty and they give sugar-coat negative answers.

Shideh's key take-aways to do business in Canada were: 
  1. Motivation is in individual success
  2. Incentives to stand out
  3. Customer  is always right
  4. Be ready to have 'small talk' in streets, banks, stores, bus stops, etc.

Hofstede's cultural dimensions comparison
between Sweden and China
Sunny—most Chinese have an English name, she says—started her speech using Hofstede's power distance (PDI) dimension to show that hierarchy is really important in China: employees do not publicly challenge their manager's directives, which makes it easier for the latter to implement changes. Making business in China mainly means building a relationship. Karaoke is an option, a dinner  invitation seems easier but Sunny warned the audience on the Chinese dinner etiquette: "Prepare to get drunk and don't finish all the dishes, otherwise more food will be ordered!" 
Moreover, Chinese dislike being negative: they never say no, but 'maybe' and have difficulties to give negative feedback.

Hofstede's cultural dimensions comparison
between Sweden and the U.S.
Sweden likes the American culture. Yet, Andy started his part on communication in the U.S. by reminding that most of Americans never traveled out of their country. Thus, having a business relationship with a Swede is seen as exotic and highly valued in their culture. Showing Hofstede's individual (IDV) dimension of the U.S. and  Jack Welch's quote "Control your own destiny or someone else will."; Andy shows the dynamic and competitive environment of the American business culture and the motivation of the American workers. As a result, managers focus on the short-term implications of decisions and that's why Andy recommends the audience to focus on 'quick wins' when making business in the U.S.
Moreover, Americans love debates and they'll show it by talking clearly about their issues. Yet, at work, the manager decides: as Steve Jobs said "My job is to say when something sucks rather than sugarcoat it." Andy added that small talks are also common for Americans, it is part of the language protocol. You should answer politely but it doesn't mean that a long-term relationship is being set-up! Eventually, with Hollywood or Broadway, Americans are historically embedded in storytelling. Using metaphors to illustrate a concept and making a scenario to connect them all is the key to understanding in the U.S.

Andy's key take-aways to do business in the U.S. were:
  1. Americans value straight talking and 'getting to the point'
  2. Sell your pluses
  3. Humor or ‘small talk’ can be an important relationship builder
  4. Create storylines.
Doing international business?
The audience enjoyed a buffet-breakfast while Andy wisely concluded a successful presentation, showing the SMIO programme engagement towards the business world and its main actors:
"As our world flattens and we come closer together we find new connections and also expose new individualities. You are the mapmakers of the 21st century, your intercultural business partnerships will expose new ideas and ways of communicating yet to be uncovered that will bring us all forward in the future to come."  Andy.