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Spotlight Series: Malin Svahn, VP Director of Innovation Programmes, Saab UK

Malin Svahn

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Meet Malin Svahn, VP Director of Innovation Programmes at Saab UK! Malin sits down with us to talk about her career route into tech, her proudest moments, and her advice for other women in tech.

In her role as Vice President and Director for Saab UK Innovation Programmes, Malin is responsible for collaborations between Saab and UK universities, industry and government research representatives.

This helps identify and engage Saab UK in innovative research projects supporting Saab long term growth strategy in the UK.

Malin has a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Linköping Technical University in Sweden. She has many years of experience from leading marketing and sales roles in an international environment from industries with high technical and commercial complexity, as well as extensive experience in strategy and market planning at Corporate Group level.

How did you land your current role? Was it planned? 

My journey to my current role at Saab UK wasn’t entirely unexpected. I had been with Saab for many years, starting in various roles in Sweden since the early 2000s. The transition to my current role was initiated through discussions with the manager for the position in the UK, whom I had previously worked with. My prior role as head of market planning at corporate strategy in Sweden played a significant role as well. It allowed me to build a strong internal network within the Saab group, which ultimately facilitated my move to the UK.

Additionally, working abroad for Saab had always been part of my long-term career plan within the company. So, while my journey to my current role involved seizing opportunities as they arose, there were also elements of planning and foresight involved.

What are the key roles in your field of work, and why did you choose your current expertise? 

In my field of work, there are several significant roles, but I opted to direct my focus more towards sales and marketing instead of delving deeply into engineering and product development. Despite my inherent interest in technology, I found it more compelling to apply that knowledge in a sales-oriented capacity. My decision was partly shaped by my educational trajectory—I pursued a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering not solely with the intent of pursuing an engineering career, but rather with the aim of acquiring a comprehensive understanding of technical concepts that would enable me to engage meaningfully in discussions about technology.

Early in my career, I initially embarked on a path in quality engineering following the attainment of my degree. However, I swiftly gravitated towards roles that afforded me the opportunity to blend my technical acumen with responsibilities in sales and marketing. Possessing a solid comprehension of technology has proven to be advantageous in my sales and marketing endeavours, as it allows me to effectively participate in and contribute to technical discussions.

Undoubtedly, obtaining a degree has been instrumental in paving the way for various opportunities in my career. It serves as a testament to my capabilities and acts as a gateway to a myriad of positions, not solely confined to technical engineering roles. Essentially, while my expertise lies in grasping the intricacies of technology, I’ve chosen to harness that expertise in a sales and marketing capacity, where I can adeptly communicate the value of technical products and solutions.

What are you most proud of in your career, so far? 

What I’m most proud of in my career so far is the willingness to challenge myself and embrace change. I’ve had the opportunity to transition between different positions within Saab, not remaining in one role for an extended period. Moreover, I’m proud that Saab isn’t the only company I’ve worked for—I’ve explored various professional experiences before finding my place here. Each transition has allowed me to gain valuable insights and experiences from different perspectives.

One significant milestone I’m proud of is relocating to the UK. It was a significant step for me, both professionally and personally, as it involved stepping out of my comfort zone and adapting to a new environment. The past four years in the UK have been a journey of growth, not only in terms of professional development but also in terms of personal resilience and adaptability. Overall, embracing change and seizing opportunities, even if they involve stepping into the unknown, has been a source of pride and fulfilment in my career.

Have you ever faced insecurities and anxieties during your career, and how did you overcome them?

Yes, I have faced insecurities and anxieties at various points in my career. There have been moments where I’ve questioned whether I made the right decisions or if I was on the right path. However, I’ve realised that it’s ultimately up to me to make the most out of my role and to prove myself. Sometimes, despite receiving positive feedback and reviews, I’ve still grappled with doubts and anxieties, needing to reassure myself that I’m on the right track.

To overcome these insecurities, I’ve found it helpful to have trusted colleagues within the company whom I can confide in and discuss my concerns with. These individuals provide a supportive sounding board and share similar experiences, helping me gain perspective and confidence in my decisions. I’ve learned the importance of striking a balance between confidence and humility. It’s crucial to believe in oneself while remaining open to learning and growing. Building trust and respect within the company by delivering on promises, being honest, and discerning whom to trust has also been key in navigating through my career journey.

What advice would you give other women wanting to reach their career goals in technology? 

My advice to other women aspiring to achieve their career goals in technology would be multifaceted. Firstly, I highly recommend pursuing a degree in the field as it not only provides valuable knowledge but also instils confidence in oneself. Secondly, it’s crucial to excel in your current role and consistently deliver on your promises. Honesty and integrity are paramount in building a strong foundation for your career.

Seeking out mentors or trusted individuals within the industry can also be immensely beneficial. These mentors can offer guidance, support, and invaluable insights into navigating your career path. Cultivating meaningful connections both within and outside the company, for genuine networking purposes, can open doors to future opportunities.

Above all, focus on excelling in your current position and demonstrating your capabilities. Your performance and reputation will serve as vital references when seeking new opportunities.

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