Meet Jessica Guter – Project Manager at Norrsken Foundation. Jessica roams the world preaching about social entrepreneurship, and why it’s the new cool. We had a coffee with her, discussing just that, as well as how great people can replace slow processes, and how she looks upon the relationship between social impact and financial goals. And some work-life balance stuff too. Have a read!
Occupation: Project Manager at Norrsken Foundation
Hi Jessica! Describe yourself in three words.
Incurable optimist, bookworm… I can’t think of anything else, but to be fair, that was three words!
You work as a Project Manager at Norrsken Foundation. How did you end where you are today?
I thought about what I wanted to do if I could choose freely, and realised that it would be something purpose-driven that had a positive effect on others. That said, it should have a business mindset with a high startup like pace. Whilst thinking of this, I was reading about Norrsken on the internet and remember thinking “imagine if you had the opportunity to work with something as cool as that”. I thought my background, which included both social commitments and tech startups, felt relevant. So I tried. And it worked!
Was it like you thought it would be?
Yes, it was! To be part of a project like this from the start has been amazing. I’ve always loved to initiate and run projects. At Norrsken, things go quickly and there aren’t any excessive structures. Whilst structures can be good, it’s usually more fun to work freely and have more influence. Of course, there will always be some trial and errors, but that’s part of the thrill really. And the truth is that if you have enough good people around you, their competence and talent become a better support than actual corporate structures.
What are your primary skills within what you do?
I’m a doer. I always aim to be positive and I’m not afraid of experimenting and trying new things. I ask a lot of questions, something that others might find annoying, but I just like to learn new things. Haha.
Why is social entrepreneurship insanely cool?
Mainly because the people in the industry are really cool. It’s amazing to feel inspired everyday and work closely to people who dedicate their lives to making the world a better place for others. Further, the timing is just right. It feels like things are starting to happen in the industry, for real. Working methods and business models are becoming more innovative, which makes it more exciting to work within the industry and it also provides increasing opportunities for profitability.
If the profitability aspect isn’t there, meaning the insight that you can do business and good at the same time, you will never be able to attract the broader masses.
Do you find social impact to be more motivating than financial revenue?
To be able to work with something that does good and is extremely fun is priceless to me. Of course it requires some ground expectations in order to feel like that but in Sweden I believe that many have the opportunity to do that. Now when I have the possibility to work with something that enables change, I have a hard time seeing myself working with something that doesn’t do that. It gives me so much motivation in my daily work. That said, I do think there must be some sort of financial motivation too.
Say hello to your 20 year old self, what would you have told yourself now that you didn’t know then?
When I was 20 years old I studied at Stockholm School of Economics. It felt like the majority of the people around me were very goal oriented whilst I just knew what I didn’t want to work with. I was pretty chilled with it as I had a couple of years left, but it would have been nice to have an assurance that it was possible to work with something you’re passionate for. I also remember being 20 years old going to Singapore for exchange, and being terrified of moving. Now, I would like to tell the 20 year old me that moving and traveling is the least scary and most exhilarating thing I can do.
If you would change career path in the future, what profession would you like to try out?
I’ve always had a somewhat odd dream of becoming a mathematician and playing around with statistics. Being able to predict the earth’s development before anyone else. And if I do travel with work in 20 years, it will obviously to space. Or start something on my own. Perhaps a combination?
Do you have any role models?
I don’t have a one role model, I have many. From the entrepreneurs in my surrounding to individuals who have done and dared to do something spectacular. I remember when I lived in LA: one of my roomies was a snake dancer, and she was my role model in many ways.
Currently my colleagues are my role models. You learn things like how a great boss is, how you’re a dynamic and functioning team member and much more. My parents are also my role models in many ways.
Work life balance, how does that work for you?
Well, it varies quite a lot. Thankfully, my work enables a lot of flexibility. Right now I’m young and driven and at Norrsken there are no limits as to how much you can do if you want to. At the same time, I wouldn’t enjoy my work as much if it didn’t allow me time off to do other things that I love.
Recently, the flexibility aspect of a job has indeed blossomed in today’s corporate cultures, for example through activity-based workspaces and the ability to work from home. I want to be able to sit in the environment that suits me for the moment. That is flexibility for me.
What is Jessica doing tomorrow, in six months and in five years?
Tomorrow, my colleagues and I will go to Mr. Cake and fika. We go there whilst there’s still less people in town. In six months, I’m hopefully working in a new market. Then it’ll be summer too, so I’m hopefully bare legged. In five years, I still work at Norrsken or with something similar that motivates me as much as Norrsken does today. I want to keep on working in a cutting edge workplace and industry. In five years the world has hopefully progressed to the better and the social initiatives have come a long way. I want to be part of the development phase.
Jessica’s top five…
- Series? Now; Games of Thrones, if not; Californication
- Destination? LA, always. I also want to explore South America.
- Podcast? Filip and Fredrik (Swedish)
- Phone app? Omni, the only place I read news.
- Spotify playlist? New Music Friday… I mostly listen to music when I’m out running!