Hi Hjalmar

Would you like to start off by telling us a bit about your background?

Me, together with my four siblings was brought up on the island Gotland on the east coast of Sweden. I enjoy sports, nature and am at the moment studying to get my hunting license.

I studied Business with a focus on management and finance at Umeå University and did, during my years of studying, one exchange semester in the US and my master thesis endorsed by Nordea Bank.  


Why did you choose to apply for a graduate programme?

I knew from the start that it was important for me to have an overall view of the company I want to work for, so a graduate programme was a logical choice. In my opinion, the graduate programs are really an advantageous way into the core of a company. Furthermore, it’s important to find a programme that suits your own desires since their different frameworks vary quite substantial sometimes.

I don’t necessarily believe that a Graduate programme is the best way for everyone but to me, it felt spot on from the beginning!


Why do you think that the graduate programme has become more attractive for graduates?

I believe that the notion “graduate programme” has a higher status today than earlier. When I meet older people and tell them about my position  they tend to have more of an old-fashioned idea of what it is; some even think that I’m working for free.

Nowadays many of the graduate schemes are really popular amongst graduates and it’s tough competition to get into the most esteemed programmes. I think that our generation, in general, wants a greater insight into the company they work for than the function they have: this is something that graduate programmes offer.

Besides, personal branding has become more important and also, people are becoming more attentive to societal awareness and put higher demands on their employer. It’s no longer just about what salary a company can offer you but also what you think of the organisation as a unity. It’s become more important for people to assess the organisation’s corporate social responsibilities like what environmental and equality policies they have but also if the products they produce is something you as an employee believe in and can identify yourself with.


Now, let’s hear more about your journey at ABB’s graduate programme! How was the recruitment process?

The recruitment process included both IQ and EQ tests combined with different types of interviews, application letters and was finished off with an assessment day for the final candidates at ABB’s office in the Swedish town of Västerås.  

ABB’s global graduate programme in finance and business controlling is aimed towards business graduates, but the company does also have schemes for example for HR-specialists, engineers and IT. The set-up is a rotation programme divided into three parts.

The first rotation contained three short internships in Sweden with two months each. The periods are mixed with study visits and education, both externally and internally. The first six months in Sweden are like an introduction to ABB and its organisation with factory visits, internal training and meetings with the management of ABB.

The next six months of the rotation is spent at ABB’s headquarters in Zurich where we get the chance to try out a new HQ function/department. During this period I worked for our Corporate Strategy department with planning and implementing the company’s global strategy.

The final period lasts a year and is also spent abroad; here you have the opportunity of choosing almost anywhere you want to go. I chose to do my last year of the graduate programme in the United Arab Emirates and am actually at the time of writing, in Dubai where I work with Treasury within the region India, Middle Eastern and Africa.


What have the job assignments and internal training been like?

It’s been a mixture of different components like strategy, treasury, accounting, organisation development and different projects. Education wise it’s been internal training within the different areas of expertise but also a lot of study visits and client meetings.


What does your future within the company look like?

The most natural thing for us economists is to work within controlling or treasury at ABB when finished with the programme. There are, however, other opportunities to for example work project management within internal projects or sales depending on which openings there are and what your background and ambitions are.


What’s been the greatest challenge so far?

The greatest challenge with the graduate programme so far has been the lack of continuity. To move around at so many occasions has not always been fun and sometimes it feels as if you have to move just when you’ve started to feel comfortable and beginning to contribute. It can be frustrating from time to time, but it has always turned out good at the end.


What experiences are you taking from the graduate programme?

The best part about the programme is that you have the opportunity to meet so many colleagues; both other graduates enrolled in the scheme and employees from other departments and management that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to meet. All these meetings give you a good view of how the company looks and how the organisation works, you have the possibility to learn from people who have been within the enterprise for more than 20 years.


The opportunity to work abroad has of course also been exciting. Whether it’s my earlier studies or work experiences abroad, I find that these time periods has given me a lot both professionally and personally.


Hjalmar’s top 3 arguments to apply for a graduate scheme

1.     The wide exposure/ the overall view

2.     The network, both professional and personal

3.     The internships abroad and cultural experiences


Finally, what tips would you give to someone interested in applying for a graduate programme?

1.     Be yourself! It’s tough competition for the most sought-after positions. If you don’t promote yourself honestly, it will shine through and both you and the company will lose out in the end.

2.     Do research on the company before sending in your application. Take your time to think about why you’re applying for the company in question and why you would be a good fit for them. If you don’t know the answer, neither will the employer.

3.     Believe in yourself and stay humble. As an applicant, you should be equally a good a listener as a speaker, show this in the interview!


Sveds-Hjalmar Söderlund

Trainee in ABB’s Global programme