When American Karen Kesner decided to get her Executive MBA at SSE, she already had an impressive CV.
“In my early 20s I was recruited by Oracle Corporation, today the world’s second largest global software company. The role offered me opportunities to experience a variety of jobs and cultures within America. It was hard work, but rewarding. I learned core work lessons and experiences that I still practice today.”
Karen’s career eventually took her to San Francisco, where she was working when she met her Swedish partner.
Karen is now Vice President of Global Sales at Tata Communications
“I met my sambo (the Swedish term for live-in-partner) while we both lived and worked in San Francisco. After two years he wanted to relocate back to his home country. I was excited to experience a new country and culture, so off we went!”
Despite arriving in the midst of dark December, it didn’t take long for Karen to fall in love with Sweden. But with no Swedish under her belt, she knew it would be a challenge to find the right role.
“It was an adventure! I would wake up each day and treat my job search as a daily project. My efforts paid off - I found a job with a large communications company within five weeks.”
It was while working at Verizon Business in Stockholm that she decided she wanted to continue her education. And the company was more than supportive.
“Verizon encourages its employees to attend classes for growth and skill development. So I began my research on schools offering MBAs and came across SSE in an online advertisement. I was thrilled when I found they offered a programme in English.”
Established in 1909, SSE is one of Europe’s leading business schools. It offers three bachelor programmes, five two-year master programmes, highly esteemed MBA and PhD programmes, and Executive Education courses.
Karen chose to enrol on the Executive MBA programme and began her studies in 2009.
“The programme was organised over an 18-month period, with a week of classes you attend every five weeks. During this week, you have a full day of classes with focused study and a change management course that ran throughout the programme.”
Conducted in English, with modules on topics including Business Law, Strategic Management, and Financial Accounting and Analysis, the intensive programme prepares students to enhance their skills and grow their network.
“It was incredibly fun to be part of this dynamic environment, learning from professors and having the opportunity to study with classmates from 14 different countries. Some of my favourite learnings were teaming on case discussions for discovery and proposing solutions,” she recalls.
“Not only did the school provide a unique experience to study abroad, the programme supplied me with a variety of business subjects I use in my everyday work environment that help with management decisions, strategy and planning.”
When Karen’s partner was offered a job at Google in California, the family moved to Palo Alto where they are currently based. Despite living nearly 9,000 km away, she is still in touch with many of the friends and contacts she made during her time at SSE.
“Our class grew very close. I finished the programme in 2011 and have remained in close contact with most of my classmates — many have visited us in California.”
She believes in “never burning a bridge”, which was advantageous earlier this year when a former boss told her about a role at global telecommunications provider Tata Communications.
The application for Global Head of Sales required an extensive interview process, which Karen felt prepared for thanks to her Executive MBA.
“I applied my approach to these interviews with principles I learned through the Executive MBA programme.”
Karen has settled back into life in the United States, but Stockholm and SSE will always hold a special place in her heart.
“When we moved back someone asked me how I liked Stockholm compared to Palo Alto. It was an easy answer - there’s no comparison! Stockholm will forever be our second home, and studying at SSE has been one of the most rewarding choices I’ve made.”
This article was produced by The Local in partnership with the Stockholm School of Economics.