From ABBA to Spotify: the Executive MBA where creative thinking is key

The Local has been following students as they make their way through the Executive MBA program at the Stockholm School of Economics. After their trip to Silicon Valley, we now find out what it's like to be taught by a member of ABBA – and to enter the Dragons' Den.

Published: Mon 6 Apr 2020 12:06 CEST
From ABBA to Spotify: the Executive MBA where creative thinking is key

In our exclusive #MyMBADiary-series, The Local chronicles the Stockholm School of Economics Executive MBA, following a series of students as they embark on this prestigious degree: sharing their personal experiences, expectations and real-life application. 

From covering the fundamentals to thinking creatively – including a guest lecture by Björn Ulvaeus from ABBA and getting insights into the strategic minds behind luminaries like IKEA, Spotify and Northzone – the students’ experiences reflect SSE's diverse and original approach. 

Interested in an MBA that challenges you to go beyond the basics?

The students, Juan Colmenares and Kristina Zaytseva, undertook two different concentrations as part of the SSE MBA program - Financial Management and Innovation & Entrepreneurship – each running jointly over two weeks.

Juan Colmenares, SSE MBA, Financial Management Concentration

What did you learn in these two weeks?

Most days were packed, with a schedule from 9am to 9pm. Nevertheless, these two weeks were really great. The focus on Financial Management takes us through topics ranging from operational performance to understanding the important aspects of consolidation, and mergers and acquisitions.

Week One: managing change

We started our first week with a group session focussing on our ChangeLive Project. This project is based on organization theory and gives us practical insight into organizational change. We then moved on to risk management and corporate social responsibility, understanding how these can be incorporated successfully and effectively in business. 

Although I have several highlights from the program which made a great impression on me, the highlight was definitely day four - when we had the chance to meet with Björn Ulvaeus from ABBA. He gave us an insight on how the music industry has changed and the importance of innovation. 

Juan Colmenares/The Stockholm School of Economics. Photo: Juliana Wiklund

Week Two

This week we covered topics such as strategy, innovation and digital transformation. John Hagel, Co-chairman of Deloitte Center for the Edge, gave one lecture. Another one of my personal highlights was a guest speaker from Northzone, who gave us an insight into some of their highest-profile investments including Spotify, Stepstone and Last Minute.

While we met with leading lights from across the business spectrum, we also made time to reflect on the days and to enjoy ourselves - a crucial component of student life at SSE.

Read more about the Financial Management Concentration here.

Why did you choose the SSE MBA?

I work in Business Development for Murata Electronics Europe, a world-leading company in electronic components. I completed my doctoral studies in Power Electronics at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm. My ambition is to either start my own company or to become an executive director of a multinational corporation, so studying business administration was a natural step.

How is it preparing you to achieve your goals?

I’m learning to properly assess and create strategies, make decisions and develop projects not only professionally but also personally. The program is giving me valuable tools in decision-making and management.

Find out more about how the SSE Executive MBA prepares you for leadership 

Kristina Zaytseva, SSE MBA, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Concentration

What is the Innovation & Entrepreneurship concentration about?

Throughout this concentration we have experienced the full innovation cycle, from raw idea generation to pitching our ideas to a Dragons' Den.

'We had a lot of fun while learning' Image: Kristina Zaytsev

Week One: Out of my comfort zone

I deliberately chose a concentration with a focus that was the opposite of my previous education and experience. This first week really challenged me by forcing me out of my comfort zone.

When you have to work with several viewpoints due to differences in cultural backgrounds and professional experiences, your own views and perspectives shift, allowing you to understand yourself and others. Diversity is key, especially in the context of innovation.


Celebrations on the last day. Image: Kristina Zaytsev

Week Two: Entering the Dragons' Den

The second week was filled with both theoretical and practical activities with a focus on the strategic aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship. We were privileged to meet inspiring guest speakers, make visits to several companies and delve into theoretical fundamentals which helped us to grasp the opportunities and challenges in the innovation world.

We spent a full day at Ericsson's headquarters in Stockholm and visited the customer experience center - Studio Unboxed - to explore some of the possibilities that 5G will offer in the future. We wrapped-up our concentration weeks with the Dragons' Den and received professional and valuable feedback for our innovation projects.

Why did you choose the SSE MBA?

I saw it as a perfect opportunity to further my personal and professional development. 

Originally from Moscow, Russia, I have been living in Sweden for 17 years. I am a curious person and I have always recognised and valued knowledge and education. 

What is your reflection on your SSE MBA experience so far?

I was hoping to gain knowledge, insights and new tools.

It has exceeded my expectations. Looking back, it’s hard to grasp how much we’ve achieved in such a short period.

I really enjoy the fact that we’re given a good balance between theory and practice. Most importantly, we have had a lot of fun while learning from the teachers - and from each other.


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