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From coding to co-working: new Stockholm digital centre set to connect international talent

Few cities are more digitally savvy than Stockholm. You may therefore be surprised to learn that tech companies in Sweden expect a shortfall of 70,000 skilled workers in the sector by 2022.

From coding to co-working: new Stockholm digital centre set to connect international talent
Photo: Getty Images

That means plenty of job opportunities for coders and tech experts with the right training. But how can you get started? 

Fortunately, Space, a pioneering new centre for digital culture, is due to open in Stockholm in November. Åsa Caap, the new Head of Space, tells The Local how it will help to bridge Sweden’s tech knowledge gap – as well as offering plenty for entrepreneurs, gamers, and more.

New to Stockholm? Get some insider tips on living and working in Stockholm from the locals who know it best 

Potential in unexpected pairings

Space will be located in the heart of the Swedish capital, opposite Kulturhuset, the well-established centre for analogue culture. Caap says Space will work closely with both the City of Stockholm and Kulturhuset. “It’s fantastic that we are right next to each other and will complement each other in a beautiful way,” she says. 

Unlikely pairings have huge value, Caap believes; she sees “facilitating unexpected meetings” as key to Space’s purpose. This means being a welcoming place for everyone, including people who may find it harder to break into the tech scene through other routes.

“Our ambition is that people will meet and connect here,” Caap says. “There are a lot of people with different nationalities and backgrounds in Sweden and we want to be a really inclusive place. We also work a lot on including women, so that women will feel welcome and safe.”

Photo: Åsa Caap

Democratising access to digital knowledge 

The looming talent shortage in the digital sector is “a massive problem for Sweden”, says Caap. That’s why she says a range of major tech companies are in negotiations to support the Space Academy

The academy will run six-day bootcamps, a key aim of which is to help seemingly unlikely candidates for tech jobs get a foot in the door. Could this be where you kickstart your own coding career?

“We have so many companies wanting to be part of this,” says Caap. “All the tech companies know is that they don’t know how they will recruit or foster the new generation.” 

Details of the courses are currently being refined in workshops and Caap emphasises the importance of training recruits in the skills that are most needed. “We’ll follow what the market needs,” she says. “But we’re definitely going to start with coding.”

Courses could potentially cover both frontend and backend development, as well as other elements of digital media, including social media marketing. 

So who should apply? While developing skills in young people is a key aim, Space Academy is open to anyone. Applications from women, who remain underrepresented in tech, and international residents of Sweden are encouraged. 

“We want to democratise access to digital and tech knowledge beyond people who already have role models or connections in the industry,” says Caap. 

While a six-day course may seem short, it could see you qualify for an internship at a partner company. 

Got a teenager with an interest in coding? Introductory youth training programmes will be offered free of charge during school holidays for teens aged 14 and upwards. 

Most adults will have to pay but the exact costs and details of how to apply have not yet been decided – watch this space. Or, rather watch the Space website

Searching for a job in Stockholm? Discover some tried-and-tested tips and tricks

A new co-working community

Space also offers opportunities for start-ups and smaller businesses. Four floors will be dedicated to Space Community, a co-working area with desks reserved for anyone working in digital entertainment.

Are you a would-be entrepreneur with a winning idea? “We’re going to have a pitching session in the autumn, where you can win a free touchdown membership at Space Community,” says Caap. “If you have an idea for the digital entertainment industry, keep an eye on our website.”

It’s vital that the co-working area keeps a tight focus on this sector, she says. “When you promise the chance to meet other like-minded people, you have to stick to that promise,” she says. “We’re really committed to creating a community.” 

Photo: Space

She confesses that she and her colleagues have a secret dream about its potential to bring people who would otherwise never meet together. “Someone from one side of the city meets someone from another side of the city with a different background and they start a company together,” she says. “That’s the front page we want to see.”

With the countdown to its grand opening under way, Space itself is also recruiting in a wide range of areas from managerial roles to staffing its bars and restaurants. “We really want a diverse crowd,” says Caap. “If you’re from an international background, please follow the job openings on our website.”

A meeting place for the digital world 

Gaming is big business in Stockholm and “an essential part of Stockholm’s digital culture”, says Caap. Space is likely to host major esports events in its arena (the largest permanent venue for esports in Europe with a capacity of approximately 650). New games could also be launched there with top players competing against each other – watched by both live spectators and a streaming audience – while Universal Music is also involved in talks about potential collaborations.

“It’s going to be broadcast-ready, so maybe in the future, events will always combine a live audience and broadcasting,” says Caap. 

Digitalisation has been accelerated in various ways by the Covid-19 crisis. What this will mean in the long-term is not yet clear but Caap says Space offers a positive vision of digitalisation bringing people together. 

There are already plans to launch Space in other countries “within a year or two”, she adds. “The beauty is that there are no country borders within the digital community,” she says. “Space is a perfect example of a physical meeting place for the digital world.” 

A global tech and startup hub: learn about the opportunities to find a job or start your own business in Stockholm

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SWEDEN AND INDIA

IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

IndiskFika are a group of Indians in Sweden with a shared passion: dance. Two of the group's leaders tell The Local how they came to be finalists in Talang, one of Sweden's top TV talent shows.

IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

“We’ve been very passionate about dance from childhood,” says co-founder Ranjithkumar Govindan, who shortens his name to Ranjith. “I’ve been dancing from childhood, like first grade. So once we got into our professional lives and career, I wanted to continue my passion.”

“Like Ranjith, I have been dancing since the age of three, ” adds Aradhana Varma, who joined the group in 2020. She’s been competing in and winning dance competitions back in her hometown of Mumbai ever since. 

With just a handful of members back in 2019, the group now numbers over 50, including dancers, videographers, choreographers, editors, and production crew, and they are still growing.

Listen to Aradhana Varna from IndiskFika on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Govindan says started by dancing at various events in Stockholm alongside fellow Indian dance enthusiasts before the idea came to form the troupe. “Then, one fine day, me and one of my friends, Vijay [Veeramanivanna], said ‘why don’t we do a cover song?'” he remembers. 

“He’s very passionate about camera work, cinematography. I’m very passionate about dance,” Govindan says of the collaboration. 

Their initial idea was to take advantage of their location in to shoot dance routines out in Swedish nature, in the same way that Bollywood movies sometimes shoot routines against European scenes such as Swiss mountainsides or Italian plazas. 

“Indians are very famous for movies, like Bollywood, so we wanted to do a cover video of a particular song from a movie which was going to be released. Since we are living in Sweden, we have plenty of opportunities to cover good locations and nature, so that was an idea,” he explains.

The name ‘IndiskFika’, (“Indian fika”, a fika being a Swedish term for a coffee break in the middle of the day) came from Govindan and Veeramanivanna’s wish to combine Swedish and Indian cultures. 

IndiskFika performing in the Talang talent show. Photo: TV4

“We started with five to seven people in 2019, that was the first thing we did, and we did a shoot and edited everything, then we realised that if we wanted to release it, we should have a name,” Govindan says.

“So we started thinking ‘what name should we pick for this team?’. We came up with the idea IndiskFika. Everyone knows about fika in Swedish, right?” 

Their videos, some of which have over a million views, became popular both among Indians at home and among members of the Indian community in Sweden, whose interest helped the group grow further.

More and more Indians living in Stockholm started asking to join, and soon they were doing live performances:  one at the Chalmers University in Gothenburg, and another at the Diwali celebrations held by the Västerås Indian Association. 

When the pandemic hit, IndiskFika didn’t let it stop them. They started planning a digital one-year anniversary for the group, and began looking for other groups to collaborate with. 

That was how Govindan began collaborating with Varma, who had been performing with a different dance team. “I had been performing at various events like Namaste Stockholm with a different dance team based in Stockholm since 2017, but during pandemic, everything had come to a halt since it was a tough time for all of us,” she explains.

When new people joined IndiskFika, it gave the group a new impetus. “That’s when the boost started,” Govindan remembers. “We became stronger and stronger. So, so many things happened.”

IndiskFika first came to the attention of ordinary Swedes with an article in Ingenjörenthe members’ magazine for engineering union Sveriges Ingenjörer. Many of the group’s members are IT engineers or students at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. “They did an article about us, about the engineers continuing their passion for dance, so that reached a more Swedish audience,” Govindan says. 

This led to more in-person performances, which in turn caught the eye of the producers responsible for Talang at Sweden’s broadcaster TV4.

“The Talang people said ‘we read about you and we’ve gone through all your YouTube videos, why don’t you come and participate in Talang 2022?’. The rest of the story you know. We participated in Talang, and we got a golden buzzer from David Batra in the prelims, so we went direct to the finals.”

David Batra, a Swedish comedian with an Indian father, is known for comedy series such as Kvarteret Skatan and Räkfrossa, as well as Världens sämsta indier (“World’s Worst Indian”), a series where he visits India, alongside public broadcaster SVT’s India correspondent Malin Mendel, and tries his hand at living and working in the country.

Batra is also one of four judges on Talang, whose golden buzzer meant that the dance team were awarded one of eight places in the final – four are chosen by votes and four are chosen by the Talang judges.

The group were among the top eight teams in the finals on March 18th, but for Indians in Sweden, reaching the final was a win in itself. They were invited for a fika with India’s ambassador to Sweden, where they were treated to both traditional Indian and Swedish treats.

The IndiskFika troupe on stage at TV4’s studios. Photo: TV4

Many of the group’s members work full-time alongside dancing, which can be difficult at times.

“It’s not easy to be so dedicated by spending extra effort after office hours, with hectic weekend schedules for rehearsals especially when everyone in the team has a full-time job,” Varma says. “There’s a lot of things that take place in the background from logistics to costumes, hall bookings, co-ordinating everyone’s availability, social media activities and so on.”

Like many foreigners, though, Govindan and Varma have taken their time adapting to life in Sweden. 

“All I knew about Sweden was that it was one of the cold and dark countries,” Varma says. “Eventually you start liking it, and you know, everything is worth it for the summers that you get here. The fika tradition, the amazing work/life balance, the nature, that’s the best part that we have here.”

“I didn’t have much of an idea about Sweden,” Govindan agrees. “The temperature, where I come from, throughout the year is between 25 to 40 degrees. In terms of temperature, nature, the people, everything is different.”

“India is very rich in culture, right?” Varma says when asked about the differences between Swedish and Indian culture. “We have a lot of colours and a lot of different flavours and you know, that’s the kind of performance we gave. That was the plan: to give a very energetic, powerful, and colourful performance.”

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