Meet the Boss is a How we made it in Africa interview series in which we pose the same 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
1. What was your first job?
I was working for a telecom operator as an assistant to the CEO.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
It’s hard to say one person. I have been lucky to have bosses that later on also became mentors. I have probably about two or three people that have supported me originally as a boss but later on as more in a mentor status.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
We do big scale projects that have big impact on people [and] a big impact on the companies we offer the services for. So, I can get a little bit concerned if we are late in an integration project that has to do with migrating millions of consumers from one platform to another because I know that the upside is, of course, fantastic, but the downside is, if you do a mistake it can be quite difficult to deal with. Those kinds of things could potentially keep me awake, but I sleep quite well.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I think I am very curious. I am probably very energetic and I am quite persistent as well. I really do understand that you need to first of all understand the consumer before you can become in any way relevant to them.
5. What are the best things about your country, Sweden?
I moved out since 1998 and I was back for three years in between. Sweden has… a very good system of providing equal opportunities for people. If you are talented you would have the opportunity to go to the best schools fully financed, for example. It has a competitive environment because it puts a broader talent pool into the top schools. I think that part of Sweden I really admire.
6. And the worst?
It gets very dark and cold in the winters.
7. Your future career plans?
That might not be in my hands. As long as I feel I am in a position where I can make sort of sense to myself and to others and to the business environment I am in, then I am happy. It’s hard to say I want to be this or that. It needs to be relevant and right now [I am in a] position where I feel I can make a difference and I think it is relevant for me now.
8. How do you relax?
I relax through exercising and playing a lot of sports. I do a lot of kiteboarding [and] windsurfing. I was at Diani beach [on the Kenyan Coast] about two months back – beautiful place. I must say I also spend time with my family. There is nothing that takes your mind off work than speaking to four- and seven-year-old kids.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring businesspeople and entrepreneurs?
I think first of all study: train, train, train. Learn something and go with a big, open heart into it. But make sure that you also have a passion.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
Many African countries are quite young states and I think that to me it all starts with skills and education. So, I think that once you get a more skilled and trained workforce you are going to see a lot of development happening.
Fredrik Jejdling is head of Ericsson’s sub-Saharan Africa region. The Swedish telecom giant is a leading provider of communications technology and services. The company’s portfolio spans mobile and fixed network infrastructure, telecom services, software, broadband and multimedia solutions for operators, enterprises and the media industry.