An interview with Kicki Wallje-Lund
Kicki Wallje Lund is an enthusiastic and passionate woman. She strongly believes that what can help someone to be resilient is to trust his/her own abilities to cope (not easy) and to become determined to cultivate an attitude of survivorship and trigger positive emotions. She has realistic optimism, believing that the situation will work out for her and all involved but knowing that it will require hard work on her part. She thinks that when you’re happy it’s easier to enjoy the moment and even joke about your past mess ups and have a fun time planning the future. But none of it deters your happiness in the present moment.
She enjoys spending quality time on her amazing farm and has always her eyes set on her new projects, especially when it comes to technology, and the impact it will have on our future. It should come as no surprise, then, that she became the chairman of the board of Embracer Group. What might be more surprising is that her life had a rough start. She left a dysfunctional childhood home when she was just 15, her parents telling her in no uncertain terms that she would never make it on her own. That was more than 50 years ago and Kick is still proving them wrong, every single day.
The moral of her story: It is up to you to make of your life what you want.
Today we interview Kicki Wallje Lund.
Everybody has a story to tell, what is yours?
I was fifteen years old when I escaped from home. My mother told me I would never manage without her. I told her “I will always manage without you”. That conversation was the best that could ever have happened to me, it made me strong. I left school and I got a job as a typewriter at a big Insurance company. It was my very first job, I was very proud and happy to earn my own money.
At the same time, I met my future husband. Today we have lived together for 52 years. I am still very much in love with him (almost every day ☺). He has truly deserved a medal of honour as he put up with me all these years…as I have always had lot´s of passion (I call it) – my husband might refer to it as a “powerful temperament” ☺.
I was only 17 years old when our first daughter was born and 19 when our second daughter was born. And then we got married. I loved my time being at home with the children when they were small. I was cooking, baking, cleaning, washed and ironed, sewed all the clothes for the girls, I knitted cardigans, I made jam and juices, I was growing and cultivating vegetables in the garden and had lots of flowers, I looked after other children to earn some money, I delivered newspapers in the mornings to earn some more money and God knows all I got done.
When I was 23 years old, I decided it was time to change focus, from being a housewife to get a proper job. I was becoming bored and wanted more excitement. And, excitement I got. Over the years to come, I devoted all my time into hard work in order to try to achieve great things. At this time, the term “work-life balance” was not yet invented ☺.
Over time, I got valuable experience of business and operational development from various international IT companies where I eventually held senior positions and in which I primarily worked within the bank and finance industry. I lived and worked in London for many years as well as in New York, where I experienced the worst terrorist attack in American history. On the most beautiful morning with bright, blue cloudless skies when I had just arrived to my office (as was next to the New York’s World Trade Center) two airliners flow straight into the two iconic skyscrapers. The building where I had my office was evacuated. I was standing on the street, watching people that jumped out from the buildings to escape the fire. It was a horrific sight. I had to run away from the huge dust cloud caused as the Tower One then collapsed. I thought it was war. A couple of hours later, nearly 3.000 people had lost their lives. That was the September 11 attacks, as often referred to as 9/11. I will never forget. Then I moved back to London.
I tend not to worry about things, as most things people worry about never happen. But I do worry about health from time to time and there is a reason for that. When our oldest daughter was 26 years old, pregnant, she got diagnosed with Alport syndrome. That is an inherited disorder that is characterized by progressive kidney damage. We were told she needed a kidney transplant. Our granddaughter was therefore born prematurely, 3 months early, as caused her health problems and later she was also diagnosed with Alport syndrome. A few years later it was confirmed that the genes that caused this inherited disease, came from me. At first, facing the truth about that was very difficult for me.
To cut a long story short. Our daughter had a kidney transplant and it was her father that was the donor. 10 years later, she had her second kidney transplant and it was me that was the donor. She will soon need her third kidney transplant. Most probably, she will get one from her younger sister this time. Giving a kidney to someone who needs a transplant is the best gift you can give to anyone. I don´t think people really do know that you can live a real healthy life with just one kidney and that it is possible to donate one kidney as a living donor. Our lovely granddaughter Jennifer, was later diagnosed also with autism and she was having a severe hearing loss because of the Alport syndrome. When we first got to know about all this, a whole new world opened for us. We had to learn about something totally unknown to us, something very special (and very challenging) that not every family gets to experience. A child with autism is unique and unlike any other child that we knew of. Today Jennifer is 23 years old. She has given us something very significant and meaningful into our lives (and I was given the opportunity to obtain the gifts of patience for the very first time). I feel extremely proud of our only grandchild, she is an extraordinary person. And, she has a great sense of humour (as is of a surprise to many) she often makes me laugh out loud. My story from when I was running away from home, 15 years old, up to now, is about many things. My work-life has meant a lot to me, and still is. I have had a fantastic and most exciting professional life I could ever have dreamt of. My family means the most to me, I want us to be happy everyday (as my daughters are telling me is not “normal” to be every day☺). We have learnt a lot on how to practice life´s challenges, in good times and bad times. The moral of my story: It is up to you to make of your life what you want.
You didn’t have the easiest life growing up. For those who didn’t have a pleasant childhood and have no good memories of it, what advice would you give them to follow their dreams?
My advice would absolutely be to not spend time on being sad or to become bitter about things that have happened in the past. It is history and nothing you could do change that. Much better to spend all your efforts and energy on what you can influence, e.g. the future. But, having had a not so pleasant childhood is not just bad, at least it was not that for me. For me, it really made me feel powerful. It made me determined to do almost everything opposite than what I had learned and experienced – it soon became sort of a “mantra” for me, as made me strong.
What things can help a person be resilient?
I don´t believe in counselling, talking to therapists that should try to help you find ways to deal with emotional issues. Everyone is different, but I have never felt any need of that. I don´t believe in me as a grownup person spending lots of time to dwell upon the past when I was a child instead of focussing on here and now. But that is me, I have huge respect for people that do feel they need that kind of support. I strongly believe that what can help someone to be resilient is to trust his/her own abilities to cope (not easy) and to become determined to cultivate an attitude of survivorship and trigger positive emotions. If you try hard to lead your own life in a positive direction, you can yourself determine the outcome rather than allowing others to do that for you. That is my advice.
How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
I am a hard worker, always trying to bring energy and passion into everything I do and I am always optimistic for what can be achieved (maybe a bit stubborn as well as might be annoying for people close to me, both at work and at home ☺).
What are your core values?
o Work hard, “you don´t get anything extra if you do not give something extra”- is my motto.
o Setting high ethical standards and treat others with respect in order gain trust.
o I am enthusiastic with lots of energy (too much some may say…) – I never get tired.
o I am trying to always be caring and generous – my family and friends are very important to me.
What inspires you as a person?
I love to do things “differently” – to dare to be different. Whatever it is. That inspires me a lot. And people that do “dare to be different” – excites me.
What motivates you every day?
There is always something left to learn. To learn new things, to come up with creative ideas to make something new or to improve something, motivates me. I love my work – I have always been liked that. And I am still like that.
It’s never too late to…. (finish the sentence ?)
It’s never too late for anything you want – whatever it is! People ask me quite often if I am not too old to keep on working, as I am now working beyond the so called “retirement age”. When are you too old to keep on working? Now when we are living longer – shouldn´t we think differently about work? Especially if we enjoy it!
What does it mean to you to be the Chairman of the Board of Embracer Group?
There is one thing we promise everyone that is becoming a part of the Embracer Group… “it will never be boring”. And that is very true for the members of the Board as well, including myself. For us it means to be engaged and having a strong partnership with the executive management of the Group, as is having a mindset to be in the business of “creating possibilities for greatness”, every day. Being the Chairman of the Board of Embracer Group means there is never a dull moment!
How would you describe your leadership style?
If you believe in tests/assessments made on my leadership behavioural style, it says that I am “an independent and outgoing person, that I like challenges, take responsibility for my actions, that I am dynamic and that I am impatient but enthusiastic (most of the time)”. I am not sure that all this should be considered 100% positive… I do not like mediocrity – I always try to inspire and energize people in a positive way to stay focussed and work hard in order delivering on promises made and to make things great. I am also a control freak, as is not always appreciated. I once learned, “the devil is in the detail” and that is something I strongly believe in.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the video game industry. Could you summarize how it has affected the Group?
It has caused minor operational interruptions for us. Our Games business areas has a high proportion of digital sales as the general global lockdown led to an increase in the consumption of games. For the business area Partner Publishing, the physical distribution of games has been adversely affected, but to some extent retail sales have moved to e-commerce.
You have always worked with technology-driven companies. When did your interest in this topic begin?
It began at my very first “real” job… I did work in an administrative unit for a hospital and they had just introduced a system for salary processing. It was frustrating to see all the difficulties they had to get the correct information fed into the system and to establish a solid process for the payroll software to generate accurate salaries. I got engaged and developed a training course for everyone involved to fix that problem. “How difficult can it be” was my thoughts and I read day and nights all about how the new system was built. That was the start of my passion for technology and what you can do with technology. My next job was with Burroughs, “one of the largest producers of mainframe computers in the world” at that time. I was responsible for their customer education in how to operate their “distributed intelligence systems” as they called their Desktop Business Micro-Computer Systems. I was thrilled when I passed the test and got that job.
”Oh My God” This photo just proves that I must be growing old This is now 40 years ago!”
Fifteen years later, when I had worked for several American IT companies, I invented and created the Knowledge Lab – a global centre in London for innovative researchand development and new thinking. This Lab mainly focussed on advanced research to understand consumer behaviour in the future of the Financial Services industry. It was all about to identify, create and exploit emerging technologies in the new, networked economy at that time. We were winning several prestigious awards and generated some great publicity and got international media attention. The Financial Times wrote “the Knowledge Labs is one of the leading research centres for retail banking technologies”. I was extremely happy.
My interest and my passion for technology continued to grow over the years and has never ended.
Why is Technology crucial to a company’s long-term success?
Too many companies’ fortunes have declined after missing out on critical market shifts. They failed to watch out for disruptive technologies/innovations that significantly altered the way that consumers or businesses operated. Today there is no one denying that society is moving towards a digitalised future. This fundamental trend presents businesses with significant opportunities. Technological advancements (like digitalisation) will eventually make older business models obsolete. That is why technology is crucial to a company´s long-term success. “You have to see the future before it arrives”.
From your point of view, why should all businesses embrace sustainability?
My view is that sustainability is not only necessary from a social and environmental perspective – it also makes good business sense as well as create and drive shareholder value. Sustainability is a pre-requisite for good business and will be an even stronger factor going forward. That is why all businesses should embrace sustainability.
How do you organize yourself to do so many things?
I have always said that work is my hobby – meaning I get many more hours to work – to get many more things done ☺. My husband is saying “it is in my bones” that I have always worked a lot and always get a lot of things done. He is saying I am happiest when I have lots and lots to do. I think that is very true.
How COVID-19 is impacting your daily work?
For me, as to many others, to work from home has been a huge shift from what I am used to. All meetings have been replaced by videocalls and no travelling. A good thing is that now I can be more flexible around work hours and work settings than when I had to spend lots of time travelling. I get more time to work now during both the Central European Time zone as well as with US time zones and can therefore be more accessible around the clock. I like that. I am amazed how well our whole organisation has adapted to work remotely. It is working so much better than I ever could have imagined.
Why did you decide to live on a farm?
Ha ha, because my husband said so. Seriously, it was definitely not my decision, it was my husband that made that “decision”. … When I met him +50 years ago, he did say to me he wanted to become a farmer, I was not impressed and thought that would never happen. 20 years later he came home one day and told me “we have bought a farm… I had just been offered a job in London, as we had agreed I would try for a year (it become + 15 years…). We bought a flat in London and we did commute between the farm and London during all these years. Now, when I am on the farm every day, I just love it!
How can we contribute to a better world?
That is a very difficult question. I believe that most people really want to make the world a better place. but doesn´t really know how to go about it in order to make a difference or to do something meaningful. We are in the beginning of a long journey and I believe each company and each individual has to focus on what they consider to matters most. If we all decide we are willing to go an extra mile for something meaningful, e.g we are willing to make a special effort to contribute to a better world, it might eventually happen.
We hope you visit Finca Solmark soon. What do you think about this ecological project?
I am impressed by your initiative. What you are doing to help ensure that the cultural heritage and the natural heritage in this area, will really live on to benefit future generations. Also, what Pelle has done is incredible, for someone to change his life so fundamentally, you have to be brave. And, to gain the thorough understanding for promoting environmental awareness as it is done at Finca Solmark, is really something extra ordinary. I can´t wait to visit you!
What are your goals for the future?
I would like to continue to work a bit more and later spend more time on the farm to do all the things I sort of dreamt of from time to time. Our farm, Värlunda Gård, is in a rural setting with peaceful surroundings situated in Sörmland – as being one of Sweden´s most beautiful regions, an area of great charm, scenic beauty and distinctive character. More than hundred years ago, the farmers at Värlunda harvested crops by hand using horse-drawn equipment. They were known as caretakers of the soil, caring for the land to support their families and to preserve it for their children. It was their strong belief that farming and hard work cemented family bond. The farmer at Värlunda today, my husband, still plow the fields and harvest the crops, but using big tractors and modern harvesting machines. Some traditions have gradually changed over time, but the basic beliefs have not changed. The land is still loved and taken care of and has become especially precious as a home for our family and a peaceful place combining modern living, working and relaxing. It is a place where we get a sense of the natural and serene. I want our farm to be a blueprint for a lifestyle, revealing elements of good living like good health, relaxation, comfort, nature and to live well. An extremely comfortable and enjoyable place to live and a gathering place for the whole family and our friends.
Right now, I have ordered a new beautiful greenhouse to be built (my husband is in shock, he is convinced that I will be bored after a week in the greenhouse). I am soon also going to buy me a horse. Our daughters are having horses, but I would like to have my own horse. And finally, I am going to spend a lot of time to take photographs, I love my camera and I love nature photography. That is my goals for the future.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our followers?
Enjoy these words of wisdom:
“Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
OM FINCA SOLMARK
Finca Solmark erbjuder eko-hållbar landsbygdsturism med spanskt-svenskt ursprung med huvudsaklig aktivitet kring tillverkning, marknadsföring och export av olivolja virgen extra, avokador samt andra ekologiska produkter till Sverige och andra europeiska länder. Fincan erbjuder logi i lantlig miljö i charmiga Carratraca, Málaga, en av de vackraste platserna i södra Spanien. Där kan man utöva aktiviteter inom turism, gastronomi, kultur, vetenskap, sport, hälsa och välbefinnande. Finca Solmark är dessutom unik för sina projekt om att öka medvetenhet och utbildning kring miljöhänsyn.