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International Leadership Interview – Anne-Sofie Risåsen, Capgemini

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“International experience cannot be achieved by just sitting in Norway. Seize the opportunities in front of you!”

Anne-Sofie Risåsen, CEO of Capgemini in Norway

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Anne-Sofie Risåsen is the CEO of Capgemini in Norway. She started working for the French-headquartered IT-company after completing her degree in computer science in California. Starting as a consultant at Capgemini, Risåsen has worked her way up the company ladder to claim the CEO chair in 2014.

AmCham sat down with Risåsen at Capgemini’s offices in Skøyen, Oslo to discuss her views on leadership and international experience in AmCham’s fifth edition of the International Leadership Interview Series.

Where did you start and how did you get to the position you hold today?

My international experience started when I moved to Santa Barbara, California and completed a computer science education at UCSB. Upon completion of the degree, I started here at Capgemini as a developer, mainly working with programming, before continuing on the consultancy path, which took me to project- and department manager, before I became sales manager with responsibility for the Nordic countries and central Europe.

Subsequently wanting to try something different, I moved to Microsoft where I was the manager for their enterprise division, before a stint at Evry and public sector and eventually moving back to Capgemini as the CEO in 2014.

What are some of the important decisions you make as leader of Capgemini?

The most important is to set a clear strategic direction and to get everyone to go in the same direction. There is so much initiative amongst the consultants at Capgemini, and important to have a clear direction for all the positive energy.

In Norway, most company structures are quite flat compared to countries like the US, France or India. As a leader in Norway, I try to encourage the employees to solve the assignments more freely and take the responsibility to find the best possible solution, which is quite typical for Norway compared to other countries. In India and the US, often it is a clear instruction for how to solve a task, whereas in Norway, you often expect people to solve a task more independently. This is important to be aware of when we have international projects with team members from different countries.

How do you build team morale and maintain the creativity of a diverse team within an international organization? 

It’s essential to remember that as a leader, I am working with people. How to enthuse or inspire as leader is quite similar from country to country. You celebrate a win, and if you lose, you need to learn from it and look into the “how” and “why”. Learning how to build up morale across borders is important, too. We work with consultants from India, and on one occasion when a team from India came visiting, I took them horse sledding in the winter snow. It was probably a bit out of their comfort-zone, but it built morale and team spirit, and we had a lot of fun.

Would you use the same leadership style in a difference organization or in a different company? Also, how important is it to tailor your leadership style to your team and organization?

I have my leadership style and I firmly believe in an inspiring and team-oriented leadership style. However, I also adapt my approach depending on the situation. It is quite important to adapt to teams and organizations, but without compromising your inner self.

Where do new ideas and exciting proposals come from in your organization? Has your international experience helped you ‘think outside the box’ in your organization?

A good idea can come from anywhere in the organization. As for myself, I knowingly and consciously try to look abroad and across boarders for inspiration to solve a challenge. I actively encourage my staff to do the same as well. I can often look to other offices within Capgemini for inspiration too.

How do you ensure that your team and your company’s services are aligned to your company’s core vision?

We do have regular international big picture meetings within Capgemini, to ensure that every branch is moving in the right direction. I take those visions back to Norway and adapt them slightly to our market. Some of the other Capgemini offices adapt ideas from Norway to their markets as well, so it is a give and take.  That is how it is with the increased globalization, we have to make sure to be aligned globally, but consequently, we also get the best from all countries.

What do you believe are shared traits among leaders? Any common mistakes? What is unique about being a leader in Norway compared to leading an organization in another country?

I think every good leader believes in what they aim to achieve, and wants to get everyone in the same direction. Failing to listen to people around you is a common mistake.  At the same time, you have to trust your own instinct and experience. Additionally, failing to establish a clear direction can cause problems. It’s about finding the balance between having the staff think for themselves, but also ensuring that the company is heading in the right direction.

In Norway, we are quite concerned with work-life balance, which is something I really appreciate. I’m not saying that the work-load is less here, but that there’s an increased acceptance of, for example, going home for a few hours in the afternoon and rather working in the evening again. Norwegian way of working is flexible that way, as long as everyone does what he or she are expected to do, then they are free to manage their time a bit more freely.

How does technology affect your day to day and help to develop your leadership style?

Technology is obviously a big influence in my life and in my job. Firstly, it means that I am always available, both on my phone and through our internal communications tools. It also means reduced travelling, as many meetings are done via Skype these days.

Furthermore, I work for a company that is committed to increased digitalization for our customers, so it’s imperative that we take the first steps and lead the way.

How do you continue growing and developing as a leader?

I look towards other leaders for inspiration. I read relevant articles and literature, and I also enjoy watching YouTube videos on certain specific aspects I’d like to know more about. Specifically, the topic related to leading while a company or settings around are changing, is a subject I find fascinating.

Generally, I strive to stay updated and try to receive feedback as well as provide it. Through reviews, I always encourage two-way feedback.

What are some of your recent projects and developments that you are excited to share?

We are currently working a great deal with digitalization. All our Norwegian customers have digitalization on their agenda and a lot of innovation is happening in this area. There’s also a lot of interesting developments occurring in terms of big data and analytics, and how to utilize this structured and unstructured data in a best way possible. Additionally automation, also called robotics, is a fast growing area we are working on with our customers.

What do you see in the next generation of leaders aspiring to run an international organization? Advice to them?

I think international experience is both interesting, exciting and a clever way to go. A few years abroad to learn other cultures and languages is never a disadvantage. I studied abroad myself and never regretted it.

The best advice however, is to do well where you are. If you deliver good results and work hard, there will always be ways to climb the company ladder. Set yourself goals and work towards them. Also, what I am seeing is a world becoming increasingly globalized. Therefore, experience and awareness of different countries and cultures is an advantage. The ability to adapt to an international community to gain exposure. International experience cannot be achieved by just sitting in Norway. Seize the opportunities in front of you!

What is the latest time you responded to an email last night?

Hehe, around 10 pm perhaps?

Source: AmCham

Published: August 19, 2017

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