Information technology has taken Marcus Olsson from Sweden to Denmark to the UK, but it was a technical solutions position with Criteo that brought him back to Sweden, where he now manages our technical solutions teams in both Amsterdam and Stockholm. This week, Marcus talks to us about jumping into IT at the right moment and why long, dark winters are great for work-life balance.
Let’s start from the beginning, where are you from?
I am from a suburb outside of Sweden’s second-largest city, Göteborg. In the middle of the 90s in Sweden, IT was booming so I studied that, however by the time I was done with secondary education, the bubble had already burst. I never really enjoyed studying that much, so it felt natural for me to go straight to work instead of university. I found myself doing IT for a transport and logistics company, which to twenty-year old me, was pretty cool. I got to travel a lot and had a brand-new company car.
How did you start your career? What did you do before and what brought you to Criteo?
I joined Accenture as a support technician through an outsourcing deal, serving a company in both Denmark and Sweden and stayed there for four years. In 2008 however, I resigned and moved to London.
In London, I first did a stint at a marketing agency, followed be going into AdTech by joining the affiliate network Affiliate Window, aka Awin, initially as Support Specialist. At Awin, I tried on a few different roles, including covering as Head of Technical Services for 10 months and later Product Manager. A former colleague approached me in spring 2015 regarding an available position in Criteo’s Stockholm office and that is how I eventually ended up here.
How has your role changed since you started?
When I joined I did not manage a team, however that changed the following year when I stepped up as manager for the teams in Amsterdam and Stockholm. I also have a much smaller portfolio of clients nowadays, so what I do is much more proactive or consultative, rather than being reactive and providing on-demand support or services.
What are your current challenges?
When you are stretched and involved in a lot of different things it is hard to find time for the bigger strategical topics which naturally take longer and require exclusive attention.
Another thing which is really hard both in Amsterdam and in Stockholm is the recruitment of Technical Solutions Engineers, as it is a rather niche role and hard to find candidates with the required knowledge and skillset.
You’ve now worked in the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Amsterdam. Can you give us some insights into how each of these markets are different.
I do not like to put people in buckets, however I have to agree with the saying that in London you “work hard and play hard”. Everything is super social but the expectations are sky high. Swedes are generally reserved and it is rather hard to get close to them outside the office, but they are genuine, work hard and are proud of what they do. Dutch people and Danes are especially straight to the point and quite demanding, however never rude. Things just “get done” in such a work environment.
What is something people wouldn’t expect to know about the way Nordic countries do business.
Do not take it for granted that your colleagues and clients are available and present in the office during late afternoons either the day before a public holiday or on Fridays during the summertime. Especially in Norway and Sweden people take their work-life balance very seriously, which makes total sense when you consider the long, dark, cold winters.
How does Criteo build a strong culture?
The main spoken language in the Stockholm office is English and we are from several different nationalities, so we definitely showcase genuine inclusiveness.
I can also vouch for the fact that we have a true “family feeling” in both the Amsterdam and Stockholm offices where everybody is valued and their contributions are appreciated and recognized.
Our team building events are frequent and great fun – over the last three years we have been out sailing both small boats and yachts, played curling, had basic sommelier and bartender training, driven a Citroen 2CV rally and done numerous canal boat excursions, just to mention a few highlights.
How has Criteo helped foster your career to where you are today?
First of all I just have to say that I get to manage a great team. Secondly, I am really happy that we have such great collaboration between Sales and Operations when it comes to new business in both my offices.
We have great autonomy here and are encouraged to find opportunities or come up with new approaches to challenges, for example building local Proof of Concepts to answer for our clients’ needs. There is also a lot of training opportunities available at Criteo, so I try to attend courses and workshops as often as I can.
Where do you see yourself next?
I have a keen interest in the Sales side of our business, so the inclination is to move in that direction. Exactly what kind of role would be suitable is still unclear and I am still testing the waters there.
Hobbies outside of work?
I really enjoy alpine skiing. Otherwise my favorite place on earth is my family’s holiday house on the west coast of Sweden where I enjoy the tranquility and sea as often as I can. For every day, I take the dog for walks and enjoy cooking good food for my lovely wife. Central Stockholm is actually amazing and nature is always close by – I can take a swim in the summer just five minutes from where we live.
Lastly, any advice for people looking to build a similar career?
When it comes to knowledge and skills that I’ve found to be applicable to every role I have ever found myself in, I would say SQL and any C-programming language is universal and easily transferrable. Overall however, I honestly think it’s important to take the time to figure out what you are truly passionate about.
One of the inspirational leaders in a previous company I worked at said, “I look forward to coming in to work every morning to do my very best and leave in the evening exhausted, feeling that I performed a little better than the previous day or learned something new about myself, somebody else or around a topic relevant to what I do. The day this no longer is true, it is time to move on”.