Vicky Green Samuelsen
When Vicky Green Samuelsen moved with her husband and son to Norway - after 12 years of working in the gas and oil industry in Houston, Texas - she didn’t have a plan for her career.
"You know what? I don't think I really thought that part through," she admits with a chuckle. "I was caught up in the excitement of moving and building our house, so I guess I just assumed I would keep doing something similar - working with offshore construction in some way, on the contractor or operator side.”
But on the plan en route to her husband's hometown, Stavanger, fate stepped in. Oil prices plunged. "A few weeks later when I started looking for work, people were getting laid off left and right," she recalls. “All of a sudden I couldn’t just take the easy choice.”
Today, just a few short years later, Vicky is co-founder and CEO of seafood startup EIR of Norway. The transformation was something she never could have anticipated - and is thanks in large part to her decision to enrol in the Executive MBA program at the Stockholm School of Economics.
"It gave me the chance to ask myself what I really want to do," Vicky says. "I thought that getting an MBA would help me get a better idea, while also getting to know people in other industries and gaining new skills."
Vicky was eager to grow her network in the Nordics, and considered several options in Oslo and Copenhagen. But she was drawn to the strong focus on innovation and new perspectives found in Stockholm.
The SSE MBA is one of the top-ranked Executive MBA programs in the world - and it's no coincidence that global innovative companies like Ericsson, Volvo, Spotify, and King all have their roots in Sweden.
On average a class is made up of anywhere from 15 to 20 nationalities, with nearly half of the participants coming from abroad, creating an invaluable mix of skills, backgrounds, and perspectives in the group. The program also provides personalized coaching for each student, and offers a specialization in Financial Management or Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
Vicky selected the Innovation & Entrepreneurship focus - a choice which was ultimately life-changing. "I didn't know very many people who had started their own businesses, and prior to the MBA, entrepreneurship isn’t something I ever thought I would do in my life," she explains.
"But after the Executive MBA, I just felt like 'Wow, it's really possible.' And why not? So I just went for it."
Once the interest was sparked, the flame grew quickly. Vicky met several other people interested in starting a new company, and they began looking for a market opportunity.
"We used some of the broader economic and trend marketing skills I had learned during the MBA, and together we identified an opportunity. There was - and is - a high demand from Chinese customers for certain seafood products from Norway." Vicky graduated from the Executive MBA in September of 2017 - and by November she had started EIR of Norway.
“So that was a pretty dramatic change,” she laughs. After more than a decade working with established players in the oil and gas industry, she was suddenly building a seafood company from the ground up.
And now, as CEO of the unique Norwegian startup, Vicky says she uses the skills she learned at the SSE Executive MBA on a daily basis - from finance to people skills.
“I have had to apply basically everything I have learned in the MBA into this company," she says.
“I learned how to really engage the team, since everyone comes at the company issues from different perspectives. I also have a lot of financial responsibility, and have to help issue the financial report to the shareholders,” Vicky explains. “Now I have a better understanding of the terminology, and knowledge of how to allocate expenditure. I had no education in that prior to the MBA. And then, of course, understanding the consumer, and marketing. I use these skills every day.”
And whenever she needs a sounding board for her ideas or struggles, she has a priceless international network of experts in all fields. In addition to the coaching the program offered, she built lasting relationships with her peers.
"We had a really good class at SSE and got to know each other really well," Vicky says. The class still has several different chats and groups, staying in regular contact. They give each other advice, bounce ideas, and help make connections.
"We had this kind of openness, a desire to more authentic. And it's so valuable to have that - to have classmates call you on your bullshit and make you face your fears. We learned to open up in a really positive way. And I think I’ve really grown as a person as well."
The MBA has certainly opened up new opportunities for Vicky career-wise. But looking back, she says that perhaps the most worthwhile aspect she gained from the program was her own personal growth.
"It's stressful and intense at times - because it's not taking the safe route. I have the opportunity now to blaze my own trail, and I don’t think I would have done that if not for the MBA. In terms of confidence and what I'm doing now - that's priceless."