Go to main navigation Navigation menu Skip navigation Home page Search

Maria Norrman

Looking ahead, Maria Norrman, SSE alum and EF’s Global Chief of Staff and President of EF Pro Cycling sees the growing importance of employees wanting to deliver real positive impact in the world through their work, being proud of the company they work for, and standing behind company values.

We realize you hold two positions at the moment but can you describe each of them and what they entail?

Many people at EF have more than one job so I am certainly not unique!

As EF’s Global Chief of Staff, I am responsible for EF’s human resources, including staff recruitment and employee development.

I am also the President of EF Pro Cycling – accountable for all operational and commercial activities of the professional cycling team, which competes at the highest level of the sport, the UCI WorldTour.


What inspired you to want to work at EF? What are the biggest challenges of your work?

Perhaps a bit of a cliché but what makes me truly happy is working with fun, smart and inspiring people. During my time in Asia, I got to know quite a few EF people socially so when it came to moving back to Europe – it was an easy choice for me. After running my own company for many years – it was also important for me to have high ceilings at work – without it, I would not have lasted long!

It is also amazing to be able to work for an organization whose whole reason for existing is to open the world through education – something I think the world needs more, not less of. Perhaps even more now than ever.

Given that we deliver a service, everything we do depends on how good our colleagues are. Therefore, ensuring we are set up to recruit, develop and retain the best people we possibly can is a huge percentage of any manager at EF’s role. My job is to support them to do so. Even during challenging times.


What was the drive behind the EF Pro Cycling team?

Perhaps not the most obvious thing was for EF to buy a professional cycling team! But I promise that there is some method in the madness.

EF has worked with major sports in the past. We had two sailing teams compete in the 1997-98 Whitbread Round the World Race. Not only did we have the only all-female team with EF Education, but our EF Language team won first place. And, we have been an Official Supplier and Sponsor of the Olympic Games since 1988.

But entering into a partnership for a pro cycling team was still a major step for us. However, from a marketing and staff engagement perspective it has proven to be a great success. The Tour de France is the most-watched annual sporting event in the world. More than half a million spectators line the roadside every day in the three-week race, while a daily average of 166 million people watch the race on television in one hundred countries.

As with anything EF does, the ultimate decision wasn’t about money—it was about people. We met this team and read what the fans were saying, and we realized there was something really special about this particular team as the “nothing is impossible” scrappiness reminds us of EF.

Clearly, professional cycling is a sport of endurance but it’s also a sport of teamwork. This team is also the most international of all UCI teams – currently 20 different nationalities ride for us. These athletes compete 250 days per year, all over the world – again – making the fit so perfect with EF. Cycling brings people closer together. Just as we hope to do.

As of this year, we are also incredibly proud to be the title sponsor of a women’s WorldTour team. Something we have been working on for a long time.


What do you find most exciting about the talent recruitment and employee development fields at the moment? Where do you see them going in the next 5-10 years?

What people look for in a job has changed over the years as the importance of delivering real positive impact in the world has increased considerably. Being proud of the company you work for and standing behind its values is now something everyone takes for granted.

However, what has not changed is the importance of providing an environment where bring people can learn and quickly progress, where individual accomplishments as well as teamwork is celebrated in a meritocratic fashion.

We also see a big trend towards an increased demand of early leadership development training. During the pandemic, we therefore launched a year-long “new manager” training which everyone who is entering into a leadership role is completing.  We were forced to pilot several different virtual and hybrid set ups for our trainings – some of which were so successful we will make these features permanent.

Another global trend, particularly around the more senior managers is the access to a more personalised coach.


How did your time/education at SSE help guide you through the career journey you have had?

During my time at SSE I met some life-long friends, whom I value more than any career I could possibly have!

I learnt the power of hard work, taking risks, and never believing that anything is impossible. I also understood how important it was to me to work with people I enjoy being with and how much energy having fun in between all the hours of hard work gave me.

Finally, it gave me my first international experience – something which has remained a constant in my life ever since.


Following your time after SSE, do you have any words of wisdom or advice you would like to share with our current students?

Work hard but don’t overthink things. The rest of your life does not depend on the result of that one exam, the first job after graduation or that oh-so-elusive summer internship you really want.

Jump on the opportunities which excite you and dare to take some risks. You will excel at the things which you enjoy.


What are three words that sum up your time at SSE?

Fun. Friends. Fearlessly forward-looking! Sorry, that was technically 4 words. :)