Executive MBA – a life-changing experience that provides the right tools

24 October 2022

According to Björn Axelsson, VP and Head of HR at Sandvik Mining & Rock Solutions, the Executive MBA programme he attended at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg between 2012–2014 has been of significant and crucial importance to both his career and his personal development. He appreciates the value of academia and maintains contact with it by lecturing on the programme’s HR module.

“The Executive MBA programme gives you the right tools to be able to rise from a director role to a VP role in a larger company, or directly to a CEO role in SMEs. It is also a very good preparation for a full-scale international assignment,” says Björn Axelsson, who the year after graduating went to a position as VP HR at RUAG International in Switzerland.

“The programme helped me make that step. I started the programme because I wanted to get deeper and broader business acumen and gain the skills to contribute to leadership and strategy work. According to the research, if you want to be a good HR manager, it is about being really sharp at problem solving together with colleagues from other functions. That’s exactly what you get from the Executive MBA programme. You learn about different functions and get an understanding of what others need to deal with.”


Widened perspective

Björn Axelsson’s career continued at another company in Switzerland before he returned to Sweden in the autumn of 2019 as VP and Head of HR at Sandvik Mining & Rock Solutions, with 18,000 employees in 60 countries, including 300 HR employees. In addition, he also emphasises the importance of the programme for his own personal development.

“For me, the Executive MBA programme was life-changing, it influenced my values and made me think with a broader global perspective in mind, with all that it means to be curious about other cultures and have a desire to work internationally.”

Among the modules and lecturers that made the strongest impression, Björn Axelsson highlights Professor Gideon Kunda from Tel Aviv University, who is still responsible for the module Organizational Structure and Culture, and Professor Ramnath Narayanswamy at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore who lectured within the framework of the module Creative Leadership when the programme participants visited India.

“You can’t forget Gideon, and Ramnath was extremely fascinating! He got us to broaden our perspectives and work on our prejudices and more or less unconscious life strategies and defence mechanisms. It can be scary, but used correctly, it is hugely rewarding.”


Group dynamics

The programme has contributed to Björn Axelsson still, almost ten years later, having close contact with the school and some of the lecturing and supervising researchers. He himself is also a valued visiting lecturer on the Executive MBA programme’s Human Resources Management module, which is led by Professor Jessica Bagger from California State University in Sacramento, USA.

“Stepping into an Executive MBA group is among the most stimulating things you can do as a lecturer – but it’s also the most challenging! We really want to deliver and are constantly adapting the content to the group’s development. That fantastic dynamism in the room when everyone is engaged and discussing, that’s exactly what you want. Collective learning.”


Encouraging others

With his international experience and outlook, Björn Axelsson sees that the value of an Executive MBA degree varies by geography. He believes that Sweden and the other Nordic countries are lagging a little bit behind, even though an increasing number of Swedish decision-makers are starting to realise the weight an Executive MBA education carries. He personally encourages employees and colleagues to attend a programme if the opportunity exists.

“We have a lot of employees with an Executive MBA degree, and we let some employees attend programmes, even if it’s in different places in the world since we are located in 60 countries. The training provides experiences and skills that are very good for people who are expected to contribute to the company as a whole.”

At the same time, he points out that the programme is demanding and that participants must prepare their family and friends for the fact that almost all their time outside work will be spent on studies.

“You only do an Executive MBA once, so you have to shift to the highest gear and make sure you get the most out of it. It’s worth it.”


Björn Axelsson


For more information on GU Executive Education’s leadership programmes, contact:

Peter Salomonsson, Sales & Business Development Manager

peter.salomonsson@handels.gu.se, +46 708 62 48 60

Håkan Ericson, CEO

hakan.ericson@handels.gu.se, +46 709 50 63 35