Unexpected benefit from working on the Executive MBA programme thesis

30 May 2022

Almost six years after graduating from the Executive MBA programme at the School of Business, Economics and Law in Gothenburg, Ulf Johannesson, who is now Managing Director of Arcam AB, notes that the thesis writing was what gave him the most in the long run. In his current assignment, he benefits from the subject content, methodology and structure.

After having held leading roles in several departments, including aftermarket, sales, marketing and product management, Ulf Johannesson wanted to deepen his knowledge and skills. During 2014–2016, he attended the Executive MBA programme at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg.

“I had worked internationally, had personnel responsibilities and done a lot of different things. The education complemented my broad practical experience with science-based theoretical knowledge.”

When Ulf Johannesson attended the Executive MBA programme, he worked at Emerson, which, similarly to his current employer, GE Additive – Arcam EBM, has American owners. Ulf Johannesson believes this played a role.

“In American companies, you know what an Executive MBA degree is. Leaders in positions with large and broad responsibilities are expected to have such a degree,” he says. He believes that many Swedish companies would benefit from broadening their perspective on higher education.

“Some have understood what they get back when they enable employees to attend an Executive MBA programme. They think long-term and have it as a continuous part of their development work.”

The programme’s different training modules are more relevant and useful depending on your own background and experience, according to Ulf Johannesson. He himself gained a better holistic view and a larger toolbox to support him in his work.

“The education made me more confident in my leadership. I learned more about the different parts of a business and gained a more professional language. I can now have high-level discussions with different specialists.”


Published thesis

Surprisingly however, what he remembers most clearly and what he benefits most from today is the thesis work.

“The experience of writing a thesis has proven to be much more useful than I thought at the time. We wrote about decision making in product development. That topic is very relevant to what I am doing now. Nevertheless, it’s just as much about the methodology and the structure. If I am going to prepare and formulate something a little bigger, I use the working method from the thesis. I often refer to the model that I developed in the thesis. In addition, I am in a high-tech business with many researchers. The thesis writing experience helps me understand how they, with their academic background, think and act. ”

The thesis work, which counts for 15 of the programme’s total of 60 higher education credits, takes place during the last term of the Executive MBA programme. The participants write individually or in pairs, under the supervision of researchers from the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg. Ulf Johannesson’s thesis, which he co-wrote with Anne-Cathrine Thore Olsson from Volvo Cars, is one of few from the Executive MBA programme that has been published. The scientific report was published in the “International Journal of Managing Projects in Business,” Vol. 11 No. 4, 2018, with the title “Decision-making and cost deviation in new product development projects.”


Results aligned with effort

Ulf Johannesson is still in contact with some of the people he attended the Executive MBA program with.

“I have got to know these people really well. Even though we might not be in contact so often, it’s great to be able to pick up the phone and quickly bounce a question or situation I have with someone who is completely neutral in the matter and who I know will come with some wise thoughts.”

Anyone considering joining an Executive MBA programme is encouraged by Ulf Johannesson to really go for it.

“The programme takes time. It’s important that family, employers and friends are aware of that. It is and should be demanding. It might be possible to slip through with less effort, but then the long-term effect will also be significantly smaller. I could still have gotten a nice certificate with less commitment, but instead I came away with a lot more than just a certificate.”


Ulf Johannesson


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