Why work-life balance matters in this Executive MBA’s admissions process

Ann-Kristin Bjurström has been working at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) in Stockholm, Sweden, for 23 years. Since 2007, she’s specifically been working as a Program Advisor and Admissions Officer for the Executive MBA program. In this interview, she explains why the SSE is a challenging, rewarding, and diverse place to study while still allowing students to live balanced lives.

In short

Why SSE is an important part of the Swedish business community

The Executive MBA program and the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) more generally have deep roots and are very connected with the Swedish business community. 

“We are still very connected with Swedish business life,” Ann-Kristin says. “We have among our corporate partners who are funding the school very well-known Swedish organizations like H&M, Ericsson, ABB, Atlas Copco, and IKEA, for example. [This is] quite unique for a school.” (01:20)

The SSE also has impressive rankings in Sweden, in the Nordic area, and around the world: “The school is ranked as the #1 in the Nordics by the Financial Times. And then, the Executive MBA program… is ranked at #60 in the world.” (01:50)

A diverse learning community

The Executive MBA program is incredibly diverse when it comes to students’ nationalities, ethnicities, industries, and more. “Around half [of the students] have a non-Swedish background,” Ann-Kristin tells us. “The average age is 39. We have around 40% women in our classes. And, it’s very, very diverse.” (02:20)

Ann-Kristin stresses the priority that the SSE puts on diversity: “Diversity is really, really important for us. We work a lot with the diversity in the classes and [use it] to learn from each other.” (02:47)

Coaching with the Leadership Live program

The Executive MBA at the SSE has a great Leadership Live program including coaching. Ann-Kirstin discusses how even though this isn’t something that candidates are initially expecting, many end up finding it to be one of the most valuable aspects of their degree.

“When [the students] are in the program, they somehow realize that this is actually one of the best parts of the program. You will have your own individual coach…This coach will help you to make an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses…They really help you realize your full potential and what you’re capable of doing,” she explains. (09:47)

Experience Swedish work-life balance

Healthy work-life balance is a necessity in Swedish society and within the Executive MBA at the SSE. Ann-Kristin says, “For a Swede it’s normal. And we also think that’s the way it should be…We do work 40 hours/week in Sweden…it’s different from the rest of the world.” (11:36)

Ann-Kristin comments that students from other countries who participate in the Executive MBA program are surprised by and quickly adapt to this approach: “It’s more a surprise for the international participants in the program…They quickly learn though and really appreciate the Swedish way of life and work, because they realize that [they] will be able to do other stuff than just work.” (12:01)

Ann-Kristin even points out that healthy work-life balance is something they consider during the application process for the Executive MBA. She says, “You also do a personality test. And we look that through before the admissions interview…and we measure work-life balance for example, but we also measure things like perfectionism, control behavior…” (13:08)

Ann-Kristin points out that if applicants score low in work-life balance, it’s something they discuss and investigate in the interview.

Pursue and apply your own “live” projects

SSE Executive MBA students get great practical experience from the “live” aspect of the program. One part of that is the fact that everyone pursues live projects, either within an organization they already work for or elsewhere.

“You will work with real cases, real challenges, it could be real change, and you will work inside that organization and present your findings,” Ann-Kristin explains. “It’s a possibility for somebody to give back to an organization where they [already] work, and also to showcase [themself] in that organization.” (20:17)

This hands-on aspect of the program allows students to expand their professional opportunities, either in their existing workplaces or while on the lookout for new challenges.

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