Lauren McGuirk

October 5-6, 2013 – And We’re Off!

Before heading to Gothenburg, several colleagues advised us that the flight to Sweden was a long one. They were right. But I think for me, part of the reason it seemed so long was mainly because I was incredibly anxious for the week ahead. What was it going to be like? Who are the other graduates? Will we all get along?

As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about. This week’s events met every single one of my expectations (as I’m sure it did for many others as well).

We arrived in Gothenburg at First Hotel G at about 11 o’ clock on the morning of the 6th. Although we were tired from the flight, our fatigue was nothing that a great cup of coffee couldn’t fix. We knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we were eager to begin.

The group planned to meet for an informal dinner that night in order to “break the ice” before the start of a long week with each other. In total, there were 30 of my fellow graduates, hailing from all corners of the world: Belgium, Brazil, India, Japan, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and the USA.

It was great to see how well we immediately bonded with each other. Not once was it challenging to get to know another graduate. It was evident that we were all equally excited to be there.
Lauren McGuirk
October 7-9, 2013: Gullmarsstrand Hotel & Conference

We met in the hotel lobby at 7:30 Monday morning in order to board a bus to Gullmarsstrand Hotel & Conference, a facility located about an hour and a half outside of Gothenburg, in the city of Fiskebäckskil on the Swedish west coast. This is where we would be spending the next three days.

When we arrived, we met Mikael and Jeanette, our team and personal development trainers.  As customary, we had a quick “fika” (for those like me who don’t know what a fika is – it’s a Swedish tradition entailing coffee/tea accompanied by something sweet) and then get started right away. We began with the standard introductions about ourselves and were asked to state our fears and expectations for the week. I wasn’t surprised to see that we each said something along the lines of being excited for the week ahead yet somewhat anxious as to what was in store for us.

Our time at Gullmarsstrand was filled with constant activity. We engaged in practical exercises that taught us more than any of us could have imagined beforehand. We grew to know one another through these exercises and we learned a little about ourselves as well. What seemed like small, insignificant exercises were very valuable and I know we will take these lessons with us throughout our careers. For example, one exercise taught us to really step out of our comfort zones—teaching us that often times the solution to a problem might cause one to need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

After a long day on Tuesday, we were given the evening off to explore the facility, including the spa. This was another great bonding experience for the graduates outside of the training room and although we had only known each other for less than 48 hours, it seemed like we had been a familiar group for years.

Wednesday was our last day at Gullmarsstrand. The days felt incredibly long but at the same time, not long enough. Before we left, we were assigned our group projects for the year. There were six projects to choose from. Each project encompassed a task assigned to us from the Volvo Group headquarters and we would have until Thursday to decide which project would be the best fit for us.  After we arrived back in Gothenburg, we had the night on our own to explore the town as a group and to consider the projects we would be most interested in. 

                                                                The group on our last day at Gullmarsstrand

October 10, 2013

Today, we headed to Arken Conference & Hotel for a full-day introduction to the Volvo Group. Glenn Evans started off the day with an overview of Volvo History. I remember seeing this same presentation by Glenn during the Volvo Group Experience in Greensboro. I know we were all impressed by how much he knew not only about the company, but the detailed history behind it.

In addition to Glenn, we heard presentations from representatives of various Volvo Group departments. The speakers included Charlie Nordblom on The Volvo Way, Hege Aberg on Brand Management, and Lars Persson on Volvo Corporate Strategy.

After being given the past two days to decide on a project that interested us, we officially chose the projects that we would be responsible for during the coming year. The teams were evenly divided into five teams of six graduates. I’m very excited to continue my newfound professional friendship with my teammates. I know that we will certainly benefit from this project.

Following the presentations and project assignments, we headed to the Volvo Museum for a guided tour.

After the tour, we had a group dinner and team-building event at a bowling alley near the city center where we were grouped into our project teams—allowing us the opportunity to bond with our teammates with whom we would be collaborating with throughout the year.

October 11, 2013

Today, we continued the Volvo Group Introduction but this time at the Volvo Group Headquarters. We again heard presentations from various topics of Volvo Group such as HR, the Volvo Production System, Annual Report, CSR, Soft Products and Innovation Update. We also met the representatives from Corporate Strategy who would serve as our team mentors for the duration of the projects.

After a long and eventful week, we ended our first common week in Sweden with one final group dinner in the city.

I would have been hard-pressed to have dreamed of this kind of opportunity before I actually experienced it! Enriching and inspiring are just two of the words that come to mind to describe our first common week in Sweden. I know I speak on behalf of my fellow graduates when I say we are tremendously excited about the year to come.

Next stop: China. Stay tuned!