It says Truck Sales Process Manager Europe Division on Salomeh Tafazoli’s business card. This was not exactly the title of which she dreamed when she grew up with an Iranian mother, an older sister and a Swedish step-father.
“I came to Sweden when I was five. With my strong, stubborn, ambitious mother as my principal role model, I have never regarded my immigrant status as an obstacle. It has instead been an inspirational opportunity. After all, I can be the best of both worlds,” she says.
She naturally realises that the combination of young woman with an immigrant background and a managerial position in a male-dominated industry has helped to turn the spotlight on her.
“I have actually never really given it that much thought,” she points out quickly. “The people around me have never regarded me in that way, I have never felt discriminated against in any way. I would nonetheless be the first to acknowledge that immigrant women are unusual in Swedish management teams. We still have some way to go in this area.”
Top within reach
Salomeh adds, “I am, however, a firm believer in the positive kinetic energy of integration! I am convinced that there are opportunities to get to the top – if you do a good job.”
Her career at Volvo Trucks began with an IT project in Sweden, designed to develop a new system for tenders/proposals at dealer level.
“I travelled to the different regions and interviewed loads of sales staff. It gave me an insight into their daily lives and the support they need to do a good job. It was one of the most interesting and informative things I have ever done,” says Salomeh.
When the company decided to set up a special department for the Truck Sales Process, Salomeh was encouraged to apply for the job of manager and, at the age of 26, she was appointed as the head of a department dominated by men, the oldest of whom was 64.
“Challenging, but stimulating,” is her way of summarising the situation. “I became a manager in 2007, but I was not able to implement my thoughts and ideas until last year,” says Salomeh. The Shortcuts prize-giving ceremony this spring was somewhat bewildering proof that her job has had a resounding impact on the commercial sector.
“The room was full of clever, skilful women with high managerial positions. The speaker read out the names from number 75 and upwards. When he reached 20 and I still hadn’t been mentioned, I told my husband that they had probably forgotten me … and then I was fourth! It was a fantastic feeling!
“This award has had an incredible impact on my self-esteem. I have become more confident in my own ability and my leadership,” concludes Salomeh Tafazoli.