Born to be global

Gabriela Styf Sjöman, Head of Networks, Telia Company

Gabriela Styf Sjöman was born in Mexico. She is multicultural with a Mexican mother and a Swedish father. Gabriela has moved around the world ever since. Today she is with Telia as our Head of Networks in GSO. This is the story of a woman who loves technology, but is driven by a passion to create new business opportunities for our customers.

 “When I was approached by Telia almost two years ago, I knew little about them. After a few meetings I decided to join, because I thought that Telia is big and innovative enough to make a difference, but yet small enough to be agile and fun to work for. That combination represents the essence of my experience from both small start-ups to global technology giants. I also wanted to explore what it is like to work in Sweden. My father is Swedish and I have always had a relation to this country, but only lived in Sweden about one third of my life and in the last 25 years been mainly living abroad. It just felt exciting to work in this region, which is more digitalized than any other in the world.”

Always moving forward
“I have always moved around a lot in my life. Already as a kid, I had the privilege to live in Mexico, US, Czechoslovakia and Sweden. I went to both American and British schools. When I was nearing university life, I wanted an education and a job that would allow me to continue to move around and a profession that would be relevant in all parts of the world. I briefly considered law school or medicine, but in the end, technology was the path forward for me.”

My greatest inspiration
“My role models are my family, my mother and grandmother specifically. My grandmother was an extraordinary person. She was born very orphaned as a small child and had a very hard upbringing. She strived with a strong mind and an even stronger drive to get ahead in life. At 16 she left the orphanage to live on her own, almost without any education. She learned how to count and read on her own. And after buying a second hand sewing machine and setting up a small business, she earned enough money to start a small corner shop. Over the years, her business grew and soon she had a few shops in Mexico City. My grandmother had an enormous integrity and used to tell me – it’s better to be alone than in bad company. And she taught me that if you truly want something, you can get it or achieve it by yourself, you should not be dependent on someone else to succeed. And I think those words has influenced me a lot in my own life.”

I have only had one professional mentor
“I have only had one mentor in my professional life and that was Peggy Bruzelius, an experienced board veteran. I met her through Women Up, which is a leadership program initiated by Hillary Clinton. Peggy is a fantastic woman that had the patience to listen and guide. From her I learnt not to fall into the trap of seeing oneself as a victim. Mentors is a great idea, but I have always found more support and energy in my family – or as my grandmother used to put it –“If something is not good, leave it and move on.”

More exactly, what do you do?
“My role is to make sure that our networks are prepared to take on new business models and new products in the future. We are moving from a very static to a more dynamic world and our customers are demanding that we move much faster. The people at Telia are fast enough, but the processes and technologies are sometimes too complex. To be in the forefront, I oversee the network architecture, evaluate new technologies and I produce roadmaps for the implementation of our ideas. My focus is 5G and creating the networks we will need in the future. It’s a lot about innovation and technology disruption and I work hard to identify areas we can change in order to secure a strong position in the new reality that 5G will enable. By optimizing processes, implementing relevant technologies and developing new knowledge we can create networks that will empower solutions and business models that are not yet invented.”

My proudest moment
“A few months ago, we had our 5G pre-commercial launch in Finland. This was a fantastic even as result of much hard work by many brilliant colleagues. This event triggered one of our customers, a large finish forestry company, the courage to go out themselves and share that they are the first in their industry to use Augmented Reality on 5G, in collaboration with Telia. I was moved when I saw their press release, stating that they are first in the world to launch augmented reality technology in their industry thanks to a partnership with Telia. This is what we strive for, to create new value propositions to our customers through our technology leadership. Stories like these, make me super proud and it’s what makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

Gabriela has moved around the world since she was born. First with her parents, and later with her own family. She has never stayed in one country very long. The longest stint was five years in Hong-Kong.

Advice I wish I got when I was at university

  1. Believe in yourself
  2. Stay true to your core values
  3. Don't forget to smile
Facts

Education

MBA from University of Durham, International Relations, Basic Law, and Power Engineering

Life before Telia

Telia is my seventh employer. I have been in start-ups, mid-size and large companies. Before joining Telia I was based in Rome, working for Telecom Italia. I have worked in eight countries across Asia, Europe and Americas.

Life outside work

Now when our children no longer live at home so I get a bit more time to do other things outside the home. My husband recently moved from Rome to Stockholm so right now we are enjoying living in the same country and have time for extended family and friends.

Family?

I am married and mother of two young adults.

Something you didn´t know about me

I never lived more than five consecutive years in one single country. The longest I ever consecutive lived in a country was when I stayed in Hong Kong for five years.