"Leaving no one behind"

Mia Forsäng, Business Accelerator at Telia Company in Stockholm

Mia Forsäng stands with her two feet solidly on the ground. Still, she is a great visionary. Mia is set on including older people in the new digital world we are living in. And she is behind a program in Sweden working with local municipalities to inspire and educate seniors to become more digital. The program is established in 31 municipalities and have already had over 10 000 elderly in the program. And now Mia is taking on the task of helping small enterprises to go from a traditional way of working and become much more digital.

I believe in people

”It may sound obvious, but I truly believe in the power of people and how people can empower each other. It is the core idea in one of my main projects, leading an initiative where young people teach the elderly to become more digital. But trust in what people can do is something that has been part of my whole life. I grew up as part of a curious family with an engineering father and a mother who worked as a manager in human resources. It was a safe upbringing with a lot of room for me to think freely and explore the world in my own ways. And innovation and creating value for others was always a natural part of our family conversations.”

Going your own way

“A telling example of my parents’ attitude was when my father as a leading engineer at Volvo had to travel a lot to the US in his work. He was extremely scared of flying, but instead of ducking the traveling, he took the bull by the horns and got himself a pilot license. Not to fly to the US himself, but to understand and come to terms with his anxiety. This attitude is ingrained in me too. If I hit an obstacle or barrier, I always find a way around it, an ability that was perfected during the years I spent in the public sector. I was part of building Sweden’s first public broadband network, and the obstacles we ran into with all the different stakeholders just kept on coming. When working on big, complex projects with many stakeholders, I early learnt that a key success factor is about being able to create strong relationships with a lot of people. So, to be able to go your own way, you need to get all people around you onboard.”

Innovate and accelerate

“My role at Telia is to come up with new ideas and make them come alive. Right now, I am working on the concept Mer Digital (More Digital), which is about letting young people teach the elderly how to become more digital. I am also driving the project Bli Digital (Become Digital), which is about helping smaller companies with their digital transformation. By letting small companies tap into new digital possibilities, we help them become more effective, relevant and agile. The project Mer Digital is now available to seniors in 31 municipalities in Sweden and Norway and more than 10 000 seniors have developed their digital life together with us. Bli Digital is in a roll-out phase but will reach over 300 companies before the end of the year.”

Let’s get together!

“I love the way we make life easier for older people. I get tears in my eyes when I see a grandmother explore her grandchildren’s social media channels with wet eyes. And I am proud of all the young people involved in teaching the elderly. How they grow when they feel that they contribute to something bigger than usual. And how they are proud of what they know, but also open to learn from their older students. But what drives me deep down inside is a dream of a society where people meet and learn from each other. A world where we care for each other and where creativity, curiosity and courage are what helps us all move on and create a context where we strive and live happier lives. This was my driving force when I was working with public networks, and it is still what makes get out of bed in the morning.”

Telia is a great place for crazy ideas

“All the ideas I work on might sound crazy when you hear about them for the first time. One example is how Telia have been creating old school telephone booths with new technology for residential homes. It is a way to open up new opportunities for old people to facetime or video chat with their families during the pandemic. My role is to identify the best municipalities to implement the idea in. It only took a few months from concept creation to having the first booths in place. That says a lot about the innovation power of a company like Telia.”

Crazy ideas need great leadership

To me leadership is extremely important to grow both personally and professionally. And at Telia, I have leaders who gives me a lot of freedom, but also great responsibility. This is good for me, as I need space to roam freely with my crazy ideas. Here, I also have leaders who support me and are genuinely interested in what I am doing. Leaders who remain by my side, even when things are not going as smooth as we wish for. Over the years, I have had the fortune to be able to work with a lot of great leaders. From one of my first leaders I learned not to care too much about what others think about leadership. He told me to simply be the leader I would like to have myself. A more recent learning was from a CEO at Telia who taught me to lead with both my head and my heart. And that is something that I bear with me every day – leading by following my own heart.”

There is still a lot of old people out there who don’t use smart phones or computers. Mia is leading a big initiative to introduce seniors to a more active digital life. You would probably guess that paying bills, e-mailing or using maps to get around are what senior people are most eager to do with their smart phones. But the needs are more basic than that – transferring images from their phones to computers, video chatting with grandchildren and taking the perfect selfie are the most coveted digital skills amongst senior people in the Nordics.

Advice I wish I got when I was at university

  1. Nothing is impossible
  2. Care for others
  3. Be curious and have fun

Facts

Education

Qualified teacher in mathematics, science and P.E. I am also one essay short of a master’s degree in pedagogics and leadership.

Life before Telia

I have spent 22 years in the public sector as a teacher and project manager for development initiatives. Just before I joined Telia, I was CIO and later CEO for a public network company.

Life outside work

I love making a difference in everything I do. So, I build and renovate houses, create wonderful gardens and right now I am overseeing the construction of a new swimming pool for lazy summer days at home. When I have the time, I support my daughter who is a competitive horseback rider or cheer for my son when he plays football. And almost every morning I head out for a run.

Family

I am a single mother with two teenagers, 15 and 18 years old.

Something you didn´t know about me

I love Ireland and worked there for a few years with horses. I have also written a book on horses for schools that have riding and other horse related subjects on the curriculum.