Career path: From engineering to business analysis
Being a business analyst at a consumer goods company was never on David Björklund’s ‘career bingo card’ when he left university, but he moved from making combustion engines more efficient in 2013 to helping Absolut become more efficient by analysing troves of data.
When he pitched up at The Absolut Company in 2013, David didn’t intend to hang around. He was a consultant working with innovations and venture capital when a role for a two-month assignment at The Absolut Company landed in his lap.
“Before working at the Absolut Company, I’d spent most of my work life in engineering. When joining Absolut, it wasn’t even a full-time contract – I managed to negotiate a four-day week – but I have been hanging around the company for more than a decade now,” says David. “I love it here. It’s a diverse place, with people from different backgrounds and different cultures and we have amazing products. Conviviality is a genuine trait across our organisation, regardless of whether you are talking to someone in China, Mexico or France.”
David didn’t stay a consultant for long and in 2014 was working in the marketing department at Malibu, where he stayed for four years. “My time working for the Malibu brand was an incredible journey, as we were redefining its global strategy. I stayed long enough not only to do the PowerPoint slides but also to see the strategy come to fruition. Malibu has been on an incredible run for the past 10 years.”
The Malibu marketing experience wasn’t lost on David. It gave him valuable insights on how businesses can thrive – skills he now uses in his current finance department role as Director of Business Performance at The Absolut Group, leading a team of eight. “My time with Malibu generated many fantastic personal memories because I was meeting people from all around the world, but it also gave me deep insights on how to drive business forward and how we can work as one team, in different locations across various time zones.”
David and his current team’s role is to track the business globally: to identify opportunities for growth and efficiencies by digging into the troves of data at their disposal. He is inspired by the company’s global reach – Absolut is one of the most global businesses he has ever encountered, which is notable given David began his career straight from university at Swedish multinational, Volvo.
“I find it incredibly inspiring that you can get hold of a bottle of Absolut almost anywhere in the world,” says David. “As part of the finance team, we control costs and give our internal stakeholders across the brands a fair assessment of how the business is performing. We examine how our market share is evolving, the dynamics of the market and how we are viewed by consumers. And most importantly, we look for business opportunities.”
Not surprisingly, tracking and forecasting performance has been challenging since 2020. The social restrictions and the subsequent supply chain crisis rendered historical data largely irrelevant given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic. However, as with all areas of the Absolut business, David and his team have leaned on their experiences for the better. “I have never witnessed anything like the last two to three years – from being almost at a standstill in the factory to an explosion of demand. In many ways, we have been forced to find new data sources to connect the dots to what’s happening in the marketplace in a more intricate way. We are more agile in our analysis today.”
He smiles when people question how an engineering graduate became a marketing manager before ending up as a business analyst, with no apparent rhyme or reason. His wife Anna used to make fun of him for being the “engineer that ended up promoting Malibu”, while David admits that it wasn’t on his “bingo card for a future career”.
David adds: “It is unusual for someone to move from marketing to finance, but I was always the guy from an engineering background with a quantitative bent – I was closest to the business among the marketeers. That said, making a complete career change was nerve-wracking for someone in their mid-30s, but the patience of my manager at the time was outstanding. She believed in me and stood by me.”
I find it incredibly inspiring that you can get hold of a bottle of Absolut almost anywhere in the world.David Björklund, Director Business Performance
A decade on from working with technology to reduce engine emissions and starting his four-day-a-week, two-month contract at Absolut, David’s burning ambition is to help protect and grow Absolut’s global footprint – so its products are “available everywhere while remaining true to our values”.
“As a company, we need to constantly improve our efficiency, not just financially but also from an environmental footprint point of view by making the world a better place,” says David. “In my little universe, this means that my team are collaborating positively and moving the needle in the right direction.”
David is gearing up for this next chapter at TAG while ensuring that he has a healthy work-life by spending quality time with his wife Anna and three children, going to the gym regularly and playing tennis every week. All of which begs the question of whether David still works a four-day week. “That never ever materialised,” he jokes.
The Absolut Company is willing to invest in getting the most out of people. There is a positive mindset in that we can make people grow in ways that are sometimes unexpected. For me, this has involved training at Columbia University and Insead and being able to move in a completely different direction from marketing to finance.
There is an important emotional element and from a business perspective, sustainability, and resilience go hand in hand.
Positivity is at the foundation of our culture. It is incredibly difficult to explain it to an outsider, but you always feel you are in good company, wherever you are around the world.