Tag Archives: MartaStockholm

MSc of Finance at SSE, or why 13 is a lucky number

The first time I considered applying to a business school, SSE came up on top of my list. It was 3.5 years ago, and I was looking for a BSc program in Economics. My first impression after googling SSE? “It’s one of 20 best European business schools!”

I have to admit, with Financial Times rankings, explaining my choice of university has been a piece of cake. Usually, it’s enough to say I study for MSc in Finance at SSE, the program ranked 13th in Europe.  Yep, after that kind of intro, my “Why SSE?” story never gets told. People just nod in understanding, and ask no more questions.

Here’s the great thing about writing a blog: you don’t get interrupted that early on. Now, I’ve finally got a chance to say that there’s much more to my choice than the Financial Times ranking. Of course, SSE web-site has it all structured and nice, but I’d like to get a bit more sentimental, if not completely irrational about my 13 reasons for studying Finance at SSE:

…When you leave a computer lab at 12.30 am, there still are people staying on.

…Corporate presentations are up every day, sometimes twice a day. Hey, free dinner, and sometimes, lunch, too! Isn’t that exciting?

… Most Nobel Laureates in Economics have visited SSE at some point. In other words, there’s a strong correlation between presenting your research at SSE and winning a Nobel Prize in Economics. But no pressure, no pressure whatsoever.

… Submit your investment banking applications like a pro. Well, most of your course-mates are pros at that!

…Eager to see the King of Sweden? Not a problem! The likelihood of meeting His Royal Highness is higher if you study at SSE Riga though.

…Hungry for some contemporary art? Welcome to SSE! We’ve got a pretty interesting piece in the Atrium now.

…You’ve got a case about H&M? IKEA? Volvo? 90% chance that their C-level managers graduated from SSE.

…Stuck in Sweden for 2 years? Not at SSE! The only continent you can’t go on exchange to, is Antarctica.

…Study hard, party harder! Note: a lot of parties start with a sit down banquet. So be ready with your tuxedos, gentlemen.

…We’ve got amazing professors! But judging them by the number of publications in peer reviewed journals is too mainstream. I’m counting real stuff: like making it on time for the lecture after the sprint to get the mac connector cable.

…Your course mates might have worked for Barclays, interned at European Parliament or climbed Everest. In the end of the day, no boring talks at parties – guaranteed!

…The guy/girl ratio is 4/1. Ladies, are you still hesitating?

…A case study a day keeps us awake. Naah, this time it’s only two cases a week. Relax, man!


Breaking news! Kindness Revolution in Stockholm

There are days when you walk right in the middle of the street. You breathe deeply, scattering around shining smiles. And you catch passers’-by gazes – sometimes surprised, often distrustful, but more and more often – warmly encouraging. After a while, you realize that a smile can perform miracles…

It was a greyish Sunday afternoon. November treated Stockholm nicely: no snow yet, just a little drizzle. The spacy square of Sergels Torg was enjoying its fair bit of rest. Busy week-days were lying ahead…

Suddenly, a couple of people in orange froze in a hugging pose right in the middle of the square. Soon, more and more orange shirts joined in. Some were kneeling to help their buddies with shoe ties, others – reaching out to offer an umbrella, or to give directions to tourists, or to encourage the disappointed, or to offer a tissue to somebody crying.  Was it how it looked from the outside? I was standing in an orange sweater in this crowd of weirdoes, catching some surprised gazes, and bursting with excitement.  The same day, the same song, the same dance, – 80 cities around the globe united by Dance for Kindness!



Gentle music was playing in the background. It was getting louder and louder, until one seemingly frozen orange shirt woke up. She moved forward and started dancing. 2 more joined in. 8 more! Wait, but they are all dancing, – orange shirts and bright scarves, 8-year old kiddos and grandpas, – jumping, and spinning, and screaming “The revolution of Love!”.  I was in the moment, feeling the energy of every move, and eager to spread the warmth of that feeling all around me.


One moment to be happy, where you are
Don’t think about yesterday, don’t re-open scars
Be the one to knock the first domino over
once you smile so will that guy over your shoulder…


Yep, we’ve all experienced that feeling: like the world is ours. And we laugh, and dance, and shine with happiness. Why not empower others, smile to strangers, spread that feeling on inclusion and encouragement? After all, happiness grows exponentially when shared!




Credit for the photos: Deesha Domah

Credit for the song words: Charlotte Bromner, Life Vest Inside web-site

Would fifty switch to English for one? The story of one dancing lesson

Imagine this: you are at the rehearsal before a dance flashmob. Trying to understand the explanations – all in Swedish, you suddenly hear the lead dancer asking: “Does everyone understand Swedish here?” Would the instructor and fifty-something dancers switch to English for one person’s sake? If you are in Sweden, the answer is: YES!

I remember the story one Korean friend told me a year ago, when I did my exchange semester in Austria. So his story went … “I’m in the kitchen, all absorbed with my cooking, when two Swedish guys come in. They’re talking about their own stuff, when I suddenly realize I can understand them… They started speaking English between themselves, because I was there in the kitchen!”

I never cease being amazed about how open-minded Swedes are. Last Sunday, I went to that dancing session without second thoughts about the language. I know the steps, and dancing shouldn’t be too much of a language barrier. But one shouldn’t underestimate the feeling of inclusion one feels when speaking the same language as everyone else. That’s why I couldn’t help but feel grateful to Maria, our lead dancer, for asking that question: whether everyone could understand Swedish.

I should drop a line about the symbolism of it… What we were rehearsing was Dance for Kindness, the flashmob to take place all over the Planet next Sunday, November 9th, on World Kindness Day. I’ll make sure to share my impressions from the flashmob, so stay tuned!


Credit for the Headline photo: official Dance For Kindness 2014 banner. Official FB page here.


A pre-dancing inspiration from our Head Dancer, Maria Huhtinen. Credit for the photo: Deesha Domah



Dance for Kindness in motion. Credit for the photo to Deesha Domah

Business Studies: Is it all evil?

Around three years ago, I entered a business school, with my head full of Adam Smith’s invisible hands, Friedman’s money helicopters and Ricardo’s comparative advantages. I expected something like “general principles of money making” from my first lecture in Entrepreneurship and Business Planning. Instead, the PowerPoint title said “Why shit rules and how to make the world suck less.

What followed was the story of designing a portable wheel toilet – to tackle the problem of 2.5 bln. people in developing countries lacking basic sanitation services. Our Entrepreneurship Professor, Fionn Dobbin, told us about his journey to India, about developing a toilet prototype, meeting Muhammad Yunus, and finally lunching the product. This was my first introduction to social business, and the extent of impact achievable thrilled me.

I was lucky to figure out early enough what I wanted to study. However, stereotypes still got me: at first, I was too firm of a believer in “homo economicus”. From the outside, it’s easy to make this conclusion about business students: that we are in it for money…  Then I became a business student myself and realized a whole range of options: from investment banking to social entrepreneurship. I have to admit, my alma mater, Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, offered a great deal of eye-openers to make me realize this: business is about value creation, not money-making.

Now, what about you, folks? Ever thought of enrolling in the business school? Here’s what I believe holds true for any education (or career) choice: let your major lie in the intercept of three magical circles: What you enjoy doing, What you do well and What pays well. Ok, that was a pragmatic piece of advice. Now, an idealistic piece of advice: forgo clichés, forget about peer pressure and don’t be afraid to rebel against your parents, – just go after what you truly love.  

Yeah, some final thoughts on this one.  If you think business is your passion, remember this: Business is about making a difference; making money is merely a by-product. 


Credit for the photo: http://mayrsom.com/tag/finance/

My first two months in Stockholm

I woke up in the morning to realize that today it’s two months since I’m in Sweden. Now that I think about it, Sweden seems so familiar, with cute narrow streets of Stockholm Old Town, and countless boats on blue-and-green background of canals and parks.

I became friends with Swedes years ago, when I visited Pippi in her Villa Villekulla, and followed Karlson in his wanderings along Stockholm’s rooftops.  Actually, Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking was my favorite childhood book. I re-read it so many times I knew it almost by heart.

A year ago, I came to Stockholm in person. The city on 14 islands fascinated me with its charming royal spirit, its fair-haired sporty people, its comfortable metro and vibrant cosmopolitan atmosphere. It certainly felt good to be to be able to speak English with anyone.  It certainly didn’t feel that good to lunch in McDonalds, as everything else seemed way over my modest student budget. I explored the city for a couple of days, and left for Riga with a firm belief that I’d come back.

I did come back to study Finance at Stockholm School of Economics. Now, two months into my relationship with my dream city, we haven’t grown bored with each other…  On the contrary, Stockholm keeps surprising me:

… I got a rose on the street one day. “Because there are elections in a week”, they explained.

… I started my Swedish lessons and realized that the trickiest thing in Swedish is vowels. Well, gotta train my throat capacity.

… The first time I cycled around the city, I got lost in the suburbs. Turns out, there’s a camping site close to near I live. I probably should have stayed there that night, because it started raining cats and dogs.

… SSE hosts a Nobel Banquet after-party this year. Gotta hang out with Nobel laureates, if not the King…

… To me, walking in the forest along the waterfront is unbearable: everyone else is jogging!

Dark winters may lie ahead, but for now, let’s just enjoy the golden trees and frosty autumn mornings!