CLS Board Member Aira de Mello, is Consumer Experience Director at Volvo Car Portugal. She has worked with communication and multinationals companies all her professional life and has gained valuable experience in the way of working, relating and problem-solving from many cultures. We are glad to share her letter to our community about her background, passions and on how it is to work with Swedes, and with one the most well-known Swedish companies – Volvo!
I guess I have an exotic background, being born in southeast Africa back in the 70s when Mozambique was a Portuguese colony paradise. My mother worked in the National Radio and my father worked with marketing, so communication runs in the family. But the easy living and endless beaches were soon replaced by a colder and greyer Lisbon. When revolution and a civil war stroke, we all had to leave in a rush. I lost my bearings, my friends and parts of my family moved to South Africa, others to Brazil.
Life went on and like for many others, I gained new friends, rode bicycles, played with dolls and cars, studied and finished university. In 1996 I started a career through various companies with the goal to always to improve my skills. Each move entailed more knowledge, more experience and more responsibilities. My career journey has stretched from Shell, Ogilvy, Wunderman, Fiat, BMW… to finally end up at Volvo, where I have worked since 2008.
“Volvo for Life” is much more than a motto. Frankly, I was far from finding such a unique approach to business and such a Brand – what a Brand!
Volvo is so easy to fall in love with. The care, the understanding, the respect for life, it’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by “the Brand of people who care about other people”. Volvo was never a F1 world champion, but it saved more than 1 million lives with the 3-point safety belt invention alone. Is there any stronger and more beautiful victory than this? It’s not just a car, it is a statement.
Well, now you know it’s not just a job, I’m a true Volvo fan. But what about Sweden? How do I like the cuisine? The weather? The people?
It’s a bit difficult for any Portuguese to be a fan of any foreign alternatives (!) We find it hard to replace a nice pack of grilled sardines and “sangria” or the Portuguese “Cozido” with salmon and meatballs. Honestly, I would skip the Smörgåsbord but I am totally mad about the Kanelbullar! So... half fan.
Regarding the Scandinavian weather, it’s amazing how Swedes cope with it! My first time in Sweden was in June and it barely got dark. I came back by winter, and it was night all day and -25 degrees… but the northern lights, what a surreal magnificent wonder! It’s amazingly beautiful and compensating for the parts I’ve found challenging. Half fan, again.
As for Swedish people, well, they do not party or socialize as much as Italians or Spanish, may not be as methodic as Germans, they do not have the British sense of humor. Sometimes their reserved personality led people to consider them cold and distant … that’s very unfair, I find them stoic and tough but, at the same time, friendly and caring, in fact Swedes are some of the politest people I know. If they do not cry and chat and smile all the time is because they truly don’t feel like it, it’s not in their nature, that’s being honest.
We say that Volvo was “Made by Sweden” - the country shaped the brand. Its extreme weather forged a strong and resilient product that would face all adversities and would prevail - robust, lasting, and safe. Its Scandinavian roots inspired a minimalistic and functional design where superfluous does not exist and all is smart and easy to handle, making life easy and intuitive. Its kind, helpful and caring people - strongly attached with nature – brought the omtanke into everything we do. This Swedish word, sometimes difficult to translate in other languages, says it all and means: Putting people first, being altruistic in sharing all we develop with our competitors because life is more valuable than profit. Amazing!
Now back to earth and trivialities. I love to travel (>40 countries and counting) – you spend money but became richer in experiences! I enjoy riding my motorcycle (yes, not the safest, but you must find the balance, literally), read my books, pet my furry cat and naughty parrot (he talks and sings a lot) and walk along the beach with my husband Paulo and our two big dogs. Even though the Portuguese beaches are smaller and freezing compared to the endless beaches I left behind so many years ago in Africa, they are still as beautiful and energy charging. Let’s hope future generations also may have the simple sweet pleasure of walking on the sand with waves rolling at their feet. It would mean we did something positive for their future.
I wish you all a great new year, with good health and better stories to remember!
Aira de Mello