We are excited to share the story of Mika Lindahl, an associate and a team manager at Kidbrooke Advisory. She has been working at the company for more than 1.5 years now, successfully balancing deep technical expertise with excellent leadership skills. In this short interview piece, Mika tells us about her career choice, her role in quantitative finance and her message to women considering a similar path.
Tell us about your role at Kidbrooke. What types of projects have you been working on so far? What are you working on right now?
I am an associate consultant and a team-manager at Kidbrooke, so I'm mostly out on projects at our customers’. I usually have several simultaneous projects that I am engaged with, so it feels like I'm always changing the settings. Besides this, I also support the in-house sales processes and coordinate my team’s performance reviews and development plans. I have been mostly working with large Swedish insurance companies. More specifically, I've participated in a project concerning the capital requirement part of the Solvency II directive, which entailed validating internal models and the development of the quantitative methodology.
At present, the industry struggles with manual processes, such as coordinating the data coming from different departments on multiple excel sheets and systems, which usually lead to general inefficiency and inaccurate calculations of, for instance, capital requirements. Therefore, we help our customers to leverage automation making their risk processes more effective, useful for decision-making and compliant. Aside from that, I am also working on establishing the corporate training processes for the internal and the external staff at one of our clients. This project aims to ensure that the qualification of the customers' employees meets the regulatory standards.
Why did you choose to work at Kidbrooke?
I’ve known that I wanted to deploy both technical and people-skills in my career. I've always loved meeting new people and learning more about them – so it was an essential criterion for me. Therefore, consulting became an industry of choice. While looking for a role at a company that could accommodate both factors, I came across Kidbrooke, which provided advisory services focused on risk management to large financial institutions. They placed a lot of emphasis on selecting the best talent regarding technical skills and knowledge in finance, which resonated a lot with what I’ve been looking for. Finally, it was important to me to develop in the environment of a flat organisational structure that would ensure that the opinions of everyone are heard and taken seriously, regardless of seniority – and Kidbrooke confidently checked that box for me too.
Have you always known that you wanted to work in a technical field? Why did you choose to work in the financial industry?
When I was five, I wanted to be a Vet (Chuckles). But of course, it changed over the years, and during my studies, the choices I’ve made were driven by my passion for mathematics. The financial industry was not an option for me at the time, because it was rumoured to be this ‘heartless domain of money-driven boring people’. Opting for natural sciences specialisation in high school and an engineering major in the university gave me the necessary base for working in tech, although I had not immediately decided on the industry. It was still the passion for math and physics driving me through the bachelor’s years. Towards the end of the first three years though, I decided that a master’s in Financial Mathematics seemed to suit me the most regarding my wishes to combine working with people and leveraging my skills in maths. This eventually drove me towards the financial industry, and more so towards risk management.
What is it like to work in a male-dominated field within quite a male-prevalent industry? Are there any skills you have recognised while working with men?
Honestly, I am very used to working in a male-dominated environment since my decision to specialise in natural sciences at high school. And that is actually kind of sad… It would have been great to have a female role model to follow. Most of the role models that we spoke about in university were almost exclusively successful white males. I am a strong believer that diversity of staff is crucial for a companies’ success. In fact, I am driving an initiative ensuring that we have this factor in mind at all times. This becomes increasingly important in the recruitment process, which in our experience really benefited from a more diverse pool of candidates. Moreover, we make a conscious effort to ensure we always form diverse groups internally so that we can benefit from each other’s background and experiences.
To answer the second question, I have realised I may have skills that are not as common in present-day quantitative finance. Many of my colleagues tend to focus a bit more on the technical side of the issues, while I feel like I could be slightly better in facilitating an efficient dialogue throughout the process. The importance of good people-skills is particularly evident in the setting of larger projects, where one needs to get the majority on board to make the assignment move forward. It's sort of an ability to see the bigger picture.
Any advice you would like to give to women considering working within the technical area or the financial industry?
One thing that I feel really helped me is to have more confidence in my statements and judgements, even though it might not feel entirely justified in the beginning. I have always had problems with self-doubt, and I tend to have thoughts like ‘'Am I good enough to do this?'' and ‘'Can I really manage this?''. The answer should always be "Yes!". When I was promoted to be a Team Manager, I was thrilled, but the bits of self-doubt began to haunt me immediately. However, telling myself that I can always figure it out and it is okay not to have all the answers at once, helped me a lot.
Another thing: Be confident in speaking your opinion! It is very common that male-dominant meetings are loud, and people tend to talk over each other. Don´t be afraid of being more expressive about delivering your message.
And of course, have a great International Women's day everyone and good luck with all your boldest projects!