To the top with decency
A seat on the Executive Board of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wasn’t an objective for Susanne Hyldelund, but after a couple of decades in the organisation she has one anyway – and fits it perfectly.
“I didn’t see myself on the Executive Board of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when I started my career. Not in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at all. But I have always been happy with the high level of professionalism throughout the ministry and have tried to approach the task of leadership with humility and without being pushy. This has brought me recognition from my bosses and support from my colleagues.”
Susanne studied market economics at Aarhus School of Business in order to gain a broad base, and dreamed of an international career. She could have ended up exporting cheese, but by chance she met someone who worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs…
Career as a globalist
“Today, candidates for jobs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are very experienced and well prepared. They have been abroad with NGOs or on placements. They have worked in refugee camps or international companies. They have become global citizens and globalists.”
Because Susanne Hyldelund herself ended up in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a somewhat atypical background, she doesn’t recommend a specific qualification, but instead advises against those where, in future, tasks will potentially be taken over by machine learning and artificial intelligence. On an international trajectory, it’s more than just the qualification that must be chosen carefully.
“I always advise that if you want to have an international career, you should choose your partner carefully. You need the whole family to support you – otherwise it’s difficult to get mobility and career to go together. In my case, this has meant that my husband’s CV is somewhat reminiscent of a Swiss cheese – it’s a little hollow and a little more messy.”
Smooth on the outside – can be rough at home
As a employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Susanne is obliged to transfer to other locations, and has lived with her family in Washington, Warsaw and Shanghai among other places. Particularly during foreign assignments, private and working life often run into each other, with events in the home and because relationships merge together more.
“My working life is a lifestyle and has given us many experiences as a family. We have grown closer because we have only had each other when we’ve arrived in a new place. The move between overseas and Denmark has given me perspective on how others view Danes and Denmark and how we can solve societal challenges in different ways.”
The hardest part for the family has typically been returning to Denmark after years away, because qualifications obtained abroad have sometimes been difficult to translate to Danish standards. Some people take leave from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but Susanne hasn’t yet taken the opportunity to try out other organisations or companies.
Gender not so important
When Susanne Hyldelund was 36, she was encouraged to apply for her first managerial job – and she got it. When she first became an office manager, she was on the management track, based on her natural authority and non-pushy style. Her gender has never been an obstacle.
“I have never felt discriminated against as a woman or experienced others being discriminated against. Abroad, I have often been one of very few women, and it has been noticed and commented on, especially when I was younger. I might even have been remembered a little better as a result. It has also been taken into account, but I’ve sometimes been glad of that, such as when Chinese rice brandy was served.”
Outside Denmark’s borders, Susanne Hyldelund felt that the gender equality debate was very small compared to her home country. It has always been a question of her function rather than her as a person, so gender has felt less important. The same applies to her path to the board of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, as of January 2019, consists of three women and two men.