Not long ago Ann Emilson was a stay-at-home mum taking care of her three children while her husband was busy building his career. But since then the roles have changed dramatically. Ann Emilson is now President of Ericsson in Singapore and her husband has found out how to be the housewife.
By: Rikke Bjerge Johansen
When their oldest son was born, Ann Emilson made a decision.
She would quit her job for a while to become a housewife, and stay home with their three kids who are now seven, nine and twelve. But the deal was clear. When the youngest daughter was ready for kindergarten, she got back into business with the goal to go abroad when the oldest son reached the age of ten.
“I was never concerned if it would be a problem to get back in the job market. I have self confidence enough to believe in my skills and in contrary to many women I had no problem of letting go of the control over the children and the refrigerator, “Ann Emilson says.
The thoughtful words come with honesty, which sums up the very pleasant Ann Emilson. The 42- year-old Swedish business woman is remarkably open, witty and charismatic – and her intuition has proved to be correct. It wasn’t a problem for her to return to the job market.
On the contrary, after four years as a stay-at-home mum she was in her own words “hungry for business,” and was welcomed back with open arms at Ericsson, where she originally started as a trainee in 1989. She quickly managed to work her way back up by showing them what she was worth. In return they offered her the job as the new President in Singapore with a start in November 2005.
“They gave me a second chance and that’s what is so great about this company,” she adds.
When Ann and her husband Johan were younger they tried to live in different countries around Europe. But since they got children they stayed in Stockholm, so it was a big step to move the family to Singapore in January 2006.
“It was a big, big decision. My oldest son cried when he heard we were moving away from Sweden and all his friends. It was so hard,” she recalls with honesty.
The family moved and the kids quickly got used to the new life in Singapore, learning English fluently and quickly finding new friends at school. However, one person struggled to adjust to his new life – Ann’s husband, Johan.
He and Ann met at the Linköping Institute of Technology some 22 years ago when they both took a Master of Science degree in Industrial Economics.
“I’m an engineer. I don’t have a very deep interest in technology, but I love mathematics,” she tells.
After studying Ann joined Ericsson and Johan started up several independent companies’. They soon married, travelled the world and began to build their respective careers. But it’s different now in Singapore, with Johan now responsible for the daily routine of the kids, while Ann works hard to settle into her new role as the President.
“He was a housewife for the whole first year in Singapore. And while of course he was happy to be close to the kids, he became very restless. He tried really hard to mingle with the expatriot community who were out here with their working spouse, but they were all women and he got depressed doing nothing,” she says.
But Johan’s mood changed when he met an Australian guy and they decided to start up a new company called SiniMed, which provides IT for health care.
“He had to do it, and it was also to my benefit. He was a mourning housewife,” Ann laughs.
Loves her job
Being the President of Ericsson in Singapore is the perfect job for Ann. She loves it.
“It’s a fantastic company and I enjoy every day of working,” she tells and adds:
“Every morning I feel so great when I come in the office. Here in Singapore we are 200 people and I love the complexity. It’s all about team work and problem solving. I love working with our customers and watching how the companies are expanding and booming here in Asia.”
However, being the first female President in Singapore she admits she was nervous when she first started.
“In the beginning I took my role very seriously and I always thought I could do better than I did – a typical flaw for us women. I also had to change my appearance a bit. Back in Sweden we’re not used to caring about designer brands and the bosses dress like everybody else. But here it’s different and my amazing PR-manager Jacinta recommended me nice brands, her hairdresser,
and other stuff which is very important out here. But you have to respect it’s a more formal system in Asia,” Ann explains.
A price to pay
Even though she has a great life she’s also extremely aware of the downside to her career.
“From the outside it seems the family has the perfect life. But we have our problems just like anybody else. The price I’m paying is the time with my kids. I travel every week for one to two days. I don’t get home earlier than 8 pm every night and every second vacation is disturbed by work,” she tells.
The plan is to be in Singapore for several years, before the family moves back to Sweden for good.
“This Singapore experience gives my kids so much in return. They learn a new language, they become independent, open minded and they learn how to respect other cultures – which includes not looking down on anyone,” she tells.
Then she adds with a big smile:
“And my kids have a present dad and a very happy mum.”
Facts about Ann’s job:
a) Ericsson is a world-leading provider of telecommunications equipment and related services to mobile and fixed network operators globally. Over 1,000 networks in 140 countries utilize our network equipment and 40 percent of all mobile calls are made through our systems. Through Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications joint venture, Ericsson offer a range of mobile devices, including those supporting multimedia applications and other services allowing richer communication.
b) Ann Emilson is responsible for all of Ericsson’s business with Singapore and Brunei customers, which includes her customers’ regional activities across the Asia-Pacific region.
c) Ericsson established the Singapore office in 1986.
d) Ann Emilson is the first lady President at Ericsson Singapore.