Henrik Nilsson was born in a small town called Halmstad in the south of Sweden in 1976. At that time, no one could expect that he would work all across the globe in four continents before an age of 35. From Stockholm to Cape Town to San Diego, to mention a few of the several working destinations Henrik has experienced during his journey at the company Education First (EF). Quite impressive! But how did it all start? What was it in the big world that tempted him? I got the opportunity to listen to Henrik’s story.
Since his childhood Henrik has always had a passion for people and services, which was why an education in hospitality management felt natural. When you meet Henrik, you can tell that he is a curious person who likes adventures, which is why I was not surprised that he decided to study abroad. He spent four years in Switzerland, studying at the leading university for hospitality management: Ecole Hotèliere de Lausanne. After finishing his education, Henrik’s plan was to move overseas to the United States to kick-start his hotel career. But as in most cases, the plan didn’t turn out as he´d thought. Instead, he received a call from his cousin who had worked for EF and thought the company would be a perfect fit with Henrik’s experience. So he did start in EF Stockholm as a Sales Coordinator, and he loved the company! However, the desire to go abroad was still there, which was why Henrik didn’t say no when he got the opportunity to work at the headquarter in Luzern in Switzerland as a Communication Manager. As the Communication Manager he was responsible for all internal communication, sales statistics and sales events.
Two years later, Henrik was asked to broaden his responsibilities and move to London. The new position in London implied responsibility for finding and opening of new EF schools around the globe, which was a completely new and different task compared to previous work. The challenges did not wait. After a couple of days Henrik was asked to fly over to Cape Town in South Africa to find a location to open a new EF school in a short period of time! Stoked and nervous at the same time, Henrik grabbed the first flight available. Did he manage to solve the task? You bet he did! Since then, Henrik has been involved in opening schools in places like Paris, Malaga, Chicago, and San Diego to mention a few.
One day his manager walked up to him and said ‘I know your dream job always has been to run your own hotel… Now I would like you to run your own school!’ ‘Do you want to go to Hawaii to open a brand new school or go to San Diego to run an existing school?’ What do you think Henrik answered? Of course he chose Hawaii where he had the chance to build a completely new team and put his own mark on it. To cite Henrik: ‘Nothing is Impossible’. In only three weeks he managed to open a school in Honolulu for over 200 students. Henrik and his family spent two years in Hawaii before he got promoted as a Sales Director in the new headquarter in Zurich, Switzerland. In 2011 he got the chance to find a new location for the EF school in San Diego that was supposed to open in the beginning of 2016. At the same time, the school was looking for an Executive Director and they found Henrik to be the perfect match. Since 2016, Henrik has been running the EF school in Point Loma in San Diego. Being the Executive Director means not only a responsibility for staff and students, but also the entire facility, safety and off course the financials. Henrik is pretty much now running his own ‘hotel’.
I was very curious to know where he finds his motivation and energy. Henrik lets me know that two of his biggest sources of energy are to do what he is really passionate about and to be surrounded by people he likes. ‘I love my job and the people I work with, which make me smile every day I go to work’. Furthermore, he explains that his supportive family has been an important factor for his successful career. Another thing that fascinated me is the fact that Henrik has been working for the same company for more than 15 years. ‘The EF culture and the infinitive career opportunities have been the contributing factors’ says Henrik. He explains that the atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed but there is still a high tempo and high goals. The fact is that if you want to go abroad and explore, there is nothing that holds you back, as long as you prove that you work hard.
Lastly, I asked Henrik about the future and at the moment he seems very satisfied with the present. ‘I love my work and I enjoy San Diego’s weather, its cool atmosphere and the fact that you have so many nice places to travel to just next door’. But If I have gotten to know Henrik right, I am convinced that his journey will continue to several new cool places and positions, and I am truly curious what’s next to come in his career.
A Working Day:
6 am Exercise – Jogging, gym
7 am Breakfast – Coffee & Yoghurt
7.30 am Arriving at work – Going through emails, reports, and having a stroll around the campus
12 am Lunch in the Cafeteria with the students
1 pm Customer Service Training
4 pm Meeting
7 pm Dinner with the family
The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce in San Diego is a thriving network of companies and individuals interested in the commercial and social exchange between Sweden and the Southern California’s San Diego region.
SACC is partly funded with City of San Diego Funds.
Swedish American Chamber of Commerce - San Diego
4475 Mission Boulevard, Suite 211
San Diego CA, 92109
Phone: +1 (858) 276 1210