By Nicholas Allen, Class of 1992 Les Roches alumnus
Welcome to the 10th edition of Between You and Me. Last time out I caught up with my favorite Norwegian, Cathrine Magnus (Bakkerud). Now I’m keeping the Scandinavian theme going by shining the spotlight on a person who for me is elegance defined: class of ’93 graduate Linda von Beetzen.
Nicholas Allen (NA): What is your profession and current position?
Linda von Beetzen (LvB): I am Chairwoman of Sweden’s Association of Lay Judges. In Sweden we have 8,500 lay judges, and in my role as chairwoman I protect the interest of the lay judges in relation to government, the courts and other institutions. I also have my own consultancy business focused on business development for small and medium-sized companies.
NA: Who was your first room-mate at Les Roches?
LvB: The cool, smart, stunning, relaxed, thoughtful and beautiful Jamaican Ursula Wiesmann. Thanks Urs for sharing a room with me!
NA: Where did you grow up?
LvB: My parents worked for an international pharmaceutical company, so I grew up all over the place. My first year I lived in Sweden; then it was Mauritania, USA, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. When my parents then moved to China I decided that I wanted to get back to Sweden and go to a boarding school. After that I came to Switzerland and Les Roches.
NA: Whom has made the biggest impact on your professional career?
LvB: My father, mother, brother and husband. But also special thanks to my mentor from the beginning of the 90s, and nowadays also my close friend, Sören Hullberg. At the beginning of Sören’s career, he worked as a store manager for IKEA in Switzerland. Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA’s founder, was worried about the fact that “too many customers were shopping with an empty stomach”.
So Sören came up with the concept of having a food department. He created the concept in its entirety (system, logistics, team, efficiency, etc.) and he’s also the very person who came up with the idea to add the famous IKEA meatballs to the menu! A fun fact is that the meatballs are now IKEA’s best-selling product: over one billion sold each year.
NA: Who was your favorite teacher at Les Roches?
LvB: Mr Catrett – because he believed in me and saw potential that I did not see. I was very shy and needed a boost in my self-confidence at the time; and he really helped me with that. Another person that meant a lot to me at the time, even though not a teacher, was Mr Marc Bourgeouis. He was the General Manager of Hotel la Tour de Super Crans hotel, where I did my internship. An extraordinary person who inspired me very much – and we are still in contact.
NA: What’s your advice for new graduates?
LvB: You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, but you can change and adjust yourself to tackle life’s obstacles.
Be on fire in everything you do.
Always do more than you are expected to do; and always do everything a bit better than your competition.
Read every day (all leaders are readers).
Last but not least, create rituals in order to reach your goals.
NA: Who did you have a crush on at Les Roches?
LvB: Women should have lots of secrets… it’s our right to have secrets. Otherwise, what would we write in our memoirs?
NA: What is your fondest memory of Les Roches?
LvB: My time spent with my darling friends.
NA: Do you have any phobias?
LvB: Trypanophobia (fear of needles or injections).
NA: You can ask me one question, what is it?
LvB: Nick, you’re a single father of three beautiful daughters! Congratulations! I am curious to know what do you think is the most important impact you can have as a father to your girls and for what reason would you do it?
NA: Thank you, Linda. Yes, three beautiful girls who are my very soul. A very good question, especially in today’s society of empowerment. Although I do completely agree with gender equality and empowerment of all women, I still do have a strong belief in chivalry. And this is where I have tried to guide my girls for when they look at boys and through to men. I believe that men can be better men when they combine chivalry, compassion, empathy and kindness with their own ego.
And as a Dad, I make moments with my girls; we get a pedicure every two months and they pick my toenail color, then we go to boxing training. Hopefully this is what my girls look for when they meet a wonderful boy; or girl for that matter. Plus, they know I can knock out any asshole boyfriend, and I’ll do it with sparkly toes and a crisp ironed shirt!! 🙂
NA: Last question. You have organized a lavish dinner party with no expense spared. You can invite eight people, alive or dead, who are they?
LvB: The world has gone crazy and women need to step up and make the change. With 3.8 billion women you can’t deny our power and our dignity. I would therefore take this opportunity to discuss next steps in empowering women. We have come to the turning point for women´s equality and I think it is time for us to create a sustainable change. It is clear we need deeds, not just words. We need to be impatient for change and the time for change is now!
So here are my guests:
- Mae West – for her humor of gender
- Margaret Thatcher– the Iron Lady – for strategy
- Joan of Arc – for gathering an army to fight the good fight
- Rosa Parks – for her experience & knowledge. She has walked the walk
- Indira Gandhi – for her fight for women
- Coco Chanel – so we make sure we do it in style! She never married, having once said “I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird”
- Marie Curie – for the way she changed science, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize (which she was awarded twice)
- My mother – for giving me the courage to be myself and to always speak out
NA: Amen to that – thank you so much, Linda!