Engineering your own future

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Mimi Alladin

Engineering was never on Mimmi’s radar. In fact, you could say it was her second-choice career. “To be honest,” she says, “when I was young, I dreamt of being a doctor.”

When she didn’t get the grades needed to pursue medicine at the university near her hometown of Trollhättan in Sweden, she was repeatedly advised to instead pursue a career in nursing. “A doctor and a nurse are not the same things, according to me at least,” she says. “I didn’t want to be a nurse, so I had to think about what I should do.” For Mimmi, nursing was a more care-focused role, and her passion lay in problem-solving.

When she didn’t get the grades needed to pursue medicine at the university near her hometown of Trollhättan in Sweden, she was repeatedly advised to instead pursue a career in nursing. “A doctor and a nurse are not the same things, according to me at least,” she says. “I didn’t want to be a nurse, so I had to think about what I should do.” For Mimmi, nursing was a more care-focused role, and her passion lay in problem-solving.

She had to think about how she could still stay true, at least in part, to the initial career route she’d mapped out for herself. After rifling through university guides she settled on chemical engineering, because then at least she would be able to develop medicines, even if she couldn’t administer them. She’d picked the subject, sure, but she was still largely going into her studies blind and really didn’t know a huge amount about what she was letting herself in for.

The ‘back-up’ career

She enrolled at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and tried to make the best of a bad situation — after all, pursuing a secondary career didn’t exactly fill Mimmi with excitement. “My perception of being an engineer was very limited,” she says. “I had no idea that it would be so broad, so my perception was that I would just sit in a lab and start developing some new things.”

Thankfully, early on in her studies, she realized her back-up career wasn’t exactly that. “The university was very old and well-known,” she says. “I felt special when I started there and knew somehow that it was a good place to be. I didn’t know it from the beginning, but the fact I had made the right decision became clearer along the way.”

She quickly understood that an engineer isn’t a one-size-fits-all career and that it’s possible to take the diverse skills learned during the degree to many places. “My intention of developing medicines in a lab faded away and I understood there’s a lot of other stuff you can do in the corporate or industrial sector,” she says. “I enjoyed my last two years most as I could choose courses to suit my interests, like business and technical communication.”

During her five years at university, she’d done a U-turn on what she thought an engineer — and engineering as an industry — meant. “The old perception that engineers work at very dirty factories is not true. Your job is to solve problems, and that’s fun,” she says.

A change in direction

In 2003, Mimmi had an engineering degree at her disposal and was ready to enter the industry she’d worked so hard to learn everything about. But there was a setback. The job market in Sweden took a tumble and, even with her degree, she and many of her fellow graduates struggled to find a job.

She decided the best course of action was to diversify her skill set further and took on a business administration degree at the University of Gothenburg. “As soon as I had a double degree, I suddenly was interesting on the job market,” she says.

After she graduated for the second time, she took on various buying roles for the transport sector before joining as Manager Processes & Methods Supply Management at Siemens in 2009. It was her responsibility to manage a team of 12 procurement reports who would purchase the material needed for Siemens employees to fulfill their roles properly, including computers, telephones, and office equipment.

You might be thinking, how is chemical engineering relevant to such a role? Mimmi says she hasn’t specifically worked in engineering since graduating, but her degree is, in fact, her toolbox: “When you study engineering, you don’t just learn the specifics. You learn to think strategically in a holistic way, you learn how to work systematically.”

Turning the worldgreen

Mimmi’s engineering degree gave her the option to try different fields and test skills she didn’t even know she had. Promoted to her current role of Head of Business Development in 2015, her responsibility is now to pinpoint opportunities for collaboration and growth within different Siemens divisions.

One project focuses on creating hydrogen without releasing harmful carbon dioxide. So-called ‘green hydrogen’ has never been produced on an industrial scale before and, when it is available thanks to Siemens’ new electrolysis technology, it will be used to create sustainable solutions within the energy, transport, and industry sectors. It can, for example, make the production of materials like steel possible without the need for fossil fuels, and ultimately paves the way for a greener future.

“It’s a very new area and it’s my responsibility to make sure we can find the first customer in the Nordics,” she says. “I think the first order will come next year or the year after, and it will be in full bloom in the next five to 10 years.”

What’s the most exciting aspect of her role? “Firstly, I’m involved in very much future-orientated topics — things that are ahead of their time. I’m able to get to know about them then form a strategy around them,” she says. “Secondly, my day is never a routine and I really like solving complex problems.”

Engineering the future

Mimmi’s degree isn’t directly linked to her career path, but it gave her the resources to then follow — and excel at — a career that she otherwise might not have encountered. “I encourage people to pursue engineering studies,” she says. “My argument is always that you can get very interesting and fun jobs when you do this, and you can be part of changing the world.”

And as the world continues to change at such a fast pace, there will be more and more opportunities for people with an engineering degree up their sleeve to make an impact. “The world is facing a lot of challenges when it comes to climate and digitalization. Now I can actually be there solving future problems and being part of the solution,” she says.

Ultimately, Mimmi is proof that you can study one subject and apply the skills learned to a seemingly unrelated career. She believes so much in the power of engineering that she’s even encouraged her daughter to follow her example. “I’ve been able to convince my own daughter to pursue engineering. Now she has a masters in engineering and has just started at Siemens as a graduate trainee,” she says. “The reason is, you can do whatever you want when you do engineering.”

Mimmi Alladin joined Siemens in 2009 after working for five years in the automotive industry and is now Head of Business Development at Siemens, Nordics. Her previous roles were Manager Processes & Methods Supply Management and Procurement Manager Indirect Material.

Mimmi is a Future Maker — one of the 377,000 talented people working with us to shape the future.