Dr. Tina Persson

Dr. Tina Persson is an ICF Certified Career, Leadership & Team Coach aiming to empower and support high-performing professionals to be next-generation leaders and support them for long-term business success.

Her professional background is a blend of the academy (Ass. Prof) and 8 years in the corporate world as a headhunter, consultant, and brand manager.

She has published over 20 articles in international journals and is the founder of the biotech company Aptahem AB (www.aptahem.com) and host of the podcast PhD Career Stories (www.phdcareerstories.com).

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.

I grew up in a middle-class family with my brother and, of course, my parents. I learned from my early years that working hard and studying in the field of STEM would give me a good start in life. My mom never had the opportunity to study, so for her, her daughter needed to get the opportunity to choose her destiny. As a young girl, I had good grades in school, so it was a natural choice to start studying natural science at the university. At the university, the professor hand-picked me into starting a PhD in organic chemistry. 

After my PhD I was awarded a stipend to start my Postdoc career at the Max-Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen. Germany. I stayed as Postdoc and Senior scientist in Germany for over 5 years. Looking back, this stay has been crucial and the most important step in my career, even though I am not active as a PI in academia today.

After my Postdoc career, I was appointed as Lecturer at a smaller university in Sweden, Whereupon I started my Tenure Track career at Lund University. 

It was as Ass.Prof at Lund University, I slowly realized that I became increasingly demotivated. I loved to be a scientist but got increasingly involved in administrative matters. I got increasingly frustrated over the fact that I had to apply for grants to cover my salary. At that time, I had a group of 2 PhDs, Postdocs, and several collaborators working in my group. However, Said and done, I decided to leave academia and start looking for a career beyond the industry. This turned out to be easier said than done.

Being an Ass. Prof at the university, I tried to find raw models, but I couldn’t find any. What I found were female professors, but I didn’t want to become like them. I wanted something else out of my life and career.

The next step was to find a new career in the industry. This was extremely difficult as I learned they didn’t understand my background and why I wanted to leave. During this period, I got sick as I got more and more anxious about my financial situation, but also I started to feel worthless. Most likely, I suffered from imposter syndrome. Long story short. I took a decision.

  • If anyone in the future ends up in the same situation as me. Then I want to help them as no one deserves to feel the way I do, and no one deserves to be treated like I had been after I left academia. I kept that promise, but it would take another 10 years before I founded my company Passage2Pro AB.

Long story short, I finally got a job in the recruitment business where I stayed for 8 years. I learned an incredible lot eg. Doing business, sales marketing, and networking, and I also learned it’s OK to have fun on the job. Looking back I would say without the experience from the recruitment business it would have been difficult for me to run my company as I do today. 

  • I learned sales & business

After 8 years in the corporate world, I made a short trip to Karolinska Institute, Sweden, as Program Office Manager at the Career Service.

  • Then I stepped out of my comfort zone and started my company Passage2Pro 

Finally, I was ready!

Starting my company was my hidden dream, a dream that now saw its light.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it. 

My turning points are:

  • I decided to go to Germany and start a postdoc. Without this experience, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be part of Max-Planck Alumni. Today I deliver workshops and am coaching PhDS, Postdocs, and researchers at MPI. I am thankful for this opportunity. As well I speak a language that I am very proud of.
  • Another turning point that changed me completely was when I decided to leave academia and start a new career in the corporate world. At the time, this was very unusual, and most people did not understand why I left.

The next turning point was when I left the Swedish security system and took the risk to start my company Passage2Pro. For me, a significant step is growing up in a middle-class family with no entrepreneurs in the family.

Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea that made you start this brand? How did such a unique idea strike you, and what motivated you to “YES, go for it?”

You most likely find the answer in the above text. The idea came from the fact that I had done the shift leaving a career in academia behind me. It was extremely difficult, and I had no support, and at the time, there were no coaches or companies supporting people in a career transition. I decided:

  • If I can, I will make a change to that. And I slowly started to think about what I could do.

Working in the recruitment business, I got in contact with people having a different background from me, and at a time, I heard about the word – COACH. I got curious and started to google, looking for facts. 

I also started to investigate and learn more about myself, what I call self-awareness training for professionals today. Then I learned that I had chosen a career based on what I was good at but not necessarily what gave me energy. I became more aware of my drives & motivations, and I slowly started to realize I most likely had chosen the wrong career from the beginning. 

I am more business-driven, and I have a strong need to support and help people. I also want a certain degree of independence. All of that I could get by running a company. However, I was scared to take the step as I had a basic need for security. But, one day, I said. What the hell! Let’s go. What is the worst that can happen? I sold my flat and took a risk. 

After 2 years, I bought a new flat, and my company was doing fine. 

From the beginning, my company ideas were based on my experience. Still, today it has developed from solely focusing on PhD career focus to career transition/change for professionals, Leadership, executive, and team coaching. Also, I developed many workshops and wrote a book.

Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?

Today I am a Career, Leadership & Team Coach, Educator, Keynote Speaker wanting to make an impact in the Coaching & Educational field globally.

Digitalization is disruptive, and the world is in a global change. People and organizations must adapt to new circumstances for individuals and companies to survive. I want to be part of this process. Just the fact I am writing this document to Fuzzia shows how global the world is.

I want to be a raw model for people to follow their dream and dare to step out of their comfort zone, take a risk, and to do it.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms

Running a company means you have to adapt constantly, and you must take risks. I had a very smooth start as I quickly got clients basically because my offer was unique. At the time, there were not many offering PhDs or career coaching.

However, with time, the competition grew, and I had to expand my business geographically, leading to that I had to engage more in my sales strategy and as well broaden my offerings and programs. 

One milestone was to start collaborating with Nicola in India, now being my social media manager. 

Another milestone was to expand my business to the US, and the UK. Today, I am working on expanding further.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level? 

The coronavirus pandemic pushed my business to be 100% digital and online. I had planned this for some years but didn’t get the opportunity to kick off it. When the pandemic came I converted my business in less than 2 weeks. So, I was ready when the Pandemic was a fact. 

The pandemic made my business more global and I have after pandemic more collaborations than before.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention? 

I am very proud of the following:

  • Awarded with Outstanding Leadership in Dubai, December 2022
  • Awarded with Champion in Education, Florid, Mau 2023
  • Nominated to Scandinavian Business Award
  • Written the book – PhD Career Coaching Guide
  • Founder of the Podcast PhD Career Stories A volunteering project survived for over 6 years. More than 120+ podcasts and is ranked top 5 globally
  • Apart form testimonial on LinkedIn😊

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

Trust yourself! And be prepared to work hard for your dream and passion. Stay focused.

Also, accept that not everyone will love you for what you are doing. There will be people trying to destroy your passion and dream

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life? 

If you give up your dream is not big enough. 

The trick to surviving is to stand up, get dressed, and keep up focusing on your strategy. If your strategy is not working – grow your network, talk with people, adapt, change, and build a new strategy.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

I never focused on the fact that I am a woman. I focus on working with people sharing my passion, mission, and vision. It has turned out that my workforce is a blend of men and women. If you focus on the glass ceiling, you get the wrong focus, and you tend to see more problems than opportunities. I go for opportunities. 

My advice for women in their careers I say: Try to work around the problems, don’t attack them as they tend to kick back on you.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

Trust yourself! And be prepared to work hard for your dream and passion. Stay focused.

Also, accept that not everyone will love you for what you are doing. There will be people trying to destroy your passion and dream

That is life so surround yourself with people believing in you. 

There will come a day when you must cut off some branches the moment you start growing a new tree.