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Jonas Gustavsson is CEO of the engineering company Afry. He is also an alumni at LTU.
Jonas Gustavsson is President and CEO of the engineering company Afry. He is also an alumni at Luleå University of Technology. Photo: Ted Karlsson. View original picture , opens in new tab/window

"The best engineers are educated in Luleå"

Published: 16 January 2018

In 1990, Jonas Gustavsson made the trip north to study for a master degree in mechanical engineering. After completing his education, he has made a star career including leading positions at ABB and Sandvik. Since 2017 he is the President and CEO of the engineering company Afry.

Jonas Gustavsson seems to be in a great mood when he arrives at Luleå University of Technology, a beautiful winter day in January. In addition to visiting his old university he will meet Afrys employees in Luleå.

Passion for cross-country skiing

– It hurts to come back to Luleå and see how much snow there is and at the same time realize how much I miss it where I live (Västerås, commutes to Stockholm). Cross country skiing is my great passion and it was mainly what made me choose to eduacte me in Luleå. One summer night me and a friend packed my Volvo 240 and drove here. I had wonderful years in Luleå together with wonderful people. Thanks to the fact that many had moved far from home and lived directly adjacent to the campus, there was a nice feeling and community.

Although the time as a university student were a great time for Jonas Gustavsson, it was not without challenges.

– I was struggling with the basic courses in math and physics, it was quite tough to find a study technique that worked for me. But after two years, it went better.

The best education there is

The competence that Jonas Gustavsson gained through his studies has been very useful in his career, and engineering is something he really recommends.

– It's the best education you can get, as an engineer you can be almost anything. It's tough and demanding, but you become good at problem solving and communication and it's a great base to continue from. My 20 year career in management is based on my background as an engineer. In my leadership role, I can take the technical discussions. My tip to someone who intends to read an engineering programme is to choose what you're passionate about. And you do not have to be afraid to get stuck in a box, you can change your field later on. The important thing is to get the theoretical base.

Jonas Gustavsson. Photo: Ted Karlsson.
Jonas Gustavsson. Photo: Ted Karlsson.

Leads with commitment and involvement

The drive to test something new made Jonas Gustavsson becoming President and CEO of Afry in 2017, a global engineering company with 10,000 employees in 30 countries.

– I have always been motivated to lead. One day at work for me is a lot about meeting people. I have always liked to communicate and involve myself with the people I work with. It may be part of the Swedish leadership style, to involve others. Leadership is also about setting clear goals and visions and motivating others to join a journey. Basically, I like to inspire and lead with dedication and to get my co-workers involved. I enjoy to see others develop, I think that applies to you whether you are a manager or CEO, it's just a different scale.

Engineers will play a key role in the future

Factors such as digitization and globalization mean that the world is changing rapidly. In his new role as President and CEO of Afry Jonas Gustavsson sees great opportunities to create values ​​in many areas.

– We focus on the positive trends. Smart cities that impose infrastructure requirements to cope with the urbanization and globalization that take place. Digitization, although it has been going on for a while, there is still a lot to do, especially in industry. Electrification and driverless cars are other exciting areas.

In order to meet the opportunities and challenges of the future, proper skills are required, this means that the need for engineers will increase.

– Many of our customers need the latest competence to renew their offer. That is where universites have a very important role. That we can attract future generations to become engineers, it is of utmost importance. The need for skilled engineers will increase. I also want to say that over the years I met a lot of talented engineers from Luleå University of Technology, I would say they are the best, Jonas Gustavsson says with a little twinkle in the eye.