In Your Own Words: Civil service manager Siggi W. Kristoffersen
What were you like when you studied at CBS?
My time as a student in the Master of Public Governance programme did not start until I had been working for 6 years and turned 33 years old. For that reason, I was definitely a different student than in the distant past when studying Political Science at Aarhus University.
The Master’s programme at CBS was one year’s full time studies split into a three-year programme taken while handling a full time job at the same time. In addition, at the time I only had a single year’s experience as Head of Division, so first and foremost I was a very busy student! Coupled with my age it also meant that I unfortunately never really got the experience of being part of campus society at CBS.
On the other hand, for three years my employees benefitted from being introduced to an abundance of development projects that I could bring back from my classes – even if a few of my employees became weary from the rapid development. To me it was such an interesting time, not least because the programme mixes lecturers from CBS and from the University of Copenhagen.
How did you get your first job after graduating from CBS?
Well, I was already working while I studied, but shortly after my graduation I got promoted to deputy director in the organization I was employed with. The recruitment procedure was relatively classical; I went from head of division in a central administration unit to deputy director in what equates to a governmental unit. But I know that several of my municipal fellow students at CBS put in a good word for me. So the networking element of the study programme also made a difference.
Which moments in your career have been defining – and how?
It is almost philosophical to look back at the journey that has led me to where I am today. In hindsight, we can have a tendency to exaggerate the causality of what has led to what. In reality I believe much more in coincidences shaping one’s career than in single, defining moments. Even moments and opportunities that did not happen have been just as defining.
In spite of coincidences being important, I am completely certain that it is important to have an idea of what you are working towards – what drives your career forward even if you are unable to plan in which direction you are headed.
Several times through my career I have switched back and forth between the public and private sector and I think it is of great value that I have experience from both. It is inspirational to be able to transfer ideas and specific tools between the sectors.
One moment, which in hindsight has been defining, was my relatively random shift to the City of Copenhagen. My study buddy quit his job and, unaware of the formal public recruitment processes, I called his manager and told them that they could hire me instead – which was luckily the outcome of the following long recruitment process. He forced me to begin in what he termed a ‘municipal playpen’, meaning that I had to learn public financial management from the bottom up. This has been crucial for my career development.
Another defining moment was when I was later given responsibility for the digitization of municipal services at a time when we were leading in the field. It sent me out into the World where I could showcase the Danish digitization adventure at digitization conferences. This gave me a whole other set of experiences than studying or everyday life at the desk could.
What is the most valuable experience you gained at CBS that you still use in your daily work?
At its core, it was difficult to be a relatively new head of division while taking a Master’s degree on the side, and several times along the way I cursed at myself for engaging in so much at once. However, it fairly early in my career as a manager gave me the ability to delegate tasks in a constructive manner, something I had not done very systematically up until then.
With the thesis (about strategic self-management) I furthermore got the opportunity to focus professionally on a topic that continuously has relevance in my day-to-day management style. Among the courses in the programme, I especially remember Anders Berg-Sørensen’s course on ethics and morals in political systems. One of the central discussions was on whether you could find a valid argument for lying just a bit or not telling the truth if it was for the greater good. You simply cannot.
Have you maintained a relation to CBS since you graduated?
I have just recently been invited to be part of the CBS Business Panel for the next two years, where we, across industries and sectors, will be helping CBS facilitating knowledge sharing and cooperation with the business community and society as a whole. As a representative for a large welfare area in the public sector, I very much look forward to impact the role CBS has – not just in relation to the business community but also in CBS’ role of being an institution in society.