Blog post -
Meet Mark Atkins, Duni Group’s Project Manager, New Product Development
We are so very proud of our collaboration with Mitt Liv AB. Together, we work for an inclusive society and a job market that values diversity. Until now Duni Group has contributed with 12 mentors in Mitt Liv’s mentorship programme. Recognising that many top talents can be found in the program, we have taken action and hired 4 alumni at our headquarters in Malmö.
One of them is Mark Atkins, who has more than 10 years of experience in communications and public relations.
Mark, you participated in the Mitt Livs Chans mentorship programme in 2018. Why did you join?
At the time, I honestly thought it might be my last chance to break into the Swedish job market. Moving to Sweden had been a pipedream of mine for years. But I’d put off relocating from the UK because I didn’t imagine being able to live and work here without a solid grasp of the language, and a busy career in London made it nigh-on impossible to commit to evening classes. When I learned about an intensive one-year Swedish course at Lund University, I decided to take the plunge and up sticks! It was a calculated risk; I had more than a decade’s-worth of experience working in the PR and marketing communications industry – including for some of the world’s biggest and best-known brands – so assumed my CV would speak for itself once I’d completed my studies. I wasn’t naïve enough to believe I’d walk into a role where Swedish was the corporate language, but had a misplaced confidence that the skills I’d acquired, coupled with my professional expertise and native-level English, would make me attractive to international companies. 18 months after finishing at Lund, I’d applied, unsuccessfully, for more than 70 comms positions. I was just about tiding myself over financially as a substitute English teacher at an adult education college, the Brexit vote had happened in the UK, and I started doubting I’d be able to stay in Sweden long-term. So when I learned about Mitt Liv it was a no-brainer to try and get into their mentorship programme! And it’s no exaggeration to say that taking part proved to be a life-changing experience.
Can you share any reflections from the programme?
I’d previously been on a few courses set up by Arbetsförmedlingen (the Swedish public employment service), and although they were beneficial in their own way, it could feel somewhat as if you were receiving advice from someone outside of the wider job market looking in. The big advantage of a programme like Mitt Livs Chans, in my opinion, is that the mentors are active inside the market, from a range of industries and with diverse roles. As a mentee you get access to that breadth of experience and invaluable insight into Swedish working culture – and how best to make yourself marketable within it. I consider myself very lucky to have been paired-up with Duni’s Business & Innovation Manager, Johan Mårtensson as my personal mentor. Among other things we worked on making my CV and personal letter fit for a Swedish context, developed an elevator pitch and did practice interviews. Johan also set up an innovation brainstorming session at Malmö HQ, and invited all mentees on the programme to a fika with colleagues from across the company. It was there that I was fortuitously introduced to my future manager, Duni’s Brand Communication Manager, Cecilia Björklund, who just happened to be looking to recruit someone to her team... The rest, as they say, is history.
What is your professional role at Duni Group today?
A great thing about working at Duni Group is that it’s given me the chance to change direction, develop my competencies and gain experience in new areas. I originally joined the company as a project coordinator in the company’s in-house creative agency, planning and overseeing the creation of communications materials for the Duni and BioPak marketing teams. Then last year I moved into the project management team for new product development. It's not something I'd worked with before (although there are obvious transferable skills from managing comms projects), but as well as thinking it would be a stimulating new challenge, I felt the role would in many ways be integral to the business delivering on its Sustainable Goodfoodmood promise. One of the reasons I was attracted to Duni Group in the first place is that its corporate values align with my keen interest in sustainability, social purpose and protecting the environment. I’m currently managing projects to replace plastic packaging with fibre-based alternatives for more sustainable new products being launched into the Duni assortment, so I get to channel this passion every day.
And finally, what is your best piece of advice for foreign professionals?
Don’t lose faith in yourself and what you have to offer. When you’re getting continually knocked-back from opportunities you believe you could have made a real success of, it can be immensely disheartening. Self-doubt can begin creeping in and you can start losing your motivation. But remember, it only takes one person to recognise the value you could bring to their business for things to change, so be confident in your knowledge and abilities and keep putting yourself out there – joining networking events, making new contacts, and applying to schemes like Mitt Livs Chans – and eventually you’ll achieve your goal! I’ve since been back on the programme as a mentor myself, and having met so many capable and experienced people trying to break into the Swedish job market, would also urge other companies not to readily dismiss the benefits to be gained from taking on overseas talent. Don’t underestimate the determination, drive and resilience it takes to relocate to a new country and navigate an alien job market – nor the depth of ambition foreign professionals have to make a contribution to your business and wider society.