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A leader driven by creating a safe society

6 min read

Meet the IT manager who thinks listening and communicating is much more important than ruling with an iron fist. Rikard Gunzenheimer, Head of Aircraft Simulation at Saab, constantly works to be as present and accessible as possible. In that way he creates trust and confidence in his leadership. And forms the best conditions for a self-governing organisation.

Rikard works as section manager for aircraft simulations at Saab. He describes it as an exciting area where the framework for the entire aircraft simulation is put together. Software models for various systems are collected from different departments and then built together into a complete contract aircraft.

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From culinary ambitions to software setups

However, software development wasn’t a self-evident career choice for Rikard. Originally, his career path led him to a culinary profession as a chef. Rikard's father ran a restaurant in his hometown Linköping and wanted his son to take over the business, but the digital world attracted Rikard even more, so he applied for a programme in informatics — and he has never regretted it.

Bild på Rikard Gunzenheimer

"My interest in technology has always been immense and I already had my first computer as a 12-year-old."

Unfortunately, the job market was tough when he graduated. By the early 2000s, the dot-com bubble had just burst, and he was forced to take a job as a salesman instead of as a software developer. He sold mobile subscriptions over the phone, which turned out to be a better choice than he first thought. It was at that point when his leadership career took off. First, he worked as a team leader and eventually became a manager.

“I really believe in self-leadership and practice it in my own leadership. My conviction is that my team members must be able to control their own work.”

Leadership turned out to be a natural habitat for him. Rikard describes himself as a generalist rather than a specialist. His focus as a section manager is often on the larger perspective. At the same time, he wants to pay attention to each individual in the team and encourages everyone to take responsibility.

"I believe in self-leadership and practice it in my own leadership. My conviction is that my team members must be able to control their own work."

Global security is the sole purpose

Communication is a crucial part of Rikard's work. It can be with software developers and others in the team, but also managers and stakeholders outside of the organisation. He earnestly loves teamwork and having the opportunity to meet innovative people every day. But being present and available is also a challenge.

"I must be able to meet every individual regardless of perspective and level. This is how I create trust and confidence in my leadership."

Rikard is driven by creating security in society, and to work with a clear purpose has always been important to him. His background within the police force proves it and his tasks at Saab is not entirely different.

"I have always felt a strong mission to work with something that makes a difference. At Saab, we create security just like the police do, but on a global level instead. The way I see it, our products protect people."

“The way I see it, our products protect people.”

During his years with the police, he experienced a major organisational change where all units were merged into one large authority — from a project-based operation to an agile and self-governing organisation.

"It was an exciting chapter. We had to re-evaluate our approach and the very basis for why we worked in a certain way. In the transformation, we all had to roll up our sleeves and solve the task side by side. These are experiences I really value and make use of. A company can always develop its methods and adopt more agile principles."

Don’t be afraid of failure

And changes already seem to be on his agenda. He has initiated an organisational change that involves new roles and optimises work processes.

"Our way of working must create an efficient flow for internal deliveries. It requires hard work and dedication. At the same time, we need to have fun along the way. Don’t be afraid of failure. To succeed you must try harder and work together."

“To succeed you must try harder and work together.”

Rikard’s interest in technology also influences is personal life. He, his wife and three children all enjoy e-sports and like to game together — anything from Minecraft to Call of Duty.

But he also likes to spend his free time on other activities such as music or trotting. Right now, he is trying to learn to play the piano. Although, he likes all genres, his goal is to master sweet ballads such as Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On". When it comes to singing, however, he prefers to remain silent.

"I don’t sing if I don’t have to. There are probably others who are happy about that, he says jokingly."

People and tech make the perfect formula

The best thing about the job at Saab, Rikard thinks, is the variety and the perfect mix of leadership and software development.

"When people encounter technology, something exciting happens. But it is also a challenge. You must constantly change, improve, and try new things. It requires a great deal of perseverance. We break down, gather our forces, and rise again — together."

“We break down, gather our forces and rise again — together.”

Rikard thinks the culture at Saab is very inclusive and remembers how warmly he was welcomed when he stepped on board two years ago. Therefore, he sees it as an important task to preserve and improve the good spirit within the department.

"The culture affects so much and makes us attractive as an employer. Technical development is accelerating rapidly in the world, and it is important to be able to attract new talent. We need a culture of diversity — with a mix of new and experienced people."

3 questions

How would you define really hard work?

Having fun and at the same time being very satisfied with what you achieve.

What inspires you to go to work every day?

Working together. I get energy from teamwork and from happy, energetic, and innovative people.

Who is the smartest person you know?

It's definitely my mom. Who needs Google when you have her?