Celebrating Women’s History Month this year, we’ve been lucky enough to sit down (virtually) with an incredible range of inspiring, powerful women across the retail and eCommerce industry. Today, we’re super excited to share an interview with one of Klarna’s very own: Camilla Giesecke. After four years as Klarna CFO she is now taking the lead as Chief Expansion Officer, CeXO and will be driving Klarna’s international expansion.
First of all tell us about yourself! What do you love doing when you aren’t at work? Any pets?
I love my job, but when I don’t work I hang out with my kids, read books and occasionally glossy magazines, play the guitar and sing (I am awful but this is the best relaxation). Bad guitar sound drowns a bad voice better than water from the shower! Apart from that I deeply treasure relationships and get energy discussing life with my family or a friend. My kids love animals and we recently got a cat called Noseson (spell it backwards!).
Where did you start your career, did you always know what you wanted to do?
A number of years later, when you look back at choices you have made, it all seems more planned than it was. I had absolutely no clue about careers when I was in my early twenties. After university, I wanted to go to London and New York City so I applied for a job at JP Morgan. At that point in time, around 2004, I was also attracted by investment banking since it seemed to attract so many of my male peers at the Stockholm School of Economics. I wanted to find out why! Also, these banks have outstanding training programs and provide a great first professional experience. Great people and great learnings made me stay in this industry much longer than I would have initially imagined.
What are the greatest challenges or frustrations you face as a woman at the top (if any)?
If you are the only one of your kind you tend to be more visible, especially at more senior levels. That means your success will be more visible, as well as your failures. Therefore I think it is quite common that female executives work harder, try harder and feel they need to prove themselves more. We sometimes give up earlier or need to be more courageous because of that.
Is there a woman who has really inspired you?
I admire lots of people, but to mention one: Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. I read in her book a quote which I often return to when I feel challenged and doubtful of my abilities: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” To me it means “Step outside your comfort zone or else you will not grow at the pace you could”.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
For me the accomplishments of the team and company are more interesting. Since I joined four years ago we have become a bank, changed our operating model and started investing in growth, meaning international expansion and new products and features. Our valuation is 15x higher than it was in 2017. It is amazing and I am grateful to be part of building this and proud to be surrounded by such amazing people here at Klarna!
What’s the riskiest move you’ve taken in business?
Looking backwards I have a number of events I can point to, but .. It may have been when I accepted a CFO position that was supposed to last for maximum 6 months but ended up being 3.5 years – haha!
What 3 traits do you think are most important when running a successful business?
Recruit the right people, be bold, be honest, and deliver customer success – that makes 4, sorry!
What’s the best business advice you have ever received?
Focus on delivering value to the customer. Without your customer you have no business.
Any advice to future female leaders?
I believe there are structural reasons for the low share of female leaders. Change requires courageous and forward thinking individuals to take a lead in creating better prerequisites for inclusion at work. We are fortunate to have such a leader in Sebastian Siemiatkowski. For those who don’t, they need to aspire to become that individual. Also, to everyone, pay it forward more! Recommend and support great leaders. Support and include early on in people’s careers, and don’t stop when they become more senior. Great leaders will continue to listen to feedback and advise even as they advance in their careers.