Pär Fors was on sabbatical, contemplating his next executive challenge when he was approached by NNIT’s Board of Directors. As talks progressed, it became clear that NNIT fit the bill: A CEO role within the tech industry, in a company with a clear and ambitious strategy for international expansion, but slightly different from other players due to its focus on life science.
After more than 15 years working in executive roles at CGI and Logica, including six years as president for CGI Sweden/Scandinavia, Pär Fors was ready for something new, possibly even involving a move to a new country. So, when he was offered the position of CEO of NNIT, he did not hesitate.
‘Since I left my previous role a year ago, I’ve had more time to think about my future. I quickly knew I wanted a new operational role in the tech industry because it’s what I am passionate about. And with reflection, I also knew that I wanted to do something different.’
‘So, when I learned more about the opportunity at NNIT, I felt like it ticked all the boxes. The focus on life sciences and the clear strategy to grow the company internationally combined with the prospect of moving to Denmark made it an easy and active choice. I’ve actually known and looked up to NNIT for many years. It’s a great company with great potential.’
The first 100 days is a listening period
Pär Fors was not hired to make major strategic changes, but rather to continue the strategic journey NNIT has been on since early 2020. ‘Of course, when a new CEO enters, there’s an expectation that something new is coming, but in the beginning, I want to listen. I am going to meet with key stakeholders internally and externally, and really listen to what they have to say. I want to understand where they’re coming from – both the good and not so good experiences,’ Pär Fors emphasises and continues.
‘At the same time, we have a business to run, I’m very focused on that; there will be no freezing period, it’s very much business as usual.’ During this first period, he is equally eager to meet with colleagues and customers and describes himself as a people person, heavily invested in and oriented towards both groups.
Leadership is fundamental for success
Pär Fors is very aware of his role as leader and spontaneously comments that one of his absolute favourite topics is leadership. He sees it as fundamental to success, and it is something he evaluates continuously and specifically with each role change to make sure he knows who he is as a leader and what has led his organisation to success.
‘Whatever you do, be yourself and base your leadership on your own personality, build your leadership on that person, not who you think you should be,’ he says. He highlights three elements as central to his leadership (and person): customer orientation, action orientation, and visible leadership.
‘I feel it’s very important to listen to and guide customers – and to demonstrate a strong focus on quality because that’s where all sales begin. I also feel you must focus on action – on ensuring a sense of continuous improvement and reinvention, which includes making allowances for mistakes and making sure you learn from them. And finally, I feel you must be present and accessible – making it evident by the appearance that the people you manage are important to you.’
People are at the heart of it
‘If you don’t have a sincere interest in people, you’re in the wrong job,’ Pär Fors says matter-of-factly when weighing in on where his passion and interest lie. He’s interested in technology, absolutely, but his passion is people. ‘We are a people-driven company, and managers must first and foremost love people, not technology,’ which brings him to his next point that: ‘You have to play to people strengths when you build your organisation.’
‘I think it’s essential to make sure you place people in the right role, and I am very passionate about people development. I’ve made it a priority in my career to helping accelerate other people’s careers by guiding and coaching them to success; supporting them in their roles or moving them into a new role better suited to their strengths.’
He sees the team as the guiding unit, making the point that every leader, not least himself, should surround herself with talented people who complement her. ‘Together is what makes us a success,’ he states.
My focus has always been to deliver value
Pär Fors’ path to an executive career was not an obvious one. Actually, he started in finance and then quickly discovered that it was more fun to create the numbers than count them, as he puts it. But he did not set out with a career plan or an aspiration to make it big.
‘What I’ve done is always focus on creating value, and I believe that if that’s your focus, the opportunities will come. My career advice would be to focus on the present and maybe use 10% of your energy looking to the future, but I know some people do it the other way around. I don’t think that’s the right approach, he says.’
He is also very clear about his family as his number one priority. ‘I make it a point to be there for my wife and two children, taking an interest in their different activities and participating in their lives.’ And that’s not going to change, Pär Fors is looking forward to starting this new chapter with his family who will be relocating to Copenhagen during the summer.
CEO of NNIT is a defining moment
Aside from meeting his wife and the arrival of his children, Pär Fors points to becoming CEO of NNIT and moving to Denmark as a defining moment for him. ‘It’s a well-reflected decision, my previous roles came about on the run as part of a natural progression, whereas NNIT is an active choice. Having said that, my previous role was really good training for this job, and it was a big step up for me at the time. It has prepared me for this challenge, and I am ready and all in.’