Though raised in the fairytale-esque Teleborg in Sweden, Paola Karlsson has become completely enamoured with Ireland. Here, she tells us about the transition from Sweden to Ireland, and how this was helped by the culture at ACIA.
When you finish up an intensive period of work or study, you’ll naturally want a bit of a break, and what better break than a holiday?
Packing your bags and getting off somewhere further afield is a great way to temporarily disengage and give your brain a well-deserved rest, but what happens if you accidentally stumble upon the next stage of your career on holidays?
Paola Karlsson, a data analyst with the Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics (ACIA), didn’t intend this to be the case when she took a trip to Ireland, but she so swiftly came to love the place that it inspired her to seek out career opportunities in the country, leading her to her work with ACIA.
We spoke to Karlsson about her hometown, cultural differences and what it’s like to work at ACIA.
Where are you from and what’s it like there?
I come from the province Småland in Sweden. It’s the province of Carl von Linné, Pippi Longstocking and IKEA.
My city is called Växjö and all my life I lived in Teleborg, a fairytale-looking region in Växjö filled with lakes, woods and the beautiful Teleborgs Slott.
How long have you been in Ireland?
Seven years in September.
What prompted your decision to move here?
After wrapping up my master’s in linguistics, I decided to treat myself to a well-deserved holiday. Being influenced by PS I Love You and my Bolivian grandmother’s love for Guinness, I decided to go on a vacation in Dublin.
I walked around the city for a week and loved the culture and the Irish. It was also the one week of summer that year – something that might have influenced my decision.
Returning to Sweden, it was time for me to start applying for a full-time job. Being from a culturally mixed family, I have always been told the world is a very small place, and I’m able to find opportunities anywhere. I started looking for roles in Dublin and a bit over a month later, I had my bags packed and I was ready to go.
What’s your role in ACIA?
I’m a data analyst; I work in analytics involving market insights.
How would you describe your working environment?
Joyful! There’s great team spirit in the office that brings up the morale. When you feel like your projects are being appreciated, you strive to do a better job.
There are always opportunities to network and to learn from other teams in the company, and, if you have a certain skill you want to share with people, you are welcomed with open arms. It’s a great environment for people who are hungry for knowledge.
What do you like most about your job?
ACIA is a smorgasbord full of opportunities, and you’re invited. If you lack some skills, there are possibilities for upskilling. We are also there to help people in our community and reach out to those in need. This is one of the main focuses in ACIA – empowering people by helping and being helped.
It feels reassuring working for Aon – they invest as much in you as you do in them.
Was it difficult to adjust to living and working in Ireland?
Not really, there aren’t too many glaring cultural differences. They have ‘the craic’ and everything is ‘grand’ – terms that are a little bit strange to come to terms with, but that’s all fine. Just make sure to bring an umbrella with you.
What surprised you about moving to Ireland, if anything?
The warmth of the Irish – it still makes me smile. Also, crisps in sandwiches – I still can’t grasp that one.
How does your working life help to make you feel at home here?
In Aon, the key is work-life balance. We work hard and we have fun together. Your team are your friends and it brings value to both ACIA and yourself.
Coming into the office too early in the morning isn’t an issue. You will always be greeted with a friendly smile and (of course) a warm cup of coffee.
What do you like most about your adopted home?
The mindful positivity of the Irish people. There’s some sort of calmness here that can’t be explained but has to be experienced. The culture and mentality in Ireland is very welcoming and, even when you feel sad – when your umbrella has blown away and you have stepped into a puddle, for example – there will always be a silver lining with the Irish.
It takes time but I’m adopting their mindset, too. So, technically, you could download an app to feel more mindful, positive and happy – or just move to Ireland.