This year's Female Leader Engineer gets to choose from leading companies

15 december 2020

Woman holding a framed diploma in front of a beige wall.

Elin Luedtke, student at the Master's Programme in Energy Systems Engineering, has been appointed this year's Female Leader Engineer.

In November, the engineering student Elin Luedtke was appointed the 2020 Female Leader Engineer. Now her career plans right after graduation have been secured.

The Female Leader Engineer program every year rewards a female engineer student for her ability to lead other people. The prize consists of a self-designed trainee program at three of Sweden's largest companies for 18 months. This year, the winner of the title was 26-year-old Elin Luedtke who will be graduating in June from the Master's Programme in Energy Systems Engineering at Uppsala University and SLU.

"At first I was a bit shocked, but now it just feels very exciting and fun. At the same time, it came as a surprise because there was quite fierce competition. The people who were in the program were incredibly talented," says Elin Luedtke.

Hundreds of applicants

It was on LinkedIn that Elin Luedtke caught eye of the Female Leader Engineer program. In August 2020, she submitted an application with her grades and descriptions of leadership experience. After that, it was not long before she learned that she had been accepted.

Out of hundreds of applicants from all over Sweden, twenty participants were selected for the autumn program, which lasted for five intensive weeks starting in September. The schedule included meetings with partner companies, competence-based interviews as well as personality and logical tests. Most of the sessions were held online because of the pandemic. It was an arrangement that worked well, which Elin Luedtke attributes to the involvement of the group.

"We had very good discussions online, exchanged experiences and learned from each other. The others on the program were from all over Sweden, from Luleå to Lund. Not everyone had studied energy either, some had studied mechanical engineering, others design and product development or industrial management, so there was an incredibly wide range of participants.”

Test of collaborative skills

At one point the participants met in a room, but with physical distance, for a collaborative exercise. Jury members studied how the participants cooperated in groups to solve a problem. After the jury's feedback, the participants discussed how they could have solved the problems in a different way, from an individual as well as group perspective. 

Although Elin Luedtke has no previous experience from courses in leadership and project management, she has held several positions of responsibility.

"I’ve been section president of our student association at the Master’s Programme in Energy Systems Engineering, which has been very informative. You’re the head of the board, managing meetings and planning the financial year together with the other board members," says Elin Luedtke, adding:

"When I applied for the program, I mentioned the position of section president as an example of what I had done and learned from. When you end up in such an office, you develop and also discover yourself in that role. This is something I also experienced when I was working as a mentor to university students via Uppsala University.”

Pitch in front of a jury

Out of the twenty participants, ten finalists were selected to pitch in front of a jury consisting of people from Female Leader Engineer and the partner companies, where they were to describe how they saw themselves as leaders and what lessons they had learned. Elin Luedtke remembers talking about the fact that there are many different leadership styles, as well as employees’ comfortability with various types of leaders.

"I also mentioned that I think there are certain qualities that a good leader should always have, and that is good self-awareness, great confidence in one’s own ability and an ambition to change one’s own and others' behavior.”

The pitch decided the win, but Elin Luedtke's composure probably also contributed. She felt very relaxed and confident during the presentation, something she believes came through.

"I was very grateful for being selected for the program and just want to make the best of the pitch. At the same time I thought ‘this is really cool, but if it doesn't go all the way, there are other things I can do.’ I hadn't even started thinking about looking for a job. But now completely new doors have been opened that I didn't even know about.”

Gets to choose from eight companies

Through the Female Leader Engineer program, Elin Luedtke has realized the breadth of opportunities resulting from her choice of training. In addition to the award, she will receive a tailor-made trainee program and a leadership program at the company Kvinnokompetensen. This spring she will meet with the partner companies to choose which three she will work with for six months each. The first trainee period starts immediately after graduation in June. But she doesn't have any favorites yet.

"One of these partner companies, Fortum, is very energy heavy, but all the companies - SSAB, Sandvik, Stora Enso, Ericsson, Scania, KONE, Skanska - have incredibly important products and care for a sustainable society, something they emphasized during the course of the program. Energy and sustainability issues are hugely important to me and I believe that these types of global companies have great opportunities to influence the transition to a better and sustainable world.”

Elin Luedtke will actually do her degree project at Fortum, something that was decided before the award. There she will investigate how to optimize the energy use of transformers in Fortum hydroelectric power plants. What she wants to work with in the future, however, is uncertain, "maybe sales, research and development, marketing or similar". Whichever path she chooses, she will benefit from the large network she has gained through Female Leader Engineer.

"The program is a fantastic opportunity. If you want to be inspired and develop as a leader based on the experience you have had, large and small, I can only recommend to apply for it.”