Bright Profiles: Michelle Kadir – From outlier to essential puzzle piece

Dive into Michelle Kadir’s journey and personal philosophy, which has transported her
from KTH all the way to Youtube. Be inspired by an alumni’s career endeavours, find out
how she got where she is and collect some words of wisdom along the way.

Oftentimes, when hearing success stories from influential figures, they often say something that doubles down to them being at “the right place, at the right time.” While at times, that might be the most straightforward way to explain a series of events and choices, we are all collectively aware of what it took to get there. The same thing that allows us, as students, to come into class everyday, do our best to pass exams and flourish in our academic career and beyond: diligent work and perseverance.

One such person, whose journey also started at KTH, is Michelle Kadir, current Country Manager of Youtube Sweden. We sat down with her, to delve deeper into the choices and approach she took to frame her professional path from KTH to Youtube.


Please introduce yourself to the Bright members and tell them a little bit about yourself and your current role?

Thank you for having me. My name is Michelle Kadir and I’m the head of Youtube Sweden. The role is a dual role where I manage and grow Youtube partners and I’m [also] part of the Google Sweden leadership team where we work on how to make Google and YouTube a positive force in Sweden. I was raised in
Sollentuna, a suburb of Stockholm. Very early I had two big passions in life and it was music and tech. And when I started to
study at KTH, I didn’t know that I would manage to combine those interests in my work life.

But studying computer science at the same time as the music industry was collapsing, because of people pirating music, gave me that opportunity. That’s where I’ve also built my career within the landscape of music entertainment/content and tech and how those two live together, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 20 years.


How did you bridge the gap between your passion and your professional career? What do you think led you to your career today?


The former CEO of Sony Music came [to KTH] and held a lecture, speaking about how the music industry was collapsing and that he wanted 3 students to write the master thesis about what is the future of digital music. When I was at that lecture, I understood this is going to be something that a lot of people want to do because it sounded really exciting. But I’m going to make sure I get the opportunity to write the master’s thesis. So, I really justified why it should be me. Then we did our masters, for six months. [Afterwards, the CEO said] “I think your conclusion is really good but we are going through a merger of two companies (Sony and BMG) so I am in the midst of layoffs. There’s no room and time for me to hire. Sorry.” I think that he kind of noticed how I really, really wanted it. So when saying goodbye, he added “By the way, I know that Universal is hiring a team. Call them and say I said hello.” So, in both scenarios, I really changed my path, both when I heard the lecture and told my professor I wanted the master thesis and the second time when the CEO said he’s not hiring, but I pushed through. I think that if I would have been a bit more scared or passive, it wouldn’t have done for me what it has today. I think that was it. If the opportunity arises, if you see something and you want it, do whatever you can to motivate yourself.


These past few years, students have become hyper-aware of the importance of networking. It seems to have become a
game of numbers, and as beneficial as numbers can be, it’s likely that students wish for a smaller net of possible contacts they can actually utilise than a bigger one, they can barely juggle in between the sea of X started new position at Y” posts and connection requests. In fact, your close offline connections, while not as shiny, might be the most valuable.


How do you think they [Bright members] should go about networking and finding that person that could lead them? 


If I’m going to be honest, I’m not the networking type and I’ve never enjoyed it. I can only be an extrovert if I really feel
comfortable and if I feel a connection. A lot of times at these mingles, there’s so many people and I have a hard time doing
it in an opportunistic way. Not saying that all networking is opportunistic, but in some sense you have to have a mindset of “I’m doing this because it needs to lead me somewhere”. [Instead] I enjoy and thrive in conversations that are more genuine, in
terms of like “I like your vibe”. “I like where your mind is at”. “Let’s talk about important things”. That is different than just going to a mingle and trying to find the next great thing for you. So I think that for me, I have very seldom networked, but what I’ve done is I’ve identified door openers in specific moments of time. When I’ve seen that, I’ve tried to be very clear in that “hey, I really think that I should go through that door. And this is the reason
why” instead of just spraying the room and hope something sticks. I know it works for many other people, especially if you enjoy speaking to a lot of people and going about it that way. But I have never gone to events just to find opportunities.


What for you has been the hardest part about opening a door and getting into rooms that you wanted to be in?


To choose my moments. I think for me it’s been a lot about realising and trying to understand the other side’s perspective. If I
can see myself from the other end I can more easily choose what to go for. If I clearly see what I can bring to the table, I push through. So, I’ve actually chosen my moments, I think. Of course, I have also done a few things half-heartedly. I’ve gone to some interviews when I was done with my studies, I thought that one of the most common things was for everyone to become a management consultant and I thought that is the path that I should take. I had an interview with Capgemini and during the interview I realised, “Oh, this is so not for me”, but I just did it because it was something that a lot of people did. I didn’t get the job and it was great that I didn’t get the job because I actually didn’t want the job. But when I’ve been 100% in my heart that this is what I want to do that’s when it has been a perfect match. I think you have to find your inner voice and passion. But you don’t have to find it before you study, so you can go to college and you can probably pick any major or
specialisation. It will be fine, because what it really is,is a door opener. To have studied like 3-4 or 5 years at KTH, that’s going to open doors for you. And after that you have to try to identify “what am I good at?”, “what do I enjoy”? Because it’s within those areas that you will become great. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify, it
can take years and sometimes you might need to study something else.


Student life, amongst other things, allows for you to build connections and friendships, some of which can turn professional, with a backdrop of fun and new experiences. Some might feel that not partaking in the predominant culture could mean missing out on opportunities. However, it’s always good to remember
that even when dealt different cards, where there’s a will there’s a way.


Not being part of like that part of the [dominant] student culture, do you feel like that affected your experience professionally?


It probably did, but I don’t know because I never heard about them [laughter], so I am just guessing. But I was very outside of it. Actually at my first job at Spotify, of the first 6 or 8 people that started, 4 of them were from my class. So when I met with them a couple of years after we were at KTH, it was really nice and fun and we were like, “Oh, wow, I remember you.” They were all there, probably because they knew each other and they had connections. But I was never part of that. The way that I went about to get Spotify was a completely different route, and it was never about connections within KTH. My best help from my student time was the professor that led the media development and
business techniques, who was a professor at Stockholm School of Economics. He saw me. I really enjoyed KTH and I love what it gave me in terms of education, apart from the first 6 months, it was a great time in my life.


How do you think Bright Members should go about navigating the recruitment process, especially at big companies?


You can find a lot of things to read online about various company cultures and styles. But I think you also have to go and find out for yourself. I think it’s never a bad thing to go into the recruitment process even though you don’t know [how it will turn out]. The recruitment process is a two way stream of both you knowing if it’s for you and they knowing if you’re for them. You can’t know that from the get go, so don’t be afraid to go into the process, even though you’re not sure. But also there’s a ton of things to read and understand about the culture and the way of working, the projects and general focus for the company strategy vision. 


What general advice, word of wisdom would you like to share with the members? 


There’s several things, but I think that whatever you do, don’t give up on your studies. That’s number one. The other thing is: “done is better than perfect”. That is always something I think about. Sometimes people are stuck in ambiguity and not being decisive. I think that sometimes you have to make a choice and just go for it. The same goes for your studies, “done is better than perfect”. You don’t have to have the best grades, but you need to get it done. In general in life, find what drives you because whatever drives you will lead you. Even though that’s hard, you have the inner voice, just listen to it and remember you’re always good at what you like.


*Answers in the interview have been
edited for clarity and concision as