A problem-solver with a meteoric career
Mengmeng Du, 35 years old, has an intensive career behind her. After studying at KTH, she took charge of launching Spotify abroad. Today she is a professional board member and advises startups and traditional companies that need to understand online issues. What does she think about her success? What is it that drives her forward?
"I was 6 years old when I became part of KTH".
It was her father, Professor Sichen Du, who took his daughter to work with him. Mengmeng Du remembers how she ran around in the laboratory halls. Her father was doing his PhD in metallurgy.
Mengmeng Du was born in Peking. Her father, subsequently Professor Du, did his PhD at KTH and Mengmeng and her mother travelled to Stockholm to visit him. They stayed. Her father continued at KTH and her mother got a job as finance administrator at the Social Insurance Office.
For Mengmeng it was clear that she should continue studying after completing the science programme in upper secondary school. She had the grades, 20.0. The world was open for her, she could get in anywhere. The question was simply what she would study. Business administration? Engineering? Her careers adviser suggested the medical profession. After all, she had the grades to get in. But no, the medical profession didn't interest her. Mengmeng says that she has never had a dream profession.
"But I really liked computing". I have loved computers ever since I was small.
The choice fell on KTH and data technology. Mengmeng talks about her initial period at KTH. She had a fantastic start.
"I loved the reception". I was so very well treated.
She was treated so well at KTH that she abandoned her childhood shyness. Mengmeng got involved in the Computing Section's study committee, sat on the section board, the PR committee and Armada.
"I was shy and quiet in comprehensive school. In some ways KTH represented my turn to get involved. Everything felt easy and was interesting. I found my context".
Mengmeng realised after a few years that she had no business-sense. She wanted to branch out, learn more, she certainly had the grades, and she applied to the School of Economics.
"I wanted to continue being involved at KTH so I had to make efficient use of my time. It went well for the most part, but in the final years when there was a lot of group- and lab work it became a logistical challenge".
Mengmeng Du says that there were differences between the students at KTH and the School of Economics.
"At the School of Economics people know at an early stage what sort of work they want to do. In my time it was consultancy or investment banking that most people went for. At KTH it's more open, there are so many paths to take".
She did her thesis as a developer at Amadeus, a travel agency in France. After that she worked for three years as a management consultant at Bain & Co.
"I worked hard and loved it".
"If I 'm going to put in a certain amount of work, I want to achieve a certain amount of results".
After her time at Bain & Co she wanted to get back to her roots, to technology and business. She started as a project manager at Stardoll, one of the world's largest communities for young girls.
"I understood it, the world of the imagination. I need to get involved in the service or the product and that's what I did here".
After three months in the company she was responsible for product development and part of the management team. She was able to push for changes and the company was prepared to take risks.
In 2011 Spotify got in touch. Mengmeng had got to know Daniel Ek at Stardoll. In Mengmeng, Daniel Ek saw a problem-solver with the ability to provide smart solutions to difficult issues.
USA was under way, and the company wanted to up the pace for more conquests. Mengmeng took charge of launching in new countries and subsequently became Director of International Growth. She moved to New York.
When Mengmeng started at Spotify it had 300 employees throughout the world. When she left there were 1500.
"Spotify has an absolutely fantastic culture where everybody is enthusiastic about what the company does, you work until you are finished and simultaneously have great fun together".
For family reasons, Mengmeng decided to leave New York and move home to Stockholm. Today she is a professional board member and advises startups and traditional companies that need to understand online issues. Mengmeng was one of the youngest ever to be elected onto the board of a listed company when at the age of 29 she was appointed a director of Qliro Group (formerly CDON). Last year she became a member of Skandia's board, and in February the Prime Minister called and invited her on to his Innovation Board (along with Ericsson's CEO).
What drives you?
"I want to influence a company's direction and see it achieve real results".
But how have you managed it? You're only 35 years old.
"The advantage of being young is that others are older", she says laughing.
"No, but it's about working hard and simultaneously having fun. You need to be able to trust yourself and dare to push yourself forward. It's when you dare to do something different that the magic happens. I and my career are proof of that".