"The exchange semester in Sao Paulo was one of the absolute best experiences I have had!"
Amanda Centeno Ramér has international experience from Sao Paolo, Sarajevo and Luxembourg. She currently works in Gothenburg as a Regional Coordinator at the Swedish ESF Council, where she works with her colleagues to manage the European Social Fund in Sweden.
Who is your current employer?
-My current employer is the Swedish authority, the Swedish ESF Council. We are a rather small agency under the Ministry of Labour, with about 140 employees spread over eight regional offices, with the head office in Gävle. Our mission is to manage the European Social Fund in Sweden.
Describe your job!
-I work at the regional office for West Sweden, which is located in Gothenburg, and my role at the authority is Regional Coordinator, where I work with EU funding of various projects in the labor market with a focus on skills development, employment measures, and integration efforts.
What does a regional coordinator do?
-As a regional coordinator, I work to coordinate and process manage the projects we fund within the region, i.e. Västra Götaland and Halland. As a coordinator, I am responsible for several projects, where I actively work with and follow them through the entire project cycle. The role has both a reviewing and controlling part where you work with financial review and project accounting, and a more supportive part where dialogue and discussions are constantly conducted with the projects to support them through the actual implementation. It is a very varied role with a good mix of administrative tasks mixed with being out and about meeting different project actors and participating in different networks and the like.
What does a working week look like for you?
-It can be very varied in my role depending on where we are in the project cycle, and it is common to run and work with several work steps and tasks at the same time. Part of my work involves working with business intelligence, to analyse what the labor market and needs look like, to be able to produce current calls for proposals in relevant areas. A call for proposals is when we announce financial resources through which different organisations can apply for funding.
One of the biggest and most important parts of my job and responsibilities as Regional Coordinator is to prepare and assess the project applications we receive, and then, based on this, to formulate a proposal for a decision on which projects we should proceed to grant for funding. Once a project has been approved, it is my role as coordinator to process manage the project through the actual implementation, and to ensure that the projects comply with all regulations to be followed, both at the Swedish and EU level, as well as to be out on inspections and review the projects on site and to visit them to look at and understand their activities.
Do you work in a team or more independently?
-Most of my work is driven and managed by myself, so the actual operational work is very independent. However, in my unit, we are a very good team, and I also work very closely with my colleagues when we discuss different issues, both with each other and in groups. Even though I am responsible for my projects, I am never alone in my judgements and decisions. When difficult questions and judgements arise, I can always raise them and get support from my colleagues.
When did your interest in EU affairs begin?
-Quite early in my studies, I became interested in the possibility of working with EU issues after graduating. The more time passed, the more focused I became that this was what I wanted to do and after my Master's degree, I applied for an EU traineeship. I was offered two positions, one as a Bluebook trainee at the Commission in Brussels, and one at the Swedish Cabinet of the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg. By coincidence, I was offered the position at the European Court of Auditors first, and that was also the position I later chose to accept. During my traineeship, I worked to support the Swedish Cabinet in their work with the two audits they were working on at the time, one in sustainability finance and one in gender mainstreaming.
How did you end up in your current workplace?
-After my internship, I worked at Danske Bank for a while, in their Foundation Services department, while looking for the next step. Pretty soon I was accepted into SIDA's Junior Professionals in Delegation (JPD) programme and was offered a position at the EU Delegation in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I then moved to Sarajevo and started working as a JPD in the Commission's policy department, where I mostly worked on EU enlargement policy and Bosnia's application for EU membership. As I enjoyed working with EU issues, I wanted to continue with something similar even after I served as JPD, and after about a year in Bosnia, I saw that there was a position at the Swedish ESF Council at their office in Gothenburg, to work with EU funding in Sweden. I then decided to apply for the position, and after a few rounds of interviews I was offered the role of Regional Coordinator, and now I have been at the Swedish ESF Council for almost 1.5 years and enjoy it very much.
How was the transition from studies to working life for you?
-During the last semester of my studies, I did some extra work at Arla Foods and when I graduated I was offered to continue working in the same position full-time. It was therefore a very smooth and natural transition to my first position, which I started almost immediately after graduation. I then worked full-time at Arla for a few months while I applied for the EU traineeship that I knew I wanted to do. When I was offered the trainee position at the European Court of Auditors, I accepted it and moved to Luxembourg to start my EU career.
How have your studies at the School helped you in your career?
-My education at the School has given me a great foundation to stand on in terms of knowledge, but also other valuable experiences such as international experience through exchange semesters, volunteer involvement through International Week Gothenburg, and a better insight into what I did and did not want to do with my future career. For example, it was at an inspirational meeting organised by UHR in cooperation with the School of Business, Economics and Law that I first heard about and became interested in a career and future working within the EU.
Any skills that you practised at the School that are useful now when you are working?
-I got valuable practice in both cooperation and communication.
Almost in every course I attended, we always had a part that was some kind of group work that had to be submitted and approved to pass the course. Because we were a large class of 300 students, and you had many courses in different subjects and different group constellations, you quickly became very used to working and collaborating in different group constellations and with different people. As part of this, you almost always had to make some kind of oral presentation of the group work. Even though this may not have been my favourite part or strength initially, I have gained a lot later in life from constantly having to practice presenting and communicating results and tasks orally in front of different groups and contexts.
Do you have any special memories from your time as a student at the Business School?
-For me, the two absolute highlights of my time at the School, were the opportunities I had to participate in international exchanges and experiences. As part of my Bachelor's degree, I went on an exchange semester to Sao Paulo, Brazil, which was one of the best experiences I have had! Another great experience I also had at the School was the opportunity to be part of the international network International Week Gothenburg, where I got to know people from all over the world and made lifelong friends.
Do you remember any particular course particularly well?
-One of my favourite courses that stands out in my memory was a course we had in international economics. I remember it was one of the first courses that got me interested and motivated. We had a very good teacher who made the course very interesting and who told us about his own experiences and stories from his own time in the world, I specifically remember a very interesting story about a cockroach and a beer.
How did you reason when choosing your specialisation?
-When I made my choice, I thought a lot about what kind of roles and jobs those who chose that specialisation normally worked with after the education, to see if it could be something I could imagine myself doing in the future. In the end, I chose the specialisation that I felt was slightly broader than the others, to open up more possibilities. In retrospect, I don't think that the choice of specialisation is crucial for where you end up in your career later in life, I think it's more about what you do with your specialisation and your choices around it and where you want to go in your career.
Do you have any tips or advice for a current student?
-My advice is to make the most of your studies and your time as a student and to try to mirror your studies with the future career you are interested in. Take advantage of all the opportunities to go on exchange semesters and to get involved in various volunteer groups, networks, and student union activities. In addition to your studies, I would also recommend trying to find an extra job alongside your studies or during the summers. It's a great way to test what you enjoy working with in practice and a good way to gain practical experience even before you graduate. In addition, I would also recommend trying to write your thesis together with a company or organisation. It is also a great way to get a foot in the door and it makes the work with the thesis more relatable when it is about an actual organisation or company and a real problem to be solved.