Niklas Lundberg studied his Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Management, followed by a Master’s in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Chalmers. After graduating in 2009, he landed his dream job in Spotify just a few months later. Back then, Spotify was still a young, fast-growing start-up. Now, Niklas is their Head of New Markets, overseeing expansion into new territories from their office in Manhattan, New York. He tells us how his student days at Chalmers helped prepare him for a dynamic, exciting career in the music industry.
The way I started at Spotify is an interesting story. Back in 2007, I was on the Berkeley exchange programme, studying for a few months in California. A friend got early access to Spotify, back when it was invitation only. And even though we were on some terrible internet connection, I remember it just worked so, so well – it was so smooth, instantly streaming absolutely anything. I pointed at the screen and told my friend, ‘this is the company I want to work for’. And he said, you know they’re from Stockholm, right? I couldn’t believe it!
When I got back in Sweden, I sent them an email. I didn’t want to just send a generic message, so I pitched them several potential projects that I felt they could do, that I could help with – ‘Hi my name’s Niklas, I think your service is really inspiring – this is what I can offer you.’ And I got a reply.
I met them in their office in Stockholm, and they put me in touch with a few people working in Gothenburg as well. We kept in touch for a year or two – I would check in with them every few months while finishing my studies at Chalmers.
I graduated in 2009. This was right after the financial crisis, and looking back, that was really lucky for me! A lot of the big companies weren’t hiring in the same way they would usually have done. That meant I didn’t find a job for a little while – then suddenly I heard from Spotify. There was a position available that they wanted me to interview for. Within 2 weeks I started working there.
Working at Spotify is really the only job I’ve ever had. But I have worked a lot of roles here now. I started as a content manager, then moved into label relationships. In 2011, Spotify launched in America and I came to New York to teach American labels about the company – how to work with us, pitching with data and analytics to explain how streaming worked from a business perspective. And then they asked, would I be interested in moving to New York permanently? I said of course! Living in New York had always been a dream of mine.
I moved here and started working as a business analyst, looking at how Spotify was creating value for artists, for the industry. At that time, the music industry was changing rapidly, streaming was growing. The industry had been in terrible decline before that.
Now I am Head of New Markets. Spotify currently operates in 79 territories, but we want to be everywhere. I work with local market leads to help Spotify identify and expand into certain target locations. Throughout my time at Spotify I’ve always worked with teams all around the world.
The work culture is great at Spotify. We try to hire really smart people and give them the goal, but then let them figure out how to get there. There’s a lot of freedom to come up with your own solutions which is very rewarding. And the process of launching in new countries is just an incredibly interesting experience.
Being in the music industry has allowed me to do things I never thought I would get to do – I’ve been to the Grammy awards several times, and to so many gigs.
And New York is just phenomenal. Everything is open all the time, there’s so much to do – it’s such high energy. Then at the weekends, my girlfriend and I have a summer house in Long Island that we like to visit, to experience some nature and relax – and we have a dog now!
When Niklas looks back to his days at Chalmers, he is full of fond memories for the people he met and the experiences that helped prepare him for his career.
The main thing I remember from my time is just the people I met. The courses I studied were great, but being surrounded by so many smart, ambitious people was so inspiring. It really made me want to perform, to keep up! I am really so grateful that I got to be around those people.
I studied industrial management. I didn’t want to do a pure business degree, I wanted some engineering experience too, because I was always interested in the sciences. I felt this was a good mixture of business and engineering – and so it turned out to be. In my career, that’s been really helpful – I have conversations with people from all areas of the business – you need to be able to work cross-functionally.
That was a particularly great aspect of the master’s degree. We were placed in mixed teams –engineers, business people and even lawyers who were studying at Gothenburg University. That’s a great preparation for your career, where you often need to speak several different types of language – how do you communicate with tech organisations compared to creative organisations for example? How do you frame problems? It’s really a necessity to be able to think like that.
The international atmosphere at Chalmers definitely helps too. In larger Swedish companies, you need to be able to communicate and do business in English. And studying with people from different cultures and backgrounds is great preparation for working in international companies – there were many different nationalities on my master’s course.
I would absolutely recommend Chalmers to potential students – I met some of my best friends there, people who I know will be friends for life. Of course, I learned a lot in terms of information, but more importantly I learned life skills. I learned how to learn. I feel like Chalmers equips you with the skills to do anything you want to do. Looking at my classmates from back then, they have gone on to do many different things – some to big international companies, some to smaller businesses, or to found their own start-ups. In fact, one of my classmates is even a professional photographer now. He took that engineering process, those business skills we learned, and applied them to his photography career.
Studying at Chalmers doesn’t limit you to classic, heavy engineering industries after you graduate. I would say Chalmers encourages you to think a certain way – you are taught to create opportunities for yourself.
Text: Joshua Worth
Photo: Spotify / Pixabay