"I knew Sweden was a beautiful country with a highly educated and skilled workforce"

Describe your role at the company, and briefly your background / experience of living and working in other countries.

– I am the head of the Oncology business for Pfizer in Sweden. Prior to moving to Sweden, I lived in Boston, USA and led the development of drugs for patients with life-threatening breast cancer and lung cancer.  I have worked for Pfizer for 12 years in research and development and have a PhD in Pharmacology from Yale.  Although my mother is Icelandic and my relatives live across Scandinavia, my wife, kids and I had never lived abroad so moving to Sweden was a big adventure.

What expectations did you have before moving to Sweden?

– I knew Sweden was a beautiful country with a highly educated and skilled workforce and had heard a lot about the good quality of life, but was not sure what was the secret to its success.

How did it turn out?

– After living in Sweden for a year, I’m very impressed by the high level of innovation that not only spans a number of industries (from tech, banking, digital health, to biopharma) but is remarkable for its size.  The culture of innovation dates back to Alfred Nobel and occurs within the vibrant tech and biopharma start-up scene that is spawned from world-class academic institutions spread around the country.

– Stockholm is a world-class city with great outdoor parks, safe, accessible (and on-time) transportation, and an eclectic restaurant and entertainment scene.  There are lots of excellent schools in and around the city with plenty of sports clubs for kids and adults to participate in.

What is the best thing with living in Sweden?

– Swedes are very active and love the outdoors.  From biking to work, alpine or nordic skiing, picking mushrooms in the forest, to just lying in the sun on a warm spring day, you can most often find Swedes outside.  The easily accessible parks and nature, even in and around Stockholm, are a great place to recharge and get some exercise while making the most of the long Swedish summer days.

Would you recommend others to move here?

– Absolutely!  My family and I love living in Stockholm. The quality of life and work-life balance in Sweden are second to none.  That coupled with the safe and accessible big Swedish cities, like Stockholm, with their rich history, culture, sports and entertainment opportunities make Sweden a wonderful place to live.

What do you think of Sweden regarding equality and other social aspects?

– Sweden is a very tolerant and open country, with a high respect for diversity of all kinds. Women in Sweden have held a high and equal position in society for a long time and the results of this can be seen in the leading roles women have in most sectors of society, from politics to academia and industry.  The social safety nets in Sweden, including generous paid time off to care for newborns, free daycare, education, and healthcare/dentistry for children play a role in helping establish a high standard of living for all.  In turn, this opens up opportunities for women to pursue leadership positions throughout the country.

In your opinion, which is the most beautiful place in Sweden?

– The archipelago just outside of Stockholm is my favorite place.  Going out on the ferry or boat on a warm sunny day, spending time with family or friends on the islands or on the beach, and then seeing the beautiful Stockholm skyline as you return home at night is a perfect day for me.

Which is the best Swedish tradition?

– It’s hard to pick just one.  The Swedish Midsummer celebration is great way to spend the longest day of the year – raising the maypole, singing and dancing around it, and enjoying a big feast with family and friends is hard to beat.  The Santa Lucia celebrations in December are also very unique and seeing 300 schoolchildren dressed up in white outfits standing outside while singing traditional songs is a sight to behold.

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Erling Thor Donnelly, PhD
Pfizer | Oncology Lead, Sweden & Nordics IBRANCE Collaboration Lead