With her sparkling smile and tumbling blonde locks you might not peg Mary-Rose Hoja as a scientist with an entrepreneurial spirit. Once you meet her in person, though, there’s no doubt that this is a woman of enormous drive, intellect and charm.
With a PhD in the sciences in her pocket and a good portion of her life having been lived abroad, Scottish-born Mary-Rose Hoja bucked her family’s expectations and ditched a career in the medical world – instead following her natural inclination to become a creative and entrepreneurial powerhouse.
While studying biochemistry at Edinburgh University Mary-Rose grabbed a chance to study for a year at Uppsala University, which led to her being invited to pursue her PhD in crystallography at the University. Unhappy with the program and post-grad life in Uppsala, she went on a two-week biology course in Greece, where she met her future husband, who happened to be studying for his PhD at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. One thing led to another and Mary-Rose ended up leaving Uppsala for Karolinksa, where she studied bio-medicine.
So how did this life of scientific learning lead Mary-Rose to a life of creativity and entrepreneurship? English is the language of science and her fellow PhD students at KI began asking her to check their articles before sending them off for publication. Word spread of her skills as a quick and talented editor and seeing an opportunity, Mary-Rose started an editing business. In addition to that her excellent Swedish skills led to translation offers and before you knew it she had started a company to deal with all the work offers coming her way.
Mary-Rose’s client meetings were often held over drinks but there was no where to do this at Karolinska so, seeing yet another opportunity, she started a pub, which became wildly successful with student, professors and visiting researchers.
Mary-Rose then spent six years in Australia before returning to Stockholm. During those years she had observed at conferences that the average scientist often has a lot to contribute – along with a great desire to do so – but their naturally introverted nature often prevented them from doing so. Another light bulb went off, leading to yet another venture, this time offering mingle workshops, which developed into business networking, both specifically for sales but also for careers. The idea was picked up by Dagens Nyheter, TV4 and numerous corporations and today her company, Hoja Consulting, develops both face-to-face workshops and online courses for general industry (B2B), specifically targeting scientists and technical people.
Many of Mary-Rose’s clients are international and a good portion of her work involves linking native Swedes with ex-pats.
She helps both sides understand cultural differences and how to successfully navigate those sometimes rocky waters; she helps her clients ‘build a tool box’ where they can choose the tool they need depending on whom they’re speaking with, whether it’s an American scientist or an Italian doctor. Understanding how different cultures do business is beneficial to both sides and can only increase success levels – and Mary-Rose’s work is instrumental in facilitating this process.
What’s Mary-Rose Hoja’s best advice to ex-pats, whether they’re here short term or long term? You might be surprised at her answer.
She says take advantage of the fact that Stockholm has excellent lunch deals. Book as many lunch meetings as you can with the most influential people you can get ahold of. She also thinks ‘After Works’ are great for en masse meetings and casual observation and says it’s ok to get happy (just not too happy!).
For the future, Mary-Rose sees more and more movement into the digital world and says that taking advantage of tools such as LinkedIn is key to success, whether you’re an ex-pat or just building a career in your corner of the world.
Today Mary-Rose Hoja lives in the gateway to the archipelago, Vaxholm, just outside of Stockholm, with her husband and two children. She continues to see opportunities everywhere and while she didn’t end up in what her family considered the highest of callings, medicine, she wouldn’t be where she is today had she not spent those years pursuing her degrees at some of the world’s top institutions of higher learning.