This week we had the chance to chat with Jaime Gonzalez Pereira, Vice Chairman of SACC-GA and Business Controller at Elekta, a Swedish company that provides radiation therapy, radio surgery, related equipment and clinical management for the treatment of cancer and brain disorders. Elekta has one of their many global offices in Atlanta, and is also a corporate member of SACC-GA. We talked to Jaime about his relation to Sweden and SACC, as well as Elekta as a company.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your relation to Sweden as well as SACC-GA? I was born in Chile and at a quite young age, my parents decided to move to Sweden due to the situation in Chile. The reason for the decision of Sweden was that my parents had some relatives living in Stockholm. Sweden was also known, which I believe they still are, to be of help and accept people from countries where there might some sort of instability. I finished my studies at University of Stockholm, where I then began working for Elekta at the end of calendar year 2007. Got a promotion where I moved to the UK, then to Brazil and then to the US, where I’ve been for almost 4 years. So my career has brought me to several different countries where I always try to have some sort of connection to Sweden. Arriving in Atlanta, SACC-GA was that connection with Sweden.
What is your favorite event with SACC-GA and why? Lucia for sure. You'll see a majority of members from SACC, who also invite family and friends. It is also one of my favorite events because it's a cultural celebration that brings back good memories from Sweden.
Tell us about Elekta and why they are a part of SACC-GA? Elekta is proud to be the leading innovator of equipment and software used to improve, prolong and save the lives of people with cancer and brain disorders. More than 6,000 hospitals worldwide rely on Elekta's technology. Elekta has been a part of SACC-GA for many years. Elekta's former CEO (Tomas Puusepp) was based in the US for many years and saw the need and benefit of being part of the Chamber, to gain knowledge and experience from other Swedish companies, but also to give input on what Elekta deals with, both benefits and struggles. I strongly believe that Elekta benefits from bringing “Swedishness” into the office and to its employees by being part of SACC-GA. We strive to have employees being a part of events, which might be difficult being based in Atlanta, U.S.
How does operating a business in the U.S differ from Sweden? Especially for a company like Elekta? First of all, volumes are a big difference. We’re comparing Sweden that have 10 million people in population vs. the US who have 325 million. But not only due to population difference, US is the world’s largest market for radiation therapy and it has the largest installed base of linear accelerators. If you look at the work force Elekta has globally, out of 3,700 employees, 900 of them are based in the US. This makes the US the biggest employer within Elekta, even bigger than UK, where Elekta has its major production plant. Also, based on producing products to hospitals in Sweden (but also in many other countries in Europe and other continents) the purchases are done by the state, due to hospitals being part of the public sectors. In the US it’s predominantly private healthcare providers.
In what ways is the Swedish mentality and culture present at Elekta here in the US? “Consensus” is noticeable in the day-to-day work (not sure if it’s always good) and June-July months are very calm over here in the US whereas no one answers if you give a call to Sweden. Jokes aside, Elekta does try to give certain benefits to its employees, such as an extended maternity leave. We do have one core message which is “we do what we say”, which I feel is well connected to the Swedish mentality. Something I do like with Elekta culture, and also noticed among chamber company members, is that it’s quite easy and almost encouraged to move from one country to another. It’s well accepted to have international colleagues because we understand it gives a good benefit, not only for the one who moved abroad, but also for local employees to gain experience from how other cultures works, and gain ideas from. Personally it has brought me fantastic challenges and activities during my 10 years with Elekta!