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From social worker to Danish CEO of international company

Lene Overgaard Andersen is this year’s MBA alum at Aarhus BSS. Her career path has been unconventional, diverse and exciting.

2018.12.17 | Michael Schrøder

Photo: Roar Paaske

It was never part of a greater career plan that Lene Overgaard Andersen, 50, would go from being a social worker in the employment office at the Municipality of Aarhus to CEO of the Danish division of the international company Johnson Controls. Nevertheless, she assumed the position this year and is now head of a company with more than 1,000 employees in Denmark and one which develops, produces and sells cooling systems and heat pumps for the industrial and maritime sectors.

On her way to the job, she held municipal management positions during the municipal amalgamation in 2005-2007, had a stint in a building and construction company before joining the HR department at Johnson Controls Denmark in 2009. Here Lene Overgaard Andersen has held different positions as HR Business Partner, HR Regional Manager, HR Director and HR Director Nordic before she assumed the position of CEO of the company in February this year.

“My career hasn’t exactly been planned. My ambition has always been to work with the things that interest me and to focus on how I can contribute to the business and the organisation. For that reason, one job has led to another,” says Lene Overgaard Andersen.

However, embarking on an MBA at Aarhus BSS in 2013 was a conscious decision.

“First of all, I wanted to hone my skills and ensure progression and results for the company. But I was also driven by my inquisitiveness, my desire for new inspiration and for understanding business concepts and models. And for extending my network,” says Andersen.

Today she believes that having a background in a public and politically run organisation combined with a solid MBA is one of her strongest assets.

“When working with ambitious growth strategies and attempting to anchor the different initiatives in the organisation, you need the support of your employees. Otherwise, you will just be standing there all alone with your decision. I’ve learned a lot about employee interaction from my time as a social worker. You need to be able to navigate smoothly, translate and create meaning between the organisation and the management. And be able to build bridges between the organisation and its tasks. Both communicatively and when it comes to specific decisions,” says Andersen.

But the unconventional combination is not just a great asset inside the organisation.

“We’re also a highly specialised manufacturing company and as such we need highly specialised employees. This means that we also have a responsibility of ensuring that young people opt for a vocational education. We need to do so in collaboration with the municipality and the educational institutions, and here it’s an advantage to know how public organisations work,” Andersen points out.

She is very happy about being named this year’s MBA alum.

“First of all, it’s a good opportunity to stop and take a look back, and it’s also a great recognition of what you’ve accomplished. This isn’t really something I think about during a busy working day. But I’m very happy to be a good ambassador for the MBA programme at Aarhus BSS. I truly believe that the programme is extremely valuable in a professional as well as personal sense. I speak very highly of the programme in many contexts,” says Andersen.