Meet Christel Åkerman
New SET member Christel Åkerman brings with her 21 years of Skanska experience - including international projects and risk management.
Among Skanska people without a degree in engineering Christel Åkerman probably is one of the most knowledgeable regarding the tricks of the construction trade.
As the Skanska Risk Team Senior Vice President she has been a frequent guest in all our home markets and she has visited hundreds of project sites since 2010. In her 20+ years role as trouble shooter she has lived and worked in Colombia, the Baltics, Malta and Poland - 12 years in total away from Sweden.
Her background is in law, in which she took her degree at Lund University in 1992. Before joining Skanska in 1994 she worked for law firms in Stockholm and London.
Christel and her risk team review about 500 potential large projects every year. And while the number of large projects has increased since 2010 the number of loss-making large projects has reduced.
"I think both my team and the company as a whole have become better at identifying and handling risks and opportunities, but more importantly, the risk awareness in the Business Units has improved substantially over the years. It has been a major goal for us to enhance the BU’s and their local expertise. It is natural that the BU’s take on more of the responsibility for handling risks and opportunities," says Christel.
Knowledge sharing in practice
The Skanska Risk Team is practically working as a greenhouse for nurturing risk management. Since 2010, around ten persons from across Skanska have joined the team for a year or so and then returned to line roles in their Business Units. In addition, about 120 interns joined for shorter periods and then returned with renewed risk expertise to their home markets.
Skanska was quite different when Christel joined the company. Sweden accounted for two thirds of the construction sales. But from the outset, Christel took an international approach and worked for the Sweden-based international civil construction unit that was mainly involved in large hydro power plants and tunnels and hospitals in developing countries.
Being a lawyer Christel’s main task concerned commercial issues in connection with our projects.
Early is good
Those who worked with her from the start, for example Agne Sandberg, now General Counsel of Skanska Infrastructure Development, recalls that she was happy to be involved early, prior to signing, rather than being asked to straighten out issues that had arisen during the course of a project.
Early is good, is a mantra Christel often uses, while another guiding principle for Christel is the importance of operational excellence.
"A project is where profits are made and operational excellence is what makes it happen. Core competence never goes out of style," she says.
Operational excellence can only be obtained at the heart of a project. Consequently, she was based in Malta for two years at a hospital project which was at risk of becoming a marathon race due to constantly changed orders. She had a similar task at a hydro power project in Colombia where she lived and worked on a jungle site for two years. And when the project campus felt too restricted, she explored the jungle by motorbike or horse.
While she is now a dedicated golfer, in her younger days she had a feel for more adventurous sports. She was eight times selected, as the first and sometimes only woman, to be part of the Camel Trophy ̶ an off-road caravan of Land Rovers crossing mountains, deserts, jungles, rivers and marshland.
"Looking back it was great fun, although sometimes so tough it was also a bit scary," she admits in hindsight.