It’s all about having fun
Always full of ideas. Whether it’s building a litter tray at home or organising a cycling team for a long-distance race – despite having barely cycled before – projects, challenges and problem solving are what get the juices flowing for Gimmy Liu. And the more unusual and unique, the better – as long as you have fun along the way.
When he was younger, Gimmy wanted to become an inventor or a scientist, like his grandfather. Back in China, when he was little, he was given a Volvo 480 toy car. The word “Volvo” seemed symmetrical, and fun to pronounce in Chinese, and the mini Matchbox model became his favourite toy. He still has it today, and recalls the first time he saw a Volvo in real life.
“Back in 1995, you had more chances of seeing a unicorn than a Volvo on the streets of China. There was neither a sales division nor a Volvo factory there. I was only four then, but there was no limit to my fascination.”
Two years’ preparation
“My parents worked in the oil and gas sectors, so I ended up following the oil around the world. I eventually decided to take my Master in Mechanical Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology, in Gothenburg, as I thought this would give me a better chance of getting a job at that bold, unique, innovative little car manufacturer, Volvo. As a result I felt fairly well prepared when I eventually applied to join the Volvo Cars Global Graduate Programme, and to my delight, I passed the selection process and got the green light. My two years of ‘preparation’ had paid off.”
Started with an identity crisis
Gimmy recalls the first day. As well as being introduced to the other graduates and his home department, he experienced something of an identity crisis. Who was he, and what could he contribute with in this big crowd of clever, talented graduates? He was also starting to plan his job rotations with his manager. It was all a bit overwhelming.
“At the same time, this is what was so appealing about the programme; having a unique opportunity to learn without limits at the company I’d dreamed about working for. The programme delivered on its promise. I get the chance to try lots of different things, thinking freely and creatively without being held back. It’s like an ongoing lesson in holistic thinking. I can observe, experience and take part in the manufacturing industry on a broad scale. It’s so much fun, and helps me develop as a person and as a future leader.
The graduates here have a lot of freedom. We’re encouraged by our managers and mentors to innovate, try things out and learn as much as we can. They give us responsibility and trust us to generate value for the company. The programme also aims to foster a new type of leader and lay the foundation for a new way of working, and I can’t think of a better way of delivering on these ambitions. This gives me respect for a smart company which is braver than I imagined.”
A playful approach to leadership
So what type of leader does he want to become? “I hope to be able to inspire others through my creativity. I’m a great believer that people are more creative and work more effectively when they’re having fun. As a leader, I’d definitely try to spark passion and energy in the workplace. I’m not sure if this is a ‘young’ way to work, but having more fun at work helps to achieve quick and simple solutions to complex problems.
For example, just last week I was collaborating on a project with a Danish colleague in Copenhagen who presented his ideas and solutions with the help of Lego. Smart and creative. It’s all about developing intelligent, technical solutions in a fun, playful way.”
Right from the start
“I’ve also noticed how Volvo’s culture and values help to ensure people here enjoy their work. Respect for people and the environment cultivates a breeding ground for creativity and sustainable solutions. Volvo’s human-centric approach was the right strategy from the start, and the company’s greatest asset.
In the smart cities of tomorrow, where everything is connected, machines, applications and transport systems are fully integrated to communicate with each other. This gives people greater freedom to choose how we move around as well as where and how we decide to work. Regardless, most of us would already choose a safe, smart vehicle over 1,000 horse power under the hood. This will come into even sharper focus in future, and I’m looking forward to taking part in such exciting development.”
Gimmy on the best thing about working for Volvo Cars:
“The great climate of openness at the company, which means you’re free to express your opinions, and the job satisfaction created by teamwork.”
Gimmy on the qualities which will help graduates get ahead:
“You have to enjoy a challenge and be solution-orientated. You have to be honest, candid and true to yourself at all times, and having respect for others goes a long way.”