Changing countries is one thing, but diving into a completely new culture is another—and it can be pretty daunting! This was the case for Madhav Agarwal, a former brand consultant turned project lead for a planet-centric business (more about this later). Here, we talk about his Hyper Island journey of discovery and the huge transformations his life has taken since arriving in Sweden just two years ago.

Hey Madhav! Give us the lowdown on who you are and what your current role is in the world of work?

Hello! I’m Madhav and I was a part of the Business Developer program 2019-2020 at Hyper Island, Stockholm.

Right now, I’m working as a Project Lead at Planethon, a planet research and innovation consultancy based in Stockholm. Even though my title says ‘Project Lead’ my current role involves me juggling many tasks including project management, graphic design, workshop facilitation, developing concepts and products, and pretty much anything else that requires me to fill a gap in the company!

What’s it been like to transition from India to Sweden? Culture shock or smooth transition?

I’d say it was a smooth culture shock. India and New Delhi are a complete contrast from what Stockholm is, and I expected that. Initially, I saw only the beautiful architecture and old towns. But then after getting to know people, their motivations and drives, I realized how different Swedish culture is from the rest of the world and obviously, India.

I would say it took me around five to six months to understand what Swedish people value, what makes them take a decision and how they evaluate a person. All of which is useful information, especially if one wants to work collaboratively.

I have vivid memories of me being excited, loud, and very animated in the first few weeks— a common workplace behavior in India—only then to realize it was a cause of stress for a few of my teammates.

“For me, understanding a person’s culture and background became a very important thing to know after realizing how different our behaviors are in a workplace.”

How did your adventure with Hyper Island begin? Why did you choose us?

I first discovered Hyper Island in 2012, when an acquaintance of mine went to study a master’s program right after graduating from university.

In 2018, I decided I wanted to attend a school that gave me exposure to working in a new cultural setting and wasn’t just revolved around theoretical learning. Very few schools came up that matched my needs, which included education, practical experience, and an international outlook.

“Hyper Island, with its brand roster and practical methodology, stood out among any other design school.”

Now that you’ve graduated, what’s the plan?

I always wondered whether methodology was a part of the bubble that Hyper Island creates and fortunately, the answer I’ve found is no. There is a real-world application to the process and you don’t have to forgo good culture for either the quality of work we do or the speed at which we do it.

I will be joining Planethon, a Stockholm-based company as a Project Lead.

“I’ve been extremely fortunate to find a place that follows the Hyper Island methodology quite closely, and where the culture reflects creative principles of what I’ve learned.”

Collaboration and co-creation is quite central to where I work and I couldn’t be happier to find a company that follows this.

My plan is to apply what I’ve taken from school to a real worklife setting and deepen my understanding of the application of Hyper Island’s methodology.

Planethon sounds so interesting! Tell us more about this planet-centric business and what the future holds.

I was first an intern at Planethon (through Hyper Island). It was one of the greatest learning experiences that I’ve had. During my course, I shifted focus from brand strategy to a more process-based facilitation and output. My internship allowed me to create an intersection between the two.

Planethon is a start-up and became a perfect fit for me because I was allowed to move fast, have responsibility over decisions, as well as work with their management very closely.

My mentor there was actually a former CEO of Hyper Island!

“Being in the presence of Hyper Island alumni made it a very comfortable environment because they understood the methods—it wasn’t a transformational change for them.”

That led me to build on the methods learned and experiment even further.

One of Planethon’s offerings is a planet-centric business development process, which is a proprietary process that builds on the design thinking process around the needs of the planet. We work with socio-ecological scientists and bring their research to build future-ready businesses that are planet positive.

We’re also building our own AI-based ecosystem mapping service, as well as learning and sustainable transformation programs, in a bid to unlock a great value for the planet.

What experiences from Hyper Island do you find most valuable and hope to take with you into working life?

My experience at Hyper Island has been a complete transformational journey from a personal and a professional perspective.

When I came to Hyper Island, I was a brand strategist with a fair amount of work experience, and looking to further my skills and expertise in that area itself. I came to find a job in Stockholm/Europe and stick to my safe zone of skills.

“Through Hyper Island and an open mind, I was able to not only develop my skills, but also my ability to learn anything.”

For me, Hyper Island’s methodology is not about learning the skills, expertise, or theory about any subject, it’s about the experience-based methodology of “learn by doing”, which fit me perfectly well. Based on that, I was able to set my own goals and learn skills that would benefit me for the long term.

After realizing the power of this methodology, I took a deep dive into Design Thinking and Agile Ways of Working; how to build effective teams, run projects in an ever-changing dynamic, and solve problems through a process-based approach. For me, it was nothing short of a leadership and management course for a new digital workspace.

Any advice for other people thinking about studying at Hyper Island?

Come to Hyper Island with an open mind because it can really take you places. Be open to all experiences and something that you’ll hear at Hyper Island very often: “Trust the process”.

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Article updated on: 11 March 2024