12 February, 2018

Swedish Worklife – Stories from International Founders, Freelancers and those with Fresh ideas

Tetiana Siianko talking on stage

This weekly interview blog by Barry O’Brien, aims to highlight the stories of those who have come to Sweden and shaped their business life, delivering new services, fresh ideas and professional standards to the Swedish market and beyond. We hope it helps to motivate you to achieve great things here!

#4. Tetiana Siianko –Doer and hustler! Organizer of the biggest startup events in Sweden and currently rethinking the food system.

You can find Tetiana in the Startup Guide Book, that’s how much influence she has on the startup scene in Sweden. As a former founder of VC backed startups, she knows a thing or two. Here is her story:

Tetiana Siianko Profile Pic

Which country are you originally from? 

I come from a continental, historically and culturally rich country, currently being in a state of anarchy, with +40 in summer, -20 in winter, where people walk their dogs with no leashes on, and pay a visit to their friends without two weeks prior booking!

The country of tastiest food and most open people on Earth – Ukraine 🙂

How long have you lived in Sweden?

Overall – 5 years!

In one sentence, tell us about your current business.

Sooo many things! I am the Operations Manager at Sweden Foodtech, Project Manager for Sweden Demo Day and Community Leader for Techstars Startup Weekend.

Personally, I am very interested in bridging the gap between arts and tech.

How would you rate your Swedish language skills for the workplace? (1 being lost tourist level – 10 is sauna conversational!)

10 – Yep, fluent and using Swedish in my work life.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in growing your business, and how have you overcome it? 

I came to Sweden for the first time as Ericsson employee in 2011 and it was like a bed of roses: great work in the innovation department, cool workmates, new relationships with an exotic Swedish guy and even a flat waiting for me! I loved everything about Sweden, even the darkness.

A year later, I got to know another very Swedish thing and the peculiarity of Swedish job market – first in, first out!

When I came to Sweden for the second time in 2014, it was way tougher. I had no job, I couldn’t speak any Swedish and I didn’t have any friends who could help me out.

Networking is key

Networking and hustling, opened new doors for me.

Now I think that the challenges, or shall I put it another way, the things that I hate the most are; the weather, quite cold summers and a terrible lack of sun in winters. There is also, sometimes, a conflict-averse mentality that can result in double standards and a certain hypocrisy where no one really tells you what she or he REALLY thinks!

Apart from that, everything is fine 🙂

Luckily, my startup experiences helped me to get used to taking NO, for an answer, and moving on quickly.

Who has been your biggest guide or inspiration in Sweden, and helped you to reach your current situation?

When I was younger, it was Astrid Lindgren who introduced me to Sweden, and a rainy Stockholm, through the pages of her ‘Karlson på Tacket’ stories. I thought I ended up here by chance, but now I realize it was serendipity.

Name TWO tools that you use in your business, to help you succeed.

Grammarly and – Both of them are Ukrainian!

Grammarly is for spellchecking, as you write blogposts and more. is for personalized email send-outs.

If you could export one Swedish thing, back to your previous country, what would it be? 

Tetiana with her dogs

Water. I think that water is the best thing that this country has.

The whole culture of what you can do with it: the best scenery for dog walking, sailing on a bigger boat, capsizing on a smaller one, drive a motor boat, have a fika on the rocks, swim in a diving suit in summer, fishing, windsurf regardless of weather, skate anywhere where there is ice, and just sit, contemplate and meditate. Sooo many options!

(Can I add a bonus wish? – Can I export cardamon sweet salty buns as well?!)

What do you know about Sweden, that no-one else does?

Sweden has the highest percentage of vegan and vegetarian people in Europe and in 3rd place in the world (after Brazil and India).

Or another cool fact, Anders Celsius was a Swede!

Where can people find more info about you and your work?

Startup pitches

Pitching to the crowd…No pressure!

 You can join me at our next Startup Weekend event – all about Foodtech. This weekend – February 16-18.

Some of my other activities are here:

Many thanks to Tetiana for her story and tips! Check out our second interview in the series, here!

Liked this? There is a lot more interesting stuff

Barry O'Brien on Linkedin
Barry O'Brien
Barry O'Brien has been in Sweden over ten years, working with marketing and sales in both large and small companies, as well as founding his own consultancy company.
Currently he is the Head of Growth Marketing at, a content marketing technology company based in Stockholm.
Barry is a coach and mentor at events such as Startup Weekend and the Founder Institute, has delivered talks at Hyper Island and Berghs School of Communication, and enjoys sharing his business experience with like-minded entrepreneurs.
You can contact him at