Category Archives: Personal

Changing career from sales and management consultancy to digital marketing and social media

One evening in December 2008, I was sitting at home playing with my MacBook computer and started to record a video of myself talking to the screen. I decided I should create a video and send it to all JCI London members as a final thank-you message. JCI stands for Junior Chamber International and is a global network that I’ve been involved in for over 10 years.

Over Christmas, my cousin Joel helped me film and edit my video. I was so fascinated by Final Cut Pro, the software he used to edit the video, I decided I wanted to learn how to edit films and learn more about film production.

I had been working in the professional service team at BSI for eighteen months, selling big consultancy and standardisation projects, when the head of my team saw that I had lost interest in my job. (I am not that good at hiding my feelings.) I spent a lot of time negotiating difficult legal contracts and didn’t feel enthusiastic about dealing with more lawyers; it made me feel drained.

My boss went on a training course entitled, ‘How to develop talent’. The next day he confronted me and asked me straight out (imagine this with a French accent), ‘Sofie, what do you really want to work with?’ I was not comfortable being put on the spot like this.

‘I would like to become a film producer and work with social media,’ I replied.

A few days later I was told that there was a new role in the company, and it looked as if I had written the job description. The role was Marketing Manager with a focus on film production and social media. I was interviewed for the position and I started two months later, in the middle of 2009. Was this luck or coincidence? Or a result of my clarifying in my own mind and speaking up about what I truly wanted?

I was the first social media manager in a business that had a 100-year-old history and many long-established systems and processes to follow. But the systems and processes in place were not the biggest challenge – the culture was. I still believe that BSI is doing okay when it comes to digital development; but introducing and encouraging social media to be used by everyone in every team was a challenge. Of course, all marketers and social media enthusiasts thought it was a no-brainer to connect with everyone online, but the sceptics were more hesitant.  My job description was short and neat: to introduce new digital ideas. It was a challenge and I learned a lot about how creativity and innovation works in the digital world.

I had a great relationship with my new boss, Santa (yes, that’s her name), and our team performed very well. We continually learned all we could about new digital techniques. Working with marketing in an organisation like BSI means that you have to do things well, much better than average. To do it badly is an enormous risk for the organisation.

One of the new skills I had to learn in my new job was film editing, and I completed a five-day Final Cut Pro (FCP) editing course. If you have used FCP you know it’s a bit complicated. It was a super intense course and it was actually a JCI member who was my teacher. After the course I was able to apply my new skills immediately.

I also arranged for a former BBC film photographer to train people in our team in filming and thinking as a film director. She was an amazing teacher and got us all to understand what shots are needed when filming and small camera tricks. I loved this! One of the best and most practical courses I have ever undertaken.

At BSI, minor mistakes could potentially cause huge damage. I learned how to communicate with all our stakeholders, of which there were many. I set up and managed several websites and social media networks.

The most important thing I did was to train and educate all ten sectors’ teams in what can be achieved with the help of digital tools. Once educated, those who were apprehensive of the digital world felt the door open to a whole new reality. By sharing this knowledge, the way our team communicated with the rest of the business changed for the better. I had built new bridges between the teams and the whole organisation changed the way they looked at communication. Training can be a powerful tool.

 One of the more interesting meetings that I had as the internal film producer at BSI was with a production company from Belfast. All the meeting rooms were all booked, so we sat down in the BSI canteen – a sales representative, a film director and me. I had met with many agencies and very few of them got my creative juices flowing. But in this meeting I met Grainne – who is both a film director and producer. It was as if we had much to discuss and more to learn from each other. This was the beginning of a great working relationship and friendship. Grainne is a fantastic teacher and mentor. I love to surround myself with people like her.

When I began learning about film production, I felt initially very intimidated by people who had gone to film school. But the reality was not what I imagined. I met some great directors and producers at an event at the British Film Institute. What they told me was that you don’t go to a film school to learn how to make films; you go there to build up a network of connections. It made sense. Many directors and producers are experts on two things – leadership and creativity. Making a film involving hundreds of people is difficult. If you are good at it, you know a lot about people. From working with both directors and producers, I learned a lot about how to get things done and how to show your appreciation of others. You can’t produce a big project yourself; you have to involve a lot of experts.

After I had been in my digital marketing, social media and film production role for about two years, the company got a new managing director. All employees had to apply for new jobs – the whole organisation changed. I interviewed for the role as Website Director but didn’t get the job. The interview was more like a hearing than anything else, and I would have found it difficult working in that position.

Losing my self-confidence and finding it through public speaking

I totally lost my self-confidence after this interview, and to pick myself up I joined a public speaking club. I improved my public speaking skills and felt much better about myself. I now believe that becoming an effective public speaker is one of the best things you can do to boost your self-confidence.

With my newfound confidence, I moved on from my Digital Marketing Manager role at BSI to work as E-commence Manager for ITV online at the end of 2011. ITV is the biggest commercial TV channel in the UK and they produce amazing TV programmes. After I had been in my new job for about three days, I felt that it was not for me. It was so hard to have this internal conflict, but I got on with the job and reassured myself that things were going to be just “fine”.

It felt to me as if the organisation was afraid of creativity and that there was a distinct lack of digital knowledge, listening skills and leadership. Many technical things were not properly developed, which resulted in many issues. On top of this, all the people who made decisions about the systems had left the organisation, so there was nobody left to ask questions of. I was not enjoying working there and felt mentally drained. After about five months, I left, and I had to pick myself up again.

I always try, though, to see what I have learned to take with me to the next step. And the one thing I did learn from this experience was that you must get the basics right in your digital systems to get them to work with you and not against you. 

Sofie Sandell by the river Thames

Photographer Sandra Donskute

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Summary 2014

I hope you’ve had a good year so far and I wish you a great Christmas break and a happy new year.

I’ve written an ambitious summary of my 2014. I like reflecting on the past, it helps me to start from scratch next year. You can also listen to my summary here.

If you like goal setting you can download my goal setting template, I have found that very useful when I used that in the past.

Sharing is caring
I’ve been training people in and speaking about social media and leadership all around the world this year. I’ve spoken in China and the Arab world and have trained African organisations in London in social media. I’ve learned a lot about digital development from doing this. Digital resources and knowledge are far from equal around the world and if we live in a nation such as the UK we need to share our knowledge.Sofie Sandell speaks in China

Best talk
Malala’s talk at the Southbank Centre in March of this year. It was a pleasure to listen to her tell her story. If you have not seen her speak yet, search for her on YouTube. I am very happy for her that she won the Nobel Peace Prize, it means a lot to her and all girls who are fighting for the right to eduction.

Best classical music concert
I went to a concert to see the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra to celebrate the Year of Russian Culture in the UK. Loved it.

Best course
The creative writing course at Skyros with Crysse Morrison. I never thought you could learn so much about writing in two weeks.

Sofie Sandell writing course Skyros

New insights
After my two week-long writing course I wanted to learn more about other authors so I watched several episodes of the Swedish literature TV programme Babel. Quite a few of the interviews are in English if you want to check it out. One thing that I realised was that all successful authors have their own way of tapping into their creativity and none of them follow a specific recipe for success recipe. I see a lot of courses that claim to provide a blueprint for how to become an author. Not sure they work though, how you write and share your message is very personal.

Most random retreat
I joined some friends for a retreat facilitated by Joyce Rupp – ‘The unknown as a doorway to spiritual growth’. There were about 150 people in the room and 140 of them were nuns. Very interesting day. I don’t think I’ve every spoken to nuns before.

Most surprising event I went along to
I went along to a Death Café meet-up in December. A friend of mine went to one in May this year and I wanted to check it out myself. It was a fascinating evening, and when you speak about death you are actually speaking about life and what’s important to you. It was a very friendly evening and you share thoughts about death and listen to the people who are there. That we will die is one of the things we all have in common. The Death Café is a growing movement and there are new groups meeting every day. Google it and you might find a Death Café meeting near you.

Best new gadget
My iPhone with 64 GB storage; thanks to my new phone I’m not running out of space that quickly.

Most important commitment
To write more about diversity, education and feminism. I might even write for a UK national newspaper next year. Fingers crossed.

Most fascinating building
I went to the Southbank Centre in London constantly this year, I feel amazing when I am at that venue. Something about the place makes me feel alive and creative.

Challenge in my life
I’ve been injured all year due to my joint hypermobility, plus I’ve suffered from extremely low blood pressure on and off which sometimes makes me very tired. What I need to do is plan things better, stay well hydrated, walk and keep my joints and muscles fit.

Event I had to say no to
Due to a hip injury I could not ski the cross country race Vasaloppet in Sweden as planned. Not happy about that, but at the time it was impossible for me to do it.

New insight into myself
I’ve been talking to a therapist on a regular basis all year to learn more about myself. It’s been good and some of my closest friends say that I’m much calmer now. As a speaker and trainer you give a lot of yourself and for me how to find the balance to get back what you give is still a mystery.

Eating habits
Opposite to most people, I am trying to eat more salt and fat. I’ve always craved salt and that’s probably because of my low blood pressure and I need to eat more fat to stay full, I tend to snack all the time otherwise. Let’s see how this strategy is working a few months into 2015.

New partnership #1
Tech Talkfest and I kicked off the Global Conversations Dinner in November. I loved the network of people involved. It was a great evening and we will organise more next year. To work with Ghilaine Chan and Zoe Cunningham has been great.

Fun speaking competition
The Corporate Challenge. It was fun to compete in public speaking on stage with other accomplished speakers.

Feeling worried about
Online privacy and security issues.

Swimming achievement
I feel proud that I learned how to front crawl 100 meters without stopping between lengths. Throughout my life I’ve mostly swum breast stroke, and when I first swam front crawl to improve my joints I felt as if I was going to sink. Now I am much more confident and calm and feel like a dolphin when front crawling.

New books
I wrote a mini memoir about myself. I had a huge value clash with a business partner earlier this year and this made it very easy for me to write. Conflict can be great for your creativity.

I have also published a book about social media strategies The Little Black Book of Social Media Strategies.

New academic insights
I’ve been collaborating with Mihaela Stroe who is an expert in nonverbal communication. It’s amazing what you can learn from working together with someone. We’ve been talking a lot about online nonverbal communication and how it shapes our identities. We have plans to collaborate next year as well.

New design work
I designed my logo myself when sitting in a coffee shop in Tooting waiting for a friend back in January. Logos are fun and inspiring.

Best sketch
I was working with Lucy Knight and she sketched one of my talks about Digital Leadership.

I love sketching and doodling. Maybe one of my challenges for next year should be to be more creative on my iPad?

Digital Leadership talk by Sofie Sandell

Best childhood memory I’ve been reminded of
I was watching a documentary on the BBC about Tove Jansson this summer, she is the creator of the Moomin family, and I got so into the Moomins again and had to watch some episodes on YouTube. They are so funny.

New partnership #2
I’m writing for which is great, I really like writing for that site. Marketing is going through so many changes at the moment and we are in need of guidelines and inspiration.

Best book review of my book Digital Leadership
It was written last year by Susanna Stratton, but I met her again this year and wanted to share it here. She is an interesting person and coach.

Interviewing experts
I would like to do more interviews with people about digital leadership. I’ve done around ten this year and would like to do many more next year. If you know anyone who would be a good subject for an interview please connect us. I do interviews over email or Skype.

New partnership #3
I write a column and articles for The London Business Journal on a regular basis. It’s fun to explore new opportunities like this.

Best TV series
The final six episodes of the Wallander series were amazing – I’ll miss him. The ending made me cry.

Best museum
The House of Mirrors in Kuwait. Amazing artist and story behind the house.

Sofie Sandell in Kuwait

Shop addiction
I don’t know why, but I love stationery shops so much. I could go shopping for pens and paper every day.

Bought too much of
I bought too many books; I’ve nowhere to put them. I desperately need the never-ending book shelf to be invented.

Scary thing I did
I shared some of my poems in a magazine and gave two poems to friends who got engaged and one to a couple who got married.

Best inspirational documentary
I was invited to an art exhibition by Sue Kreitzman and met the director of Fabulous Fashionistas, a documentary about the lives of six women with an average age of 80. Very inspiring stories.

Best documentary #2
The story about Astrid Lindgren’s life on Swedish TV aired in December. Wow, what an amazing woman. I hope it will be broadcasted in other countries.

Feeling grateful
Thank you to Picturehouse in Belfast which edited my showreel.

Best Google Hangout
I loved our Customer Service 2.0 Google Hangout and I believe that we should do everything we can to stop bad customer service. It’s fun to work with Filipe Carerra and Peter Milligan – a cosmopolitan mix.

Inspiring singers
I’ve gotten to know four opera singers this year. They are all very inspiring people, and when I’ve been trying to heal my joints some of their posture tips have been amazing. There was a period when I hardly could stand up and speak without a lot of pain. Now I am much better, thanks for that.

Best portrait photographer
Katja Ragnstam who took my current profile photos in Sweden in May.

Best voice coach
I’ve been working with Cathleen McCarron for over a year now and it’s very inspiring to learn from her. We can all learn how to better work with our voices.

One thing that surprised me about social media
That I’m consuming more news than ever thanks to Facebook. I read The New York Times and Al Jazeera and some other newspapers online all the time.

Best website designer
Anna Langa who helped me design my new website and did the final touches for my new logo. Thank you ☺

The most interesting conference I attended
The interfaith conference about digital media and religion. We now share a huge amount of messages online and I believe that we must be more accountable and not allow any harassment or trolling to occur.

Still searching for
A mastermind group to learn from. I’ve tried a few groups, but they’ve not worked out.

Noisiest venue
The Business Show at Olympia Grand in London. It must be the nosiest exhibition I’ve ever been to. I can’t understand how people can conduct business there. If the noise level was just a tiny bit lower I’m sure you would be able to build much better relationships. But maybe I am sensitive…?

Thing I’ve started to like more
Cats. I’ve never been a big cat fan, but I like them more and more. It must be all the crazy cat videos online that have influenced me.

This year has been my year of exploring theology and philosophy. I am questioning things more and more and feel great about doing so.

Feeling tired of
The personal development industry that makes us chase after perfection. I would like us all to relax more. We are okay as we are and it’s okay to have disparate beliefs and it’s okay to not preach our own school of beliefs to everyone we meet. Learning how to listen more carefully is probably a good lesson for most of us.

Being imperfect and having flaws is cool, okay!

My plans for 2015 are to continue speaking about Digital Leadership around the world, continue writing for magazines and newspapers, find a good publisher for the next books I’m writing, enjoy my time with my friends, family and loved once.

Let’s rock 2015.

Best wishes,

Sofie ☺

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Extract from an interview…

I was looking through loads of documents on my computer and I found a forgotten interview and here are some of the comments I made:

About being a speaker:
– I love to share my knowledge and inspire others about how things that can be done. My specialist areas are pretty complex; digital media, people’s creativity and leadership, these topics are not easy to handle and the people I meet feel enlightened and inspired to take action after meeting me and listening to my talks. I explain complex concepts using simple words to make them easier to grasp.  

– I am very curious and I used to work as a management consultant and I’m even a trained quality management  ISO 9001 auditor. I love to dig into what it is that makes something work well and how you can create a culture that will nurture creativity and innovation. In combination with my digital experience I believe this makes me pretty unique. When I worked at BSI I trained teams in all sectors in what you can do with digital tools and this training kicked off a lot of new projects.

– In the future we are going to combine new digital technology with both new and old solutions, and to be able to do this well you must work on your mindset and how you welcome new ideas. Social media is going to get even more complex I believe. 

– I often share some hands-on tips about how you can nurture ideas better, and I also share some stories about successes and failures in the digital world. How you handle new ideas will determine how innovative you are.

Networking and other experts:
– The best way to keep up-to-date with what’s new is to talk to other experts. I recently interviewed two Swedish teens about how they use digital tools and I am expanding my ‘Digital Leadership’ interviews to include more people from all over the globe. I also contribute to the technology radio show #TechTalkfest where I talk about all things digital.

Teaching masterclasses:
– In my social media masterclasses I encourage all participants to be active and to participate in the discussions. Being involved is the best way to learn and explore new ideas. I prepare my workshops and classes with the help of an online collaboration tool to collect questions from the audience, among other things. Things always go more smoothly when we are all better prepared. 

About volunteering:
– I’ve always volunteered and one of my best experiences was being the president of Junior Chamber International London a few years back. We more than doubled the membership of the Chamber that year and started some amazing projects that are still going strong.

– Working on digital projects with other volunteers can be difficult, but when you get your digital branding right you open up doors that were closed before.

About being an artist and the nervousness exhibiting:
– To talk out loud about what you are doing and thinking makes things real and concrete. When you tell people you know and even strangers what you are up to you become more confident. This is something I discovered about my own creativity.

Thoughts about the future:
– I hope that my legacy will be my books and the inspiration I have shared. I would also love to train people working with the UN and politicians about collaboration and partnership. It looks to me as though they have forgotten how creativity and innovation work. Or maybe they were never trained in these skills to begin with.

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Looking back at notes from when I was 12 years old

When I was 12 years old I wrote a book about myself as a special project in school. I loved doing that and it has 16 chapters about my life. I just looked at it and I thought I should share some stories and photos from it here.

Sofie 12 years old

Schools photo from when I was 12 years old 🙂

The first chapter describes my names: Anna, Sofie, Elizabeth – I wanted to spell my third name with z, the British way, I think I thought it was cooler to spell it that way. In Swedish you spell it Elisabeth and that’s still my official spelling.

Me and my mum.

Me and my mum.

My favourite clothes were jeans and college sweaters. I liked the softness of my sweaters, pointed that out in the book.

In chapter 4 ‘What I wonder’ I wrote that it seems to be fun to be a journalist and would like to write about sport – not done that much so far in that area. And I also say that I would like to be a news journalist. I think I wanted to become a sport journalist because my dad was (and still is) a sport addict. As a kid I watched a lot of sport on TV, plus that my teacher’s husband was a sport journalist.

Sofie Sandell school photo

My first school photo when I’m 7 years old

Chapter 5 is about sport – and my favourite sport as a kid was handball. I was the goal keeper and everyone thought I was crazy, it was sometimes very painful, but I loved it. I tried all kind of sports; gymnastic, football, had a few years when all I thought about was horses, athletic, climbing and skiing and probably a few more things.

Skiing as a kid. I thought I was a star skier in the lower picture.

Skiing as a kid. I thought I was a star skier in the lower picture.

As a 12 year old I had crash on Tom Cruise. I had a big poster of him in room. Back then I had no idea how creepy he would become… I dedicated a chapter to Tom and the film Cocktail in my book. Loved that movie so much (✿◠‿◠)  Going to the cinema was my favourite thing to do and I once saw four movies in one week – and my mum thought I was spending too much money then.

On my perfect birthday I would sleep until 12.00 and then get breakfast served in bed containing cookies and soda. I wish I still could sleep until 12.00 now…

I also described the adventure in Trysil in Norway when me and my best friend Sara got lost when we were out cross country skiing in the evening. I think we were about 10 at the time. We were gone for hours and everyone were so worried. We managed to ski all the way to the centre of the village, and ended up 10 kilometers away from our where we stayed. Luckily I remembered what the place where we stayed was called and we could get a taxi back. That’s one of the dramas from my childhood.


Every year we build a gingerbread house and it was always a bit tricky to glue it together with melted sugar. My dad was always the architect and then I decorated it with candy. The best part of it was that you could then eat it before Christmas.


Ginger house party with my best friend Sarah. Ready to crash the house.

My favourite subjects in schools were geography, art, physical education and to work with the book about myself. I sound so smart when I wrote that I am not in school just because I have to, but to learn new things and to meet my friends.

Sofie the masterchef

Sofie the masterchef

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New art symbolising the chaos of social media

This is my latest art and when I painted it I thought about the chaos and mess that social media brings to our lives. I speak to people about social media almost every day and there is a huge confusion about social media around the world. So far I’ve not met any person from any organisations who says that it’s easy to communicate through social media and that that technology is not making them confused.

These three pieces of art describes the web/technology/social media confusion that you might feel, and if you ever felt confused I can assure you that all organisations feel a bit lost. Social media and technology and new ways to communicate are affecting us a lot. At the moment 40% of all people on Earth have access to the Internet and in the next few years millions and millions more will have access.

How will this influence us? What will happen with businesses? If you are a leader you must plan for an über-connected future with new creative technology. There will be nowhere to hide. Your honesty, transparency and your intentions will be scrutinised.

Sofie Sandell art about social media 1

Sofie Sandell’s art – The chaos of social media 1

Sofie Sandell art about social media 3

Sofie Sandell’s art – The chaos of social media 2

Sofie Sandell art about social media 2

Sofie Sandell’s art – The chaos of social media 3

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Two new poems

I got inspired and wrote a few more poems in the last few weeks. I dedicated them to some friends – here they are below. I hope you like them.

Hugs, Sofie x

Love and Friendship

Love is friendship
Friendship is love

Friendship connects through our veins
It goes through all systems
It opens all doors

With blood and friendship
We connect

Look out
Be present

The mysterious journey called life
It connects us

Keep the door open and
A small cut heals quickly

Say yes to the mysterious future
So many things we can’t explain
Our stories are the way they are

Look out for them
Connect with them
Look down on them from heaven’s floor

Search for your gift
Share your gift
Be your gift

Friendship and love will always be there
Hold them both close
They are gifts to your soul

Water and Love

Your thirst is deep
The water is awake

It touches all sides of earth
And every cell in your body

Its colours are blue, green, red and white
It all depend on the light
It has shadows
It has dark sides

Its surface is uneven
A new angle gives it meaning
And we deeply need it

Let it touch your soul
The water is around you
Let’s share its beauty

Your love is deep

Your arms are wide open
It touches all sides of earth

And every cell in your body
Its colours have no limits
That’s part of its charm

It has shadows
It has dark sides

It’s hard to explain with words
Its many dialects give it meaning
And we deeply want it

It touches your soul
Love is here
Share its beauty

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My other passions: Art and Improv

I love art, especially crazy and colourful art. I have painted with oil and acrylic paint since I was about twenty years old. My paintings were never planned at all; the inspiration was just there. 

In my research for what creativity is, I went along to a workshop about creative painting in 2010. In this workshop I learned that whatever comes out is right. It was a great day and I left with some powerful paintings. Since then I’ve applied this new technique to many projects; that whatever comes out is the right thing and perfect.

I have also exhibited my art twice in London. I hung my art on the wall and the organisers gave me advice on what to display. Many of my friends attended and it was a great event, though I was pretty scared and very nervous about showing my art in public. It’s such a personal thing and you don’t want to hear any negative feedback. After speaking to around twenty strangers at the exhibition and admitting aloud that I was an artist, I relaxed. I think it helps to say things out loud, and then whatever you are doing becomes more real to you.

Another passion of mine is improvisation (improv). When I was planning and pitching my TV programme idea about leadership in 2010, I went to a leadership workshop and met Joe, a guy who loves improvisation theatre. We got along very well and he suggested I see an improvisation show. A week later I was at my first improvisation show and thought it was hilarious; I’d never laughed so much in my whole life.

I signed up to a weekend improv course and loved it! I learned about all kinds of storytelling principles and techniques. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time learning improvisation, attending several courses and evening events. I’ve learned the art of improv from some amazing people. It is such a fun and relaxing way of connecting with people. If you feel in need of a good laugh, go to an improv show.

Now I use a lot of improvisation techniques when I am teaching and training. In improvisation, the most important phrase you can say is ‘Yes, and…’ or something similar. It’s when you say ‘no’ to an offer that you stop the flow of the play. It’s the same in real life. When you say ‘no’ to something then the enthusiasm is gone and the natural flow stops. Instead, try to say ‘Yes, and….’. Try it! I tell you all about this idea in my book Digital Leadership.

All the creativity principles I’ve learned from film directors, artists and improvisations have helped me to understand better what leadership and creativity are and how to use them. And this is knowledge that I want to share with more people.

Art Sofie Sandell Healing heart - Sofie Sandell art Sofie Sandell's art Yes, you can! Art by Sofie Sandell Sofie Sandell's abstract art

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My Midsummer Summary 2014

Hello, it’s already June of 2014. I had both Midsummer dinner and Midsummer lunch last week, so here comes my Midsummer email newsletter.

I’ve done a summary of what has happened so far this year. I did one for 2013 and it was great to look back and share what had happened. It is like looking at yourself in the mirror and quickly analysing what you’ve been up to, what happened and what it lead to.

My Midsummer challenge to you is to answer the same questions, if you wish to. Maybe you can even share it as a blog post or send it back to me? I would love to read it. Scroll down to the end of the newsletter for a summary of the questions.

Here we go. My six months summary of 2014:

What makes me smile 
I love great, deep and meaningful conversations.

Most challenging question
Why do you do what you do? I try to answer that in my ‘I am Sofie’ memoir.

What makes me proud 
That I am developing my brand and it feels as if I am going in the right direction.

Best museum 
The ABBA museum in Stockholm – simply amazing!

Most fascinating house
The House of Mirrors in Kuwait. The couple living there are (were, husband passed away a few years ago) artists and to avoid termites to get into the house and eat on everything they isolated the house with mirrors and mosaic art.

Best TV programme
I got stuck in Stephen Fry’s ‘Planet Word’ on Netflix. A must see for anyone fascinated by language.

Sofie Sandell portraits. Photographer Katje Rangstam Best photographer

I took new portraits photoswith Katja Rangstam in May this year. Very happy with the result. Proud to be a Westcoast girl.

Most fascinating talk
When Malala Yousafzai spoke at Southbank centre in London 8 March.Best documentary worth watching again 
‘How to start a revolution’Best food
Still love Sophie’s Steakhouse in Fulham, a classic that I am always up for. Fika, a Swedish restaurant on Brick Lane in London is amazing as well. La Bodega in Soho in London looks very suspicious on the outside, but very funky on the inside.Best magazine 
I’ve started to subscribe to Harvard Business Review. It gives you some intellectual motivation.

Personal development 
I am learning how to front crawl properly. Never bothered to learn before, now it’s time to do it, I’m practising several days per week.

Technology challenge 
I learned how to use Dragon Dictate – when you dictate your text. I spent lots of time training my Dragon in March.

Best music on iTunes 
I love Dave Carroll’s album Perfect Blue.

Biggest dinner
I went to JCI London’s annual dinner 8th March to celebrate that the organisation has been around for 60 years. We were over 280 people there. A bit hysteric, but fun.

Best audience 
I loved the audience at the Handheld Partnership conference, plus that I became very curio

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Can you please photograph my heart?

In May I was in Göteborg, my home city in Sweden. I planned to take some new headshots with photographer Katja Rangstam who I’ve known for over 20 years.

We had a short discussion about what kind of portrait to shoot: studio, outdoor, business style, traditional, relaxed, working, glamorous or lifestyle.

There are so many interesting ways of using the art of photography and I felt a bit indecisive. I spent the night before the photo shoot lying in my bed thinking about the day to come. I had a dentist appointment first thing in the morning and then after that I was going to the studio to meet Katja. I prayed quietly that I had been treating my teeth well and that my visit to the dentist would be a quick one.

Just before I fell asleep I thought about my heart. Maybe I could ask Katja to photograph my heart? Is that possible? Or should I tell her to capture my soul? Is it possible to capture the character of a human’s heart or soul?

The next morning I packed my bag, I brought a few dresses with me and I put on my favourite silver earrings (my friend Maria gave them to me as a birthday present a few years ago). Every time I wear them I get plenty of compliments, so those were the earrings I wanted to wear that day.

I drove to my dentist. I was lucky. I was in and out in 20 minutes. Then I started to drive towards Kungälv, a city with one of the biggest bakeries in Sweden, Göteborg Kex.

I met Katja in her studio which is situated in a lovely old building in the town centre. I asked her what kind of photos she had in mind. She said: ‘You have a lot of professional business photos; maybe we should go for a series of outdoor portraits that are more natural.’ I told her about my idea of capturing my heart in a simple and clear way that would reveal who I am and what I stand for. Katja didn’t say yes or no to my idea about capturing my heart.

We both grew up with the sea a few minutes from our houses in the western part of Göteborg. For me, sea, water and endless views over the horizon mean freedom. I love it when the wind plays with my hair and the smell of salt in the air tickles my soul. Even when you go for a swim the scary seaweeds makes me feel fully alive. Being a west coast girl is something special. If you are one as well then I am sure you know what I mean.

In the studio I found a knitted blanket that Katja’s mother-in-law had found in a shop and we brought that with us. It was very heavy and huge. It reminded me of my paternal grandmother Anna-Lisa. She used to knit similar blankets and in my parents’ home there are several of them.

On our way out I went to a coffee shop and bought a coffee and two cinnamon buns. In Sweden we do something called ‘having a fika’, which simply means drinking coffee, tea or whatever you fancy and having a cinnamon bun or cookie – actually, anything sweet will do. I thought that for the camera to be able to truly capture my heart I needed a cinnamon bun and a cup of coffee. It’s never a bad time for a fika.

We drove out towards Marstrand and stopped just a mile away from the ferry and found a good spot for the portraits.

We walked down towards the water. I felt a bit nervous and intimidated. We found a cliff where I sat down and Katja started shooting.

It was not sunny, but it was very bright and I couldn’t help squinting. Katja changed her lens and then we continued shooting.

Close up. Very close up. Me and a swan in the background. New background. With the knitted colourful blanket. Standing up. Sitting down.

We must have taken a few hundred photos.



That was it, we were done.

Next up was lunch at Marstrands Havshotell.

You’ve just read the story of how you can photograph a human’s heart. I am very happy with the result it makes me feel grounded in myself and my background.

With a cool photographer, the sea, the rocks and the amazing Swedish western coastline you get great results.

When I posted one of the pics on Facebook and said that we had tried to capture my heart, lots of people said they could see it and could see me, who I am and what I stand for in the photo.

Please take a look at my new portraits. I hope they show you a bit more of who I am and what my heart looks like.

Much love to Katja for being so amazing to work with.


Sofie x

PS. There has been minimal retouching of the photographs. They are as natural and real as they can be.


SofieSandell - Photographer Katja Rangstam


























SofieSandell - Photographer Katja Rangstam - Swan in the background


























Sofie Sandell - Photographer Katja Rangstam near Marstrand

SofieSandell - Photographer Katja Rangstam - with the knitted blanket

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The two teachers who inspired me to become an author

I am still shocked over what happened in Leeds the other day. A student killed his teacher… It made me think about the teachers I had in school. Some of them influenced my life and choices a lot. Teachers always do in some ways, don’t they?

In my short memoir I share how I became an author and here is the story. It was two of my teachers who told me about my writing skills when I was young. Thank you Ann-marie and Annika. You can download and read more stories from my life here:

An author in the making 

When I was nine years old my teacher told me that I wrote in the same style as one of her former students who became a famous author in Sweden. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the author’s name – I only remember it was a woman and she wrote books for children. My teacher said to me, ‘Sofie, are you going to become my next student who becomes an author?’

A few years later another of my teachers said that the stories I wrote were amazing and very inspiring. She said, ‘I always want to keep reading your stories; you are a great writer.’Society of authors

Since then I’ve known that I would write books. Sometimes you just know; have you ever had that feeling? It took me many years before I started to write my first book Digital Leadership. Before that I had several unfinished books on my computer. I’ve also written many blog posts and articles. The internet is fantastic and there are so many opportunities to share your thoughts with others. I can’t imagine ever not writing.

What is interesting is that despite this great feedback that I was a good writer, at the same time I found it extremely hard to spell correctly. Spelling was a nightmare. I went to something known in Sweden as a ‘special needs’ class for a few hours a week to learn how to improve my spelling. It was not until I was thirteen years old that I could spell properly. Today I think it’s my memory that makes me somehow see how words should be spelled, and I feel I have a very precise image memory. I also hated the English language in school; I found it very difficult and I just could not learn it very well. It was not until later when I had the chance to spend time in the UK that I could say I felt okay about the language. Now I speak English daily and it is one of my work tools.

In 2009/10 I pitched a TV programme to the BBC and Channel 4. It was a ‘smarter and more real’ version of The Apprentice, with participants working on real projects in their own lives. The whole idea was to see who dared to do something they thought was impossible. The concept was built on the idea that if you are in an environment with the right kind of support, you become braver and dare to take action. It was about taking action and making a difference in their local community.

To prove to the TV channels that I was serious about my idea I started a blog. The topics I blogged about were leadership, creativity and digital marketing. The content of this blog formed part of the content of my first book, Digital Leadership.

While training people in digital marketing and social media, I created a large number of PowerPoint slides and envisioned new ideas for training courses. I needed an outlet for my thoughts and shared the idea of writing a book with friends. At that point it felt as if my brain would explode with all the stuff I had in it about the world of digital marketing, social media, creativity and leadership.

I started to explore how to write a book. I spoke to people in the publishing industry and could not decide how to begin. There are a plethora of options around; it’s very trendy to write a book and there are so many ‘book experts’ out there – it all looked very confusing to me.

At the end of November 2012, I went to a friend’s book launch and that evening said to my boyfriend at the time, ‘I will start writing my book now’. The next week I started to record the first ten chapters of my book and hired a transcriber in the Philippines to write them out for me. I had bought an audio recorder for about £40 and was standing up as if I was lecturing when doing all the recordings.

Just over a month later I had sixty A4 pages ready. And in the end of March 2013 most of the content for the book was ready. My book went into editing and design and I published the book in September 2013.

I worked with an international team when creating my book – a British designer, a British/Jamaican publisher, an Australian copyeditor and a graphic designer from the Philippines. Plus I had a number of friends who all gave me feedback and proofread the book just before it went into print.

I love being an author. For me, it’s one of the best things in the world!


You can download and read more stories from my life here:

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Social Media Q&A

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Send an email with your question to Sofie Sandell for a chance to get it published here.

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