Karin Bjerde received her IB diploma from the Shanghai American School, China. She continued her studies to complete a Masters in Economics and Business at the Stockholm School of Economics. She is now Head of Strategic Growth at Kognity, a company that provides intelligent textbooks to schools in over 75 countries.
How did you reach where you are today?
Today I work at Kognity, a company which was started as a creativity, activity, service (CAS) project for one of the founders (also an IB graduate) many years ago. You can definitely say that the IB has had a huge impact on my life! After getting my Masters, I chose the standard corporate route and started working for Morgan Stanley as a stockbroker. Although this was highly challenging and interesting, it was not where I felt my passion was — so I quit to figure out what I wanted to do instead.
“Never be afraid to go off the expected path and find something inspiring to dedicate your time on this earth to.”
I realized that every time people asked me about my education, I would rave about my experience in the Diploma Programme (DP), so when I came across Kognity it was a match made in heaven. I'm also convinced that certain events in my life, such as being named as one of the world's Future Global Leaders by the Institute of International Education and Goldman Sachs, were in part due to the DP as it pushed me to always think globally, seek challenges, and develop skills outside my comfort zone.
Why did you originally decide to pursue an IB diploma?
I have spent my whole life in a global context, as I'm from Sweden originally but have grown up internationally as a third culture kid. I was in China by the time high school began and doing the DP was a natural step for me. It ensured that my education was steeped in international context and also transferrable to anywhere I wanted to study at university. I also loved that the DP required you to become a well-rounded student through CAS and theory of knowledge (TOK). Little did I know then how big of an impact choosing the IB would have on my later life!
“Don't underestimate the impact that an IB education will have on you.”
Which of your IB teachers inspired you most?
There were two teachers who really stood out — Mr Leung who was the IB coordinator and biology teacher, and Mr Harvey who taught economics. Mr Leung was the kindest man you could imagine to guide DP students through a tough two years. He has fabulous pedagogical skills and I can still to this day remember him sitting at the front of the class, mapping out the steps of ATP production on an overhead projector (although the actual facts are since long lost!).
Mr Harvey taught economics and mentored me through my extended essay process. He had a real life understanding of business which thankfully made economic concepts real, and which clearly influenced me in later pursuing a Masters in Economics at university!
What advice do you have for current students?
IB students in more than 70 countries now use Kognity's textbooks, so it is amazing that I've been able to complete the "IB circle" and give back to current DP students by producing the textbooks that I wished I had when I was doing the IB!
So, my advice is two-fold: don't underestimate the impact that an IB education will have on you, and secondly never be afraid to go off the expected path and find something inspiring to dedicate your time on this earth to.