Job Title: Director of Investments, Alberta Enterprise Corporation
Why She’s A Top 40: She advises the provincial government on venture capital fund investments for technology companies, while acting as a Swedish consul – the second-youngest person in the world with that title at the time she was appointed.
Key To Her Success: “I will never sit down and say ‘I’m done.’ I will always learn something new because I think life is a continuum of learning, and I don’t see myself ever sitting down and saying, ‘Now I’ve achieved what I want to achieve.'”
Eight years ago, Kristina Williams left Sweden to settle in Edmonton with her Canadian husband. She left behind her career as a corporate lawyer because her Swedish law degree isn’t valid in Alberta. Faced with the prospect of more schooling, Williams turned her attention from law to business and got an MBA degree from the University of Alberta.
After working for a number of Edmonton-based startup companies, she was hired in October 2009 as director of investments with the Alberta Enterprise Corporation (AEC), a Government of Alberta initiative to increase venture capital funds for knowledge-based companies. In her first year, Williams saw investments from AEC projects that will soon result in two tech companies setting up offices in Alberta. “I’m really happy to be part of [AEC], because I’ve been on the struggling startup side and now I get to help improve the situation,” she says.
In addition to her paying job, Williams moonlights as a diplomat, serving as the Swedish consul in Edmonton. It’s an unpaid but highly esteemed post nominated by the Swedish ambassador and acknowledged with a letter from the Swedish king. Recruited on the strengths of her business acumen and her law background, Williams was only 30 when she was named to the post, making her at the time the second-youngest person in the world to hold the title.
As “the extended arm of the embassy,” Williams spends two to 10 hours a week taking visa applications, liaising with the Swedish government on behalf of Alberta-based Swedes and organizing trade missions to connect Swedish and Albertan companies. This past spring, she chaired the Edmonton Consular Corps 30th Annual Ball, which raised $10,000 for U of A scholarships.
Since settling in Edmonton, Williams has taken an interest in NorQuest College, which provides post-secondary training in adult literacy, academic upgrading, English as a Second Language, Aboriginal education and learner supports for students with disabilities, in addition to certificate programs in health and human services. As a board member of the NorQuest College Foundation, Williams attends monthly meetings and fundraising events for scholarships and learning incentives such as the Rachel’s Hope Bursary, which helps sexually exploited women, including prostitutes, earn an education.
Williams sees her work with NorQuest as one way to give back to the city that has welcomed her with open arms. “People are so friendly and I’ve had a lot of really nice people help me along here,” she says. “I want to help to improve the city and make it a great place to live in.
“Where else in the world do you stand in an elevator and someone starts talking to you? Only in Edmonton. I’ve never experienced that anywhere else in the world.”