New Swedish Colleague Nice Enough, But He’s No Torbjörn Sjöqvist

One week after his arrival, employees at the US headquarters of Lindahl Robotics have found Håkan Thorvaldsson to be a friendly, if somewhat reserved, colleague, but there is almost universal agreement that he is not now, nor will he ever be, a suitable substitute for beloved Swede Torbjörn Sjöqvist.

Thorvaldsson, 28, has been employed by Lindahl since graduating from Mälardalen University in Eskilstuna with a Masters Degree in Intelligent Embedded Systems. He is considered a rising star within the Product Engineering group, and his acceptance of the two-year overseas assignment is an instrumental step in his preparation for a future leadership role in the growing company. He is taking over the position that was held by the legendary Sjöqvist for almost eight years.

“Ol’ TB, he was one-of-a-kind”, reminisced robot technician Floyd McEvers. “He loved muscle cars, apparently they’re popular back in whatever city he lives in (Västerås). I took him to my cousin Earl’s junkyard several times when he needed to find parts for his friends back in Sweden. He always had a smile on his face, and snus in his lip. This new fella wears them Euro-hipster glasses and don’t chew, I don’t know… “, McEvers trailed off.

Other employees were equally effusive in their praise of the departed Sjöqvist. Project manager Steve Wheeler recalled, “T-Bone was great at working through the red tape. We had a problem with synchronization on the R5000; he had a fix for us within a couple of days because he knew who to talk to, normally it takes weeks to get those problems resolved. Those eggheads in Enköping are so worried about their precious “configuration management” and “safety validation”, I swear they think that Chevy Cruzes can assemble themselves.

“Then, to top it all off, the problem was back again in the next software release”, Wheeler continued. “Well, T-Bone must have really rattled their cages, because we had a fix later that day. Now that’s action! I’m not sure this new guy has the stones to pull off something like that”. Ironically, the recurrence was caused by Sjöqvist’s own failure to merge the original fix into the development branch of the source code repository.

In addition to his professional contributions, Sjöqvist was renowned for his annual Midsommar parties, complete with maypole, smörgåsbord, and copious amounts of alcohol. “T and Karin had a bunch of us over last year for their Midsummer party, it was epic!”, recalled accountant Carole McGuire.

“We had such a great time, I actually loved the pickled herring, especially after a few shots of schnapps. I can’t believe that he was still standing as much as he drank, but he had us all dancing around that pole like lunatics. I still felt bad the second day afterwards, but it was so much fun. We took Håkan out for drinks after work on Friday, he had one Bud Light, then said ‘I’m not much of a drinker I guess’, and switched over to pop. We really miss T and Karin.”

When speaking to his parents through Skype over the weekend, Thorvaldsson related his perceptions of his new workplace. He characterized his colleagues as somewhat less glamorous than the Americans often depict themselves in movies and television, but very outgoing. He reportedly described supervisor Neil Borland as “a pleasant man, but no Vince McCallister, more of a poor man’s Andy Gardner”.


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