Meet our new CDO: Olof Hernell

We are thrilled to announce that Olof Hernell is the new Chief Digital Officer at H2 Green Steel! Leveraging his rich experience across many fast-paced tech organizations, Olof will lead our efforts to become an industry leader at the forefront of digitalization.

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Olof joins H2 Green Steel from EQT, where he has spent the last six years as the CDO, working with the digital business development of EQT’s portfolio companies and heading the organization’s digital team, including internal IT and engineering. Prior to joining EQT, he worked for Google for four years as Head of Android and Chrome in the Nordics, as well as Head of Enterprise in Sweden. From attracting the best talent and optimizing operations, to driving climate impact starting with steel, Olof shared some key insights on how to become a digital leader.

You are well-known in the tech industry, however, working for a steel company is new territory. Can you talk us through the backstory here – why H2GS?

The greatest hurdle when driving digital transformation is an organization's legacy. For H2 Green Steel – whether it’s talent, culture, or technology – there is no such heritage. When I heard about the project, I realized that I would build something from scratch, which is a fantastic opportunity and one of the main reasons I chose this role. When I was working at EQT, our biggest struggle was to drive change and digitalization in companies that had a 10–50-year history. Building something from scratch enables digital transformation in a way that only a handful of industrial companies have managed to do.

You will be leading H2 Green Steel’s digitalization efforts; can you tell us about your vision for the company?

To me, it is completely unthinkable that a steel company would not benefit from being a digital leader, especially when there are so many areas of improvement. The digital mindset will be present in everything we do at H2 Green Steel, from technology, sales, marketing, and HR, to supporting operations and our core business – which is producing the best green steel in the world.

We will have three key focus areas:

1. Become the best at what we do. Creating a technology that makes our core product better than others will be the cornerstone of our success. If we can produce more with less energy and are able to not only meet but also predict our customer’s needs better, we’ll come out on the winning end. 2. Efficiency. Automation will help us increase efficiency throughout our operations. It’s about maximizing the value in processes that are important, but perhaps not fundamental to our existence. Increasing efficiency in the 15 most important processes, by only a few percentages each, will make a huge difference in H2 Green Steel’s profitability. 3. Friction-fighting. We will build workflows that are more similar to those of tech companies rather than industrial companies, creating a world-class digital workplace. This will also help us attract the best talent.

What will be your recruitment strategy for technical talent?

Hire people smarter than you. I think we have an opportunity to attract the very best talent to this project. If you are a top-skilled machine learning engineer with the option to either optimize playlists, payment methods or video convergence components at top tier tech companies – chances are you’ll find it appealing to help reduce approximately 8 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Being a purpose-driven company will help H2 Green Steel find the most passionate, bright, and driven developers.

The kind of talent that you’re looking for may not primarily consider heavy industry when they are thinking about future employers?

We must have a really good position when it comes to talent. We’re not an industrial company, but a digital native impact company, that is looking to combine the best from the Swedish industry with the best from tech companies. I have yet to encounter a single industry or market where the digital leader in that space hasn’t had an obvious competitive edge. It’s easy to think “sure, but that’s Klarna, Spotify or Mojang”, but having a digital first mindset is an advantage whether you are a tech company, a healthcare provider, or a pet shop. The same thing will apply to the steel industry – where we can implement systems such as machine learning to reduce energy consumption or fundamentally improve our operations.

H2GS aims to be a leader in sustainability, but also diversity and equality. What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion?

Since we are building this company from scratch, diversity and inclusion will be fundamental parts of our recruitment strategies. But there is no silver bullet, because finding employees who are diverse in terms of background, gender, education, and mindset isn’t always an easy task. Our main challenge in recruiting a diverse team is that we need to move fast – which increases the risk of homogenous recruitment. We will have to be super focused to stay true to our beliefs while running fast.

Finally, what are you looking forward to most with this position?

The biggest thing for me is the impact aspect. I worked at Google during a fascinating and exciting era in tech, where we were one of the key players driving development and innovation, both technologically but also on a policy and societal level. But in terms of impact, I felt like I wanted to be closer to companies to drive change and digital transformation. That is what made me go into private equity and EQT, where I – together with the team I built – was able to spur digital leadership up-close in our different portfolio companies. To me, working for H2GS is the next level of that hands-on impact, as I am entering one of the largest industrial projects Sweden has seen in a very long time. I think that our impact is the most important work we do for the next generation, which is fighting climate change without compromising things like material, growth, or transportation. I’m really looking forward to being a part of redefining the steel industry and taking H2GS’s digital leadership to the next level.
Julia Ström