Axis VP’s global role evolves with firm’s big growth

‘Multicultural aspect” of job right fit, she says
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

SAN ANTONIO—After doing some consulting work for Axis Communications in the mid-90s, Bodil Sonesson was recruited by Axis in 1996, the year it introduced the first network camera.

Sonesson was hired to get Axis’ European sales operation up and running. Since 2002, she’s served as VP global sales. Her title may have remained unchanged for 13 years, but “nothing is the same,” Sonesson told Security Systems News.

“We started off as a small organization, and I used to be very much involved in everything. As the organization has grown, that’s changed. I’m not involved in everything, and things start to happen by themselves. That’s a good feeling when you see that happening and when people grow,” she said.

Sonesson has been part of tremendous growth at the video surveillance company. In 2002, there were about 100 people doing sales for Axis, today there are 850. Sonesson oversees nine regions with headquarters in Boston; Sao Paolo, Brazil; Paris; Watford, England; Munich; Moscow; Dubai; Singapore; and Hong Kong.

Axis has more than 2,000 employees and operates in 179 countries.

Her work obviously involves a lot of travel. She enjoys the “multicultural aspect” of her job. “There are 70 different nationalities on my team,” she said. Sonesson speaks several languages including Swedish, Danish, German and French. She didn’t know any French in 1996 when Axis hired her and asked her to move to Paris. “I had to learn it quickly,” she said, laughing. She was only supposed to be there for six months, but Sonesson is still based out of Paris today.

Sonesson said she ensures that “we recruit the right people and keep the culture going at Axis. We have to keep those strong values in line. That’s when you see [the company] and people grow,” she said.

Axis is starting a new chapter in its history this year, with the acquisition by Canon. Sonesson believes that Canon and Axis “have shared values” and that the camera giant will bring “stability and financial backing that will allow us to take the next step.”

Canon’s CEO Mitori has said that “the world is so interconnected, and it’s impossible to innovate from one single country,” she said. Canon has determined that its consumer business will be headquartered in Japan, its life sciences business will be headquartered in the U.S. and its security and safety business will be headquartered in Axis’ hometown, Lund, Sweden.

“They expect us to drive that safety and security agenda going forward. They give us financial muscle with fantastic imaging technology, and as Martin [Gren, Axis founder] said, strong patents and strong R&D capability,” Sonesson said. “Canon’s view is very long term oriented.”

Importantly, “Canon has always had a global presence,” she said. It does the bulk of its business in EMEA, the Americas are its No. 2 region and Japan is its third largest regions, Sonneson said. 

While camera features are important, Sonesson said Axis has many engineers who “can handle the feature part” of the picture. She wants Axis to “take a bigger safety and security perspective.”

At the Axis Channel Convergence Conference, which took place here in November, one of the educational sessions focused on how security technology and national standards for security in schools can make a difference. Speakers included Michele Gray, a teacher and founder of Safe and Sound, a non-profit organization dedicated to making schools safer. Sonesson said it’s important for Axis to highlight these kinds of efforts. “We need to talk about real life and what’s happening and the difference we make.”

This story is part of a Women in Security special report. For the seventh consecutive year, Security Systems News is highlighting women who are making their mark in the traditionally male-dominated world of security.