Sharon Kristjanson is the founder and owner of SVK Intercultural, a consulting firm specializing in skill development for growing leaders. Sharon’s proprietary workshop—Engaging with Difference®—provides a blueprint for working with different viewpoints constructively. Sharon’s passion is rooted in helping people expand their capacity to work with differences, develop nuanced understanding of complex narratives, and elevate their collaborative efforts.
Over the course of her career, Sharon has launched many successful initiatives in both corporate and non-profit arenas with viable, long-term results. In addition to having launched and managed a non-profit organization called Connecting Cultures Through Understanding, for which she received the David Kellum Award, Sharon also brought stronger communication skills into the financial institutions where she worked. Early in her career she worked in corporate and investment banking, and in that realm she was drawn to issues of how to enhance collaboration.
In addition to having lived and worked interculturally her entire life, Sharon is trained and certified to educate others. She is a Certified Intercultural Practitioner, demonstrating advanced knowledge of intercultural theory and practice. She is also a licensed Facilitator of Personal Leadership (as developed by Schaetti, Ramsey, and Watanabe), and a Qualified Administrator (QA) of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a premier assessment tool for measuring intercultural competence. These certifications provide a framework for educating others and measuring growth.
Sharon’s parents came from two very different cultures—Icelandic and Iranian. As a family they were Canadian but for most of Sharon’s youth they lived in Rome, Italy with a couple of years in Tehran, Iran—all due to her father’s international work. Sharon’s education was in British, American, Canadian, and Swiss systems, and in all but one of the schools the student body was international.
As a young adult Sharon lived in France and Switzerland. She moved to the United States for the first time at age 28; initially it was another ex-pat experience for her. She married an American, and her in-laws were from Latvia.
Amidst all of these cultural influences, Sharon identifies as a TCK (Third-Culture Kid). She has assimilated, over and over again, into new cultures and environments, starting at age 6. She understands—profoundly—what it means to find commonalities even as we marvel at, engage with, or step back from, differences.
Sharon’s experiences and training point to one overarching message: that an ability to explore context and frames of reference (one’s own and that of others) in a meaningful way is essential to creating cohesive relationships and effective collaboration.
Sharon’s education is international and includes graduate course work in advanced economics at the Institut universitaire de hautes études internationales (now known as The Graduate Institute, Geneva) in Geneva, Switzerland, and an Honors B.A. in Economics (equivalent to an M.A. in the U.S.) from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Her secondary schooling (Grades 6-12) was at an international school in Rome, Italy (American Overseas School of Rome).
Read some of Sharon's backstory as shared in an interview with Voyage Chicago.