A willingness to learn and a keen eye for finance led to a position of leadership

12 October 2016

A typical day at work for Finance Manager Maiju Salo at UPM Finance’s Record to Report function starts with a good cup of coffee at her desk. After looking into her schedule, meetings and tasks for the day Salo makes her first daily tour at the open-plan offices of UPM Finance’s in Tampere, Finland. Her fourteen subordinates update her on their current tasks and Salo takes note of possible needs for support and decision making. As a superior, Salo wants to be present to her subordinates.

”In our community of experts at UPM Finance everyone has their own strengths and my subordinates are in many cases better at their jobs than I could ever be. A superior has to be able to sense when support is needed and when a combination of delegation and a thank you is a better option. Every day is a development opportunity and one learns from the mistakes one makes. I am reasonably satisfied in my performance in supporting my team: I encourage open conversation, always try to be trustworthy and challenge my subordinates to go forward”, Salo says.

In addition to local subordinates Salo has a team in India, employees of a supplier company co-operating with UPM. Salo is not in direct contact with the team on a daily basis but is easy to reach through Skype if need be.

A large part of Salo’s day is taking part in different development and planning meetings and preparing for them. The meetings are with UPM colleagues and UPM’s business partners. Salo’s team is responsible for financial reporting to UPM directors and stakeholders and developing the reporting in the long run according to business needs. Planning and developing is done for years to come

”The long term plans we make are of course not as accurate as the plans we make for the short-term. It is however our job to create scenarios that answer the question: What happens if we move in this direction? The world is changing fast around us but a common goal helps us make better decisions today,” Salo says.

Being a superior takes communication skills and the ability to handle pressure

Salo has been in her current job for just over a year. Before that she gathered experience as Team Leader while working as Financial Controller. She has been at UPM for seven years and changed jobs regularly: one job has taken her to the next usually in under a year. Salo started at Sourcing as an intern and moved on to invoice processing, then to accounting, to a position as process expert in development projects and lastly to the position of Financial Controller and from there to her current job.

”Both my job description and the Finance function at UPM have gone through rapid changes in the last few years. For me it has taught that change is not something that happens once but an ongoing process. Change is always a chance to grow and learn and for me it has meant a lot of possibilities.”

Salo ended up studying finances in the Tampere University of Applied Sciences after working as an entrepreneur in the health and beauty business for a while. During her studies she could little predict the skills and attributes demanded of her in her future career.

”Working together as a team, social skills and leading people are emphasized in my current job. These skills are almost as important as a strong financial understanding. These are skills that can be developed by anyone, an introvert or an extrovert can do just as well.”

Some of Salo’s best leadership experiences at UPM have come from a superior who trusted and gave responsibility to an intern just starting her career and again when her superior recommended her to stay in her current position despite the strong will to move forward already.

”My superior was right back then and luckily also said it aloud. I appreciate a creative approach to leadership and an open, trusting way of discussing things where everyone has ownership of their own issues and the ability to have a real effect on them.”

Salo has always found the team spirit at UPM to be good. It is built by working together and talking of other things besides business. The demanding side of working with finances is the pressure on time and cost.

”Pressure, change and deadlines are a part of our trade and both employee and employer has to be able to be flexible from time to time. For those who value regularity, finances may not be the right choice. I appreciate the company’s internationality, many career possibilities and low hierarchy. It’s also been interesting to follow UPM’s ability to renew in the past few years. Of course small successes at work mean a lot: when a person in my team surpasses themselves, or when I can provide the right kind of support in a challenging situation for example,” Salo says.

Salo’s own career plans are not set in stone.

”I prefer not to make plans that are too strict, a good opportunity can pass you by just because it is not the one you planned for yourself. I am a positive person and have faith in life, this has been a major source of joy and advantage in my career as well,” Salo says.

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Saara Töyssy

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