For some, working in an open-plan office is not ideal, but Financial Controller Heidi Mikkola finds it suits her well. Mikkola works in Tampere, Finland, at UPM Finances and appreciates the fact that one never has to face a problem completely alone. There’s always someone to offer support behind a screen or two. Mikkola’s job description includes both independent financial analysis and reporting and tightly knit teamwork in an international working community.
“In an open-plan office one always knows what is going on with colleagues and hears about changes quite quickly. Superiors are also well up-to-date on everyone’s work situation,” she describes.
Mikkola started working for UPM five and a half years ago as an intern. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in economics from Tampere University of Applied Sciences Mikkola continued to work for UPM and was appointed Financial Specialist, which brought her the responsibilities of chief accountant. At the same time she participated in development projects. Mikkola was promoted to Financial Controller, a position she has now been in for three years.
Mikkola’s job at UPM Finances includes developing processes and ways of working related to financial reporting as well as the actual monthly reporting for UPM Raflatac. The work in the team of 15 in Tampere is often fast-paced teamwork. Every day includes a meeting or two in which some of the short and long term development processes are driven forward.
“Our meetings are very engaging, one rarely just sits and listens. Experts from different organisations take part and together we solve problems and decide on the right course of action.”
In addition to meetings a typical day at work includes analysis and reporting and working together with colleagues in Finland and abroad through a Skype connection.
“We use English about 80 percent of the time. Of course we use Finnish too but one could easily manage here with just English. Sometimes working in different time zones causes difficulties, if one colleague is in Asia and another one in the US for example,” Mikkola says.
The first week of the month is always a busy time in financial reporting
Working in finances can be hectic from time to time. The first week of the month is always a little rushed as the whole team works hard for producing the financial figures of the previous month on a tight schedule for the business directors and stakeholders to examine.
“The first week or week and a half of the month is taken up by analysing and reporting the month’s financial result. I draw up the standard monthly reports and analyses and different ad hoc analyses to shed more light on the result. The rest of the month I work in different projects and development which is much more flexible. During this period it is possible to take a day off or work from home to balance the extra hours accumulated during the busier times. I mainly report for UPM Raflatac in Europe but support the business in Asia and the Americas too, when and if needed,” Mikkola says.
The development and reporting done by Financial Controllers is always tailored to current business needs.
”UPM Raflatac is a growing business and that is our focus in reporting as well. Raflatac is also special because it operates in so many different countries which brings its own set of challenges and novelty. I have had to get acquainted with the legislation in South Africa for example, together with local experts of course.”
Right now Heidi finds inspiration in the new opportunities to develop and learn at work. UPM Finances is going through a period of transformation and demanding new tasks are on their way to Mikkola’s desk.
”I truly enjoy the fact that I can constantly learn and develop in my job. I especially enjoy working with analysis and the business perspective. Just now we are going through a long-term development project where some of the tasks of Business Controllers are transferred to Financial Services team. Just a month ago I took part in training where we went through some challenging analysis methods and forecasting tasks. I am truly excited about them,“ Mikkola says.
What sort of a person is well suited to work with finances then?
“The field perhaps demands some analytical skills, in order to understand how everyday action affects the numbers at the end of the month. Surprisingly creativity is also needed and the ability to grasp the overall picture. It is useful if you are able to juggle between tasks as we do have a lot of contacts. We are the contact point between the business and accounting and sometimes it seems we are the contact point between different businesses as well. Determination and the skills to influence others also help in getting this done,” Mikkola says.