My 3 advices to young business women (and men for that matter)

Why broadening your area of competence is the right thing to do!

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I should start with admitting that I almost didn’t dare to have this heading. “My advices”. Do I have relevant advice to give?? Well, yes, I do. Because I did not take the straight path and by not doing so I have gotten a much better competence and understanding of business which I wish I had understood earlier and hence stressed less about.

I went to business school because I thought it was a broad type of education. When I joined my current employer ten years ago it was in the role as business controller in a group function. I loved it! We had a dynamic environment with plenty of challenges every day. We were a lean organization where we all had to do everything, high and low. I learned something new every day. And this is my first advice: Find a job where you learn something new every day. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking or big, but something. You have to stay curious and learn unless you want to stagnate. You don’t want that to happen, do you?

After a few years in different positions in business controlling I moved on to strategy. I was thrown into projects of all sorts. Classic strategy processes, legal work (!), due diligences, integration projects… endless list. I had a manager who took me under his wings and believed that I was capable, so he gave me whatever tasks that had to be done. Talk about a learning curve! This brings me to my second advice: Chose your manager wisely! Do your due diligence, search for information not only about the company, and ask for references too. If they don’t want to (never happened to me) then look elsewhere. Your future boss should understand why this is important to both of you!

When my company went in to a large joint venture, I decided to try something completely different. I accepted the role as responsible for sustainability. In addition, I got the task to set up compliance and to be the Chief Compliance Officer for a while. I have been around the world in discussions with our strategic suppliers and some of my proudest moments are from this time. After a while I found an excellent replacement for me in the compliance role, but then my manager said she’d like me to take on branding and internal communication in addition to sustainability. I said yes. She also believed in me and my capabilities.

However, after a while I was in fact missing my numbers. I was offered a position in our largest business area, where I was responsible for investments (we’re talking machines and buildings here, not shares and bonds). I was back with my numbers and out in the business. But few things last forever (thank god!). After only five months I was offered a new position as responsible for Business Control, investments, and risk for what was now becoming a business area in Hydro.

So here I am, one year after the acquisition went through. I have an amazing and very diverse team. We work hard, but I believe we have fun too. “Profit and fun” as one of our founders said. I wouldn’t have been able to do my job as well as I do today if I had taken the straight path, only moving from finance role to finance role. I’ve seen different functions, different teams, I’ve broadened myself. And that brings me to my third advice: Dare to take a different route! Move sideways. Step down. Dare to be open to new things. Do what you believe you will enjoy regardless of titles. I promise you will get good at the things you enjoy. 

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