When my first workday in UPM Specialty Papers started in September 2017 in UPM’s Bioforce Graduate Trainee Programme, I was excited about the 18-month trainee journey I was about to embark on.
I had just graduated as a Master of Science in Economics from Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, and felt like this traineeship was the best thing that could ever happen to my career. In addition to many things I can learn in an international company, I can also strongly relate to UPM’s sustainability values and aspirations to replace fossil-based materials with renewable ones. Now, well over a year later, my traineeship is about to end and I know for sure: this has been the best possible transition from a student into a multi-talented forest industry professional with a global network of colleagues.
In the past 16 months, I have worked in five locations: three in Finland (Tampere, Jämsänkoski and Tervasaari), and two abroad (Antwerp, Belgium and Naperville, USA). I have worked in Supply Chain, Customer Service, Sales, and Paper Production and have basically had a first-row seat in observing the whole process of everything it takes from making paper to selling and delivering it to customers. And all this on a global level on different continents and markets. UPM truly is an international company with countless and diverse work opportunities all around the globe.
Laughing and learning
I spent the first six months in Tampere where I started in the Supply Chain function. I was surprised at how much fun I could have at work! There wasn’t a single day in the office we would not laugh and joke around. I participated in various digitalisation projects and learned about new innovations. After three months I moved on to Sales.
Working at Jämsänkoski and Tervasaari mills was very interesting, especially for a person like me with no prior engineering experience. I learned about the tasks of e.g. shift supervisors, production engineers, technical customer service representatives, laboratory workers, and logistics and warehousing operatives. I even experienced what it’s like to work a night shift after drinking FIVE cups of coffee!
The summer 2018 I spent in Belgium, working as a Customer Service Specialist to support our customers in the German speaking markets. This really enabled me to develop my German language skills further. I was given a lot of responsibility and people trusted me to handle the tasks I was given. In addition to having great colleagues with whom we attended various after-work events, I really enjoyed spending the summer in warm and sunny weather eating way too many delicious waffles and tons of chocolate ice cream.
In September 2018 I moved to Naperville, USA, located close to Chicago. I was anxious about moving to another continent all by myself, but my colleagues made it very easy for me. Their hospitality, support, kindness, and help in setting everything up was amazing, and I quickly felt at home. My colleagues and friends showed me around, invited me to their homes for Thanksgiving dinner, and also took me to a haunted house during Halloween! Not only was it nice to experience the American way of life, I got valuable experience working in Customer Service for the North American markets.
Personal growth and new friends
Regarding career development it has been especially beneficial to have a mentor: a successful professional with many years of experience in various leadership positions. In addition to helping me identify what skills I should personally focus on developing, he has provided me with guidance. Our meetings have helped me assess my development, and our exchange of ideas has been mutually beneficial. I have also had the support of my peers in the Graduate Programme and my international colleagues. I have even been lucky enough to make a lot of wonderful new friends. I feel thankful for all the new relationships I have found. International networking on both professional and personal levels has enriched my life, made me wiser and opened my eyes to new perspectives.
The programme has given me a diverse set of skills and valuable international work experience. Still, I feel that personal development is the most important outcome. I have gained confidence in my capabilities and my ability to tackle new challenges. Technological innovations, constant change and severe turbulence are a part of our everyday life today. Because my tasks, and even the country I live in, have changed every three months, constant change has become almost status quo for me.
Even though continuously learning new things has sometimes been strenuous, it has also been rewarding. Whenever I started working in a new place, things seemed really complicated at first. Afterwards it has been nice to look back and realize how much I learned, and not only about work, but also about myself. If there is something that I have truly learned these past months, it is that there is always room for personal growth and learning every time we are given the opportunity to change.