DONG Energy: Females in Front
Name: Lærke Louise Aagaard Reenberg
Position: Head of Finance Business Partner Sales
Company: DONG Energy, Distribution & Customer Solutions
The choice of education
In 2001 I decided to go to Copenhagen to gain a Master’s degree, but I did not know what science field to chose. However, I did quickly identify some key success criteria’s: it had to be difficult to learn (I guess most academic studies meet this requirement), a mathematical aspect would be a plus and some importance to society would be great. Finally, the likelihood of getting a job after graduation had to be good.
My priority list consisted of a range of creative and social science educations, and then I added Economy/Finance at the bottom. I did not meet the entry requirements for anything except Economics, and so the choice was easily made. It turned out to be excellent! This education had the exact right combination of my initial requirements and wishes. I graduated as Cand.polit 5½ years later ready to enter the real work life.
When I first joined the Sales Management team in Distribution & Customer Solutions in DONG Energy, I realized that I was not only the first woman in the group, I was also app. 15 years younger than the average. The others were almost identical men in their end 40-ties, dressed in dark blue suits, white well-ironed shirts and self-confident executive attitudes. They were the local country CEOs from our international sales companies with years of experience within management and commercials. The fact that I represented the Finance department, with no commercial background, made me stand even more out of the homogeneous crowd.
I have never seen these differences as a disadvantage – actually, often the opposite. I have the clear impression that a mix of genders in teams and groups often enhance the performance level. Hence, it has been easy to have a saying as a female in the male dominated arena. I have also experiences solid support from colleagues and managers in my career so far, sometimes complimented with comments as “You go girl”, and “We need more women in management” – reflections with reference to the gender aspect. Further, I have learned that we can all offer a unique contribution in our individual areas of expertise, men or woman, and we are all depended on each other’s input in order to succeed as a team.
The double manager role – at work and at home
My instant passion for complex problem solving tasks and optimization of team performance is satisfied on a daily basis by the exiting challenges we currently face in the constantly changing Energy Industry. I am leading a Business Partner team in Finance, responsible for the Sales markets. We link Finance to the business and provide insights and financial transparency to Sales top management through analysis, forecasting, valuation and reporting. The requirements for excellent quality, proactive business involvement and analytical expertise are high and we have a busy and intriguing working day.
I am also a mother for two, soon to be three, children. A role that, in line with my professional job, requires me to ensure high solid performance, excellence in structure and planning, consistent approaches to dilemmas and a smooth teamwork. I am training these skills every day, in DONG Energy and at home. Most important; both roles provide a lot of joy in life. I do not think one has to choose between career and family, choose both and just become a damn good coordinator very quickly. At times, of cause, it can be demanding to combine such requiring roles; as leader at work and at home, but for me they are also perfect complements. One surprising advantage of taking the slow course in the beginning of your career is that it provides you with solid experience and knowledge of the specialist work, before you potentially move on. You simply get to know how to create results yourself before you suddenly manage other people who deliver this for you.
Aspects of career development
I am aware that many ambitious women consider whether to kick off their professional career with a tough 70 hours per week job right after graduation, or whether to spend some years building family foundation while having a less demanding work life. It really is a tough choice.
I have chosen not to choose between having a family or ambitious career dreams. I choose both!
I have not made a detailed career plan, but I do try to catch interesting and appealing assignments and I am not afraid of taking risks, such as new roles with only limited knowledge of the task-to-be-done. The challenge itself can be my motivation. The last couple of years it has come to my attention that I am most value creating and passionate at work when dealing with strategic development tasks including a managerial aspects rather than operational procedures and technical and deeply immersive exercises. Hence, I aspire towards work characteristics rather than specific roles, such as CFO. This is also how I expect to be evaluated and assessed by the surroundings including potential future employers; to be evaluated by skills, competences, results and behaviour without reference to facts e.g. gender, age, nationality.
Accordingly, I have chosen not attend women’s network groups, but seek relations that bring me forward in beneficial reflections and lean towards the significant others I have meet and chosen during my life who bring value and joy to my life.
Many of my peers from the University have rapidly past me on the career latter. They today possess senior executive positions in large companies. I fully understand and support the priority to really kick it off, sometimes I even envy these super latter-climbers. I just needed a slower pace to grow into my professional career and identify my aspirations. Most importantly, I just really wanted to start the foundation of my family in my mid-twenties.
I periods I have had normal work weeks of 37 hours per week and others with 70 hours per week, I thrive with both. My personal surplus is correlated to hours per night sleeping, versus running around with awake babies. Both work attitudes are acceptable and needed. We cannot all develop into CFOs.
Since you cannot wait upon success to hit you by coincident, one should rather take responsibility and proactively seek desired positions and opportunities; in the private as well as in the professional sphere.