Michael Sonnerborg

DONG Energy: Leaders of Tomorrow

Name: Michael Sonnerborg
Position: Lead Strategy Advisor
Company: DONG Energy Wind Power

“Working in Denmark, are you crazy? You do not understand what they say, the boss won´t let you participate in the decisions and they drink beer at work!”

That was the general comments from fellow students at Lund University when I told about the job offer I had accepted in Copenhagen. It feels like a lifetime ago, and despite the comments, I have spent my entire professional career on the this side of the Øresunds-bridge. Currently I am working as a Lead Strategy Advisor in DONG Energy Wind Power, where the strategy team is primarily responsible for driving the strategy development and strategic projects across Wind Power. My day to day tasks is somewhat similar to an in-house consultant, where I am managing projects/workstreams and working with teams in various sizes and constellations.

Working in a strategy team is in my view a fantastic experience; you are mostly working with very interesting projects and at the same time get to be involved and affect the direction of the company, advise on high level decisions and working closely to management. However, it is important that you go out to the business and learn what actually happens in the company. Having a strategy is important, ensuring that the organization understands it and what they need to do for delivering on it is crucial!

I am a strong believer of that passion is what creates results, and are doing my part of bringing that passion by engaging myself deeply in what I do and lead the way by showing commitment and enthusiasm for the tasks I and the team take on. Having passion on your own is one thing, being able to bring out that passion in others is what really makes the difference, and as a leader it is fundamental that you assist, coach and develop your team to keep them passionate about their work. For me, the best way for development is to get out of the comfort zone, and we are in our team working actively with this. This is being done by staffing people on projects that are out of their area of expertise, letting new team members take charge of presentations in front of management and other activities that you might not feel 100% comfortable with. So if you have the chance to try something out of your comfort zone, even if you haven’t done it before, just go ahead and make the best out of it. If you never feel like you have butterflies in your stomach, then you are most likely spending to too much time in your comfort zone.

Pushing it to the next level and challenging yourself, I guess this is something most people who want to build a career is used to. However, it is also important to emphasize that while hard work is one key factor to success, you have to remember to also have some fun along the way, otherwise you will quickly lose the passion for your work. (Laughing a lot also helps you through the long hours sometimes required close to project deadlines…).

Starting my career in Denmark was a complete coincidence, and I recently left the oil industry to work with renewable energy in DONG Energy. With this saying that even though you believe you know how your career will look like in the future, it will most likely change and take another direction. I see myself as structured person and really enjoy having a good overview of things, but have realized that planning your career to much makes you a bit blindfolded for the opportunities that might me just in front of you. To be honest, I did not know that much about DONG Energy before I joined, but was presented with a fantastic opportunity and a personal challenge so I just had to join the team, even though I did not know the industry and or anyone in the company. So it might sound like a cliché, but make sure to grab the opportunities that arises!

Sometimes it can look like opportunities just arise from out of the blue, but you can take an active role and ensure that it happens by being visible and ensure that people know your competences and skills, which is very easy if you are being passionate when you are discussing your area of interests. Worth remembering is also that networking isn’t a one-way street, so you should show a genuine interest in people in your network and think about how you can be of assistance to them. It is not rocket-science, but finding time for a quick coffee with someone when working your days on a back-to-back schedule is not always the easiest task, but should never be neglected since relations is something that needs to be maintained.

Finally, it is important to realise that work isn’t the only thing in life. To be able to have the passion at work, I believe that you also have to have interests outside of work where you can gather the energy you need to be able to focus at work. Don’t get me wrong, hard work is necessary and sometimes you have to say no to other things, but it is about learning to prioritise. Having activities outside of work also let you meet a lot of new people, and thus expanding your network further, which might be of great advantage in your career!