From Aarhus to Milan (and back)
“Giving people opportunities” has for a long time been one of our taglines. And we have plenty examples that we do. With 300 employees spread across ten countries the opportunity to be seconded to the office in Milan has arisen for Johnny, Signija and Louisa. Keep scrolling to read their stories and learn more about why they have been seconded, what they have learned and how they believe Obton can benefit from this.
Facts about the office in Milan:
- Employees: 38 people
- Founded in: 2020
- Location: Via Carlo Ottavio Cornaggia, 10, 20123 Milano
- Departments represented: Financial Controlling and Accounting, Commercial & Asset Management, Technical Operations, Technical Optimization, Acquisitions Support, Legal M&A & Project Financing.
Johnny (35 years old) Director, Finance & Commercial Management, Nuova Obton Italia has been seconded to the office in Milan on a two-year contract. Johnny has been working at Obton for almost 4 years now. “I have been a part of this journey since there were only two employees in Italy. Now there is about 40. I have helped build this part of the organization, define it, and adjust it over time,” says Johnny.
Managing 15 employees at a distance is difficult and therefore, Johnny had a dialogue with his immediate manager about seconding him to Italy enabling him to be present, bring the Danish and Italian team closer and work with the Obton values on site.
A two-way street
The decision about seconding Johnny to Italy seemed as a plug’n’play solution as he already knew this part of the organization well and hopefully could play a role in strengthening the collaboration between the two teams. “Well, it goes both ways,” he explains. “It is easier for me to work with the organization and people here as I am present. It is a big part of my daily life. Trying to bring the two cultures closer together and create a better understanding both ways”.
He adds that it can be difficult for Danish employees to understand the Italian work culture and says: "Hopefully, I can also help create a better understanding for my non-Italian colleagues of how to act in the Italian market.”
Like moving away from home once again
For Johnny, going to Italy was the ultimate opportunity for personal- and professional development. And within an area where he is very passionate – leadership. He describes it as moving away from home once again. “I have really had to stand on my own two feet when it comes to being a leader. When everyday life hits it is up to me to decide which has really helped develop my independence and resilience as a leader,” he says.
Johnny describes the biggest professional challenge as the different expectations there are for a leader in Denmark verses in Italy.
“I have really learned a lot about working with leadership within different cultures and on different levels in an organization.”
The decision about moving to Italy was not without concerns because Johnny’s wife and three kids have moved with him. And although he describes his family as very open minded and not afraid to take on new challenges he was (as any father would be) worried to send his children into uncharted terrain in a new country, with a new language and away from family and friends but states: “Obton has played a great part in establishing not just me but also my family.”
When asked about how Obton can benefit from seconding employees to our offices abroad he tells: “We can benefit a lot just by sharing our knowledge. And in the end that will benefit Obton as a whole. Learning from each other and having an international mindset can help us adapt and solve the challenges we face faster.”
He also adds that it contributes to a broader understanding of how things work in that country. “I have gained a certain knowledge about working with solar in Italy. Both when it comes to starting up new projects and understanding the work culture in general.”
Signija (26 years old) is given the opportunity to work abroad at the office in Milan as Financial Controller in the Financial Controlling and Accounting department.
For a while Signija has been a Student Assistant at Obton but really wanted to move abroad for a while to work. Making it fit into her Master studies in Business Administration and Auditing was difficult so the alternative was being seconded through her job. “I wanted something new to happen, so I had a dialogue with my manager at the time where I told him about my wishes. The People & Culture department then helped me reach the department manager in Milan to ask if they could use someone with my skillset. Luckily, they could,” She explains.
Off to a great start
Talking to Signija she has only been in Milan for a week, but the first days have been great so far and everything has lived up to her expectations. “The people here are so nice to me. They are welcoming and have offered their help several times. They have given me advice about everything from how to get tickets for the metro and finding good places to eat”.
Before going to Milan Signija had already met the Italian colleagues at this year’s kick-off trip in Ireland (insert link) which has made her less nervous about meeting the colleagues in the Milan office. An office with an atmosphere she would describe as unique and young where people prioritize getting to know each other.
Not without challenges
Even though Signija is excited and has been off to a great start she knows the secondment is not without challenges. She describes one of the biggest being the language emphasizing that it is not a challenge at the office where employees speak good English but more when communicating with local partners. “Some external partners don’t speak English at business level, so I am really motivated to learn some Italian to communicate better with people here,” Signija says.
She also describes that the cultural differences can be a challenge but is not afraid of this as she loves the Italian Culture. She emphasizes that it is important that we try to understand each other’s culture.
“Hopefully, me being here can contribute to bringing the Italian and Danish team a bit closer,” says Signija.
Diving into the details
When it comes to her work tasks, Signija tells that her work at Obton until now has been mainly from a helicopter perspective and she hopes to gain a more detailed understanding when it comes to working with portfolio-management and adds: “Hopefully, I can also contribute with my own point of views and what I have learned working in the office in Aarhus”.
Louisa wanted to go study/work abroad on the 3rd semester of her master’s degree. After a meeting with the CHRO and her immediate manager they made a deal that she could travel to the Milan office for three months working in the M&A, Investment and Project Financing Team. Louisa tells: “The CHRO told me that Obton didn’t have much experience with sending Student Assistants to offices abroad while doing the 3rd semester of their Master’s,“ and continues: “but I really wanted to go so we found a solution together.”
The Milan office was a possibility as it is (besides HQ in Aarhus) the biggest office in Obton (in number of employees) and it made sense to go to Milan as Louisa’s team in Denmark already had a lot of collaboration with this office.
Before going to Milan Louisa was excited. She explains: “I have heard that people are nice there. That they are kind and warm people. And I was really looking forward to learning more about the country and Italian Culture. And of course, try all the great food.”
During her stay she also experienced how a workday can be different in Milan compared to Aarhus where it is not a typical 9 to 5 workday. “You spend more hours at the office each day and work in another pace. And you prioritize to have lunch or a cup of coffee with your colleagues during the workday. ”She tells and continues: “Although I only stayed for a relatively short period of time, these breaks really helped me to get to know my colleagues well.”
Professionally she was also looking forward to gaining more insights into working with Solar in Italy.
“I wanted to learn about solar parks as an asset. Not only some numbers in an excel-spreadsheet,” she tells.
To help Louisa two of her colleagues in Milan (Gloria and Silvia) were her mentors during the stay. “They had a lot of knowledge about the Solar market in Italy, Portfolios and which challenges you might face in the market. I really learned a lot from them.”
Even though it was exciting to gain insight into the challenges Accounting and Tech faces daily Louisa underlines that it takes more time and experience to really gain that technical knowledge about Solar PV.
Louisa has now returned to the office in Aarhus and when asked about what she has learned from the experience she says: “It is easier for me to keep up when my colleagues talk about solar in Italy. It has made me more critical in my work and everything makes much more sense whether it is development of projects or how our Italian solar portfolio is structured in general.”.