At August, I can be the best version of myself

25/05/2018

According to Satu Kaski, Doctor of Psychology, a supportive environment is one of the three most important factors contributing to success (1). I agree and can speak from experience. Before starting my Finance studies at Aalto University, I worked as a professional ballet dancer. Ballet organizations are often traditionally lead and highly competitive working environments, where I have seen many talented dancers fail due to lack of support. Unfortunately, similarities exist in some business organizations. As I did not want to work in an unhealthy environment again, I started to look for a workplace, where colleagues would support my professional growth. After graduation I started to work as an analyst at August Associates, where the culture differs from what I have experienced previously as night and day.

August is a company that encourages risk taking and speaking your mind. I find this very important given the demanding nature of the work and complexity of the problems that we face daily. Although stepping out of my comfort zone has never come naturally to me, I feel encouraged to take on new responsibilities and try difficult tasks that I have not performed before. I can admit that “I don’t know” without fear of appearing incompetent and ask for help from very experienced colleagues. Studies have shown that experiencing psychological safety enhances learning, increases motivation to tackle difficult problems and enables high team performance (2). I can personally testify to this.

Community is one of August’s values and it reflects the way we work and behave. We help one another since we are working towards a common goal rather than our own career progressions. This may sound trivial, but based on my prior experience, it is not. In the ballet world, many believe that increasing internal competition enhances performance, and I believe it may be true in the short term. However, increasing competition also undermines the importance of team work, and results in poor team performance. At August, our performance as members of the team determines our success as a company.

Finally, I feel that my colleagues are genuinely interested in my well-being. They for example support my interests outside of work and ask how I am doing (as a genuine question, not just a phrase) during a chat in our cozy office kitchen. There are lots of activities and social events during the year, including crayfish and pre-Christmas parties, skiing in the Alps, yoga classes and floorball matches to name a few, where I have got to know my colleagues as persons. I have even made some good friends.

Intellectual challenge – and the steep learning curve that follows – is something you will experience if you choose strategy consulting or investment banking regardless of the company you work for. It’s inherent in these professions. So, my advice to you is to look for the workplace where you feel respected not just for what you do but for who you are, and where you can step outside your comfort zone to advance in your career. Difficult? Not necessarily. I found my own path to August through an internship in my 4th year of studies. I suggest you try different things that have piqued your curiosity already during your studies to find your own ideal working environment.

– Annika Nieminen, Analyst at August Associates

(1) Helsingin Sanomat 19.4.2018

(2) Harvard Business Review 24.8.2017

August Associates are the leading local strategy consultants in Finland. Founded in 2001 we are a firm of 25 capable professionals committed to helping companies rise above the crowd and surpass their targets. Deep customer relationships are at the heart of delivering relevant strategic counsel that is a perfect fit for the organization and their business. Combining experience with non-conformist thinking we go beyond the commonplace, providing solutions that Brave The Future.

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