Leon Yang has had an interesting couple of years. After studies in mathematics both in China and the UK, Yang did several rounds of internships in financial companies as a back desk analyst. Tired of looking at multi-screens and bumping numbers, he wondered whether he could take the leap into the industry through direct contact with customers.
‘’My friend took part in an office visit to Supercell, a Finnish game development company, and he was very taken with the relaxed company culture and lack of hierarchy. He recommended that I should have a look at Finnish companies and the opportunities they provide. That was when I discovered the UPM Graduate Programme. They were looking for a sales trainee in APAC, based in Shanghai, China, which suited me perfectly’’, Yang recounts.
A chance to experiment
Yang was accepted to the UPM Graduate Programme, which consisted of several rotations and opportunities for mentorship. He had to immerse himself in a different world, where his mathematical background came in handy but which also proved challenging, as he had to come face to face with the practical side of pulp sales.
‘’In my culture, traineeships are not that common. People study and usually start their formal career as fresh graduate. The Graduate Programme gave me a chance to learn new skills in a new area while working. I had time to learn to communicate with customers, to deal with the practicalities of supply and demand and to find out whether front desk work is suitable for me.’’
As it turns out, it was. Yang quickly learned the ropes of his new field as he could use his experience with financial analysis to understand sales operations, while his mentors supported his learning of interacting with customers. The four rotations enabled him to work under both Chinese and Finnish business units.
Yang visited the pulp and sawmills soon after arriving in Finland. “My first impression of UPM’s mills was eye opening. It was impressive to witness how forestry resources are efficiently utilised by turning wood raw material into various sustainable products, such as timber, pulp and biochemicals”, he says.
After the Graduate Programme, he started working as a market intelligence analyst for pulp sales, APAC. The work has its challenges, such as the need for in-depth knowledge about different business regions, but also its perks.
‘’The best part of my job is that I get to travel a lot. In order to understand the fast-moving Chinese market and religious differences in consumer habits, mill operation and logistics, you have to dive deep into the workings of the industry and meet end-users, e-commerce platform providers, and other relevant parts of the system. While meeting people in real life, travelling helps you to gain new insight into pulp sales’’, Yang describes.
A bigger world
What has this journey from back desk to front desk, from numbers to people, taught Yang?
‘’I can now see a bigger world. Working with sales lets you see the diversity of our industry. There are so many different skills and different talents at play, it makes your head spin. Sales is at the crossroads of it all, where different parts of the system meet, and it is the job of market intelligence analysts to provide sales with the most recent market information and scenarios for future development ‘’, Yang concludes.