Summer as a substitute wood handling supervisor: "A good manager listens to employees and doesn't fumble"

What is a good manager like? Calm and fair but assertive, genuinely listens to employees with both ears, according to Lauri Similä (25), substitute wood handling supervisor at the UPM Kaukas mill.

"Someone who doesn't fumble but keeps it together. Someone who takes their subordinates' issues seriously, doesn't lose their nerve easily and doesn't make promises they can't keep. They have to really sink their teeth into their subordinates' problems", states Similä.

The young man, who is in his fifth year of studying Energy Technology at LUT (Lappeenranta University of Technology), got the chance to experience being a manager for the first time this summer. During his last year as a summer employee, he got to observe a supervisor's role through the point of view of the same debarking plant's process operator. Despite that, his role this year has brought a lot of new and unexpected challenges. Luckily, he has been surrounded by numerous good role models for the job.

"There are lots of managers at the mill who have inspired me, and I have refined the best parts of the examples they have set for my own use. My closest co-workers have also taught me a lot about things I didn't know before", explains Lauri.

"Sometimes it's nice to set yourself a challenge"

As a substitute wood handling supervisor, Lauri is the link between the pulp mill's wood reception and the cooking plant. He is also responsible for making sure that the pulp cooking plant has enough chips in the next processing stage and, at the same time, that the mill has enough debarked wood. The supervisor's job therefore affects the operation of the whole mill.

Lauri's day involves a lot of walking; he spends half of his working hours at the office and in meetings, whilst the other half is spent in the field.

"This is a pretty big site. I like being on my feet and keeping in touch with the different units and all kinds of people. I couldn't stand sitting around alone in an office for eight hours a day", the sociable man laughs.

The substitute supervisor's job description includes a lot of scheduling, organising and coordinating both processes and people. There is no typical work day. Certain morning routines are repeated daily, but after that you go with the flow; sometimes you hold a meeting about future plans with the different units of the production process, sometimes you manage your team's time management app, Tuntilehti, or plan substitutions. Occasionally you schedule repairs with the maintenance team or figure out how processes could be optimised further.

In Lauri's opinion, the best thing about the job is that he constantly learns new things and situations can change quickly.

"Sometimes it's nice to set yourself a challenge. And it's very rewarding when you tackle challenging situations successfully".

Summer surrounded by forests in Lappeenranta

Many Finns associate the letter combination of U, P and M with a variety of concepts and impressions relating to their everyday life. However, before his summers at UPM, Lauri was fairly unfamiliar with the company.

"I mainly knew that paper and pulp were manufactured there. I also read in the papers that the company launched a safety campaign", Lauri said, describing his prior knowledge.

What made him send a summer job application to UPM specifically?

"This is a big company with a versatile business and it's located nearby, too. It's a safe workplace and there are great opportunities for career advancement" Lauri, who was born in neighbouring city, Imatra, sums up UPM's assets as an employer. In the autumn, he will work on his wood handling-related thesis at UPM.

These days, Lauri spends most of his working hours, as well as his spare time, surrounded by forests. Lauri practises orienteering and, in his spare time, forests are a place where he can relax, exercise and wind down. His summer job handling wood in the forest industry company has expanded his grasp of the role forests play in Finnish livelihood, too.

 "I think forests are places that combine relaxation and livelihood. I like gathering blueberries and listening to the birds sing, and when I do that, I understand why forests are logged: it is an important part of our country's export industry. That's a combination that benefits everyone".

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