One of my previous lecturers once said that University is like learning to swim without being in the water. You learn the basics and the techniques but you don’t get the full experience of swimming in the sea.
Its purpose is to prepare students for working life, where students are thrown in after University. And when you finally find yourself in deep waters, you have to use the techniques and skills you learned to keep afloat.
It has been about half a year since I started in the UPM Graduate Programme for UPM Specialty Papers. I work in Tervasaari mill in Valkeakoski, Finland as a Production Engineer. The mill produces release papers for labels. Along with working and having my own projects on the production side, my graduate journey consists of many interesting and diverse opportunities which support and develop my skills even more. I have, for example, participated in a product development project in Germany and have visited other mills and research centres to gain more information and knowledge about UPM and Specialty Papers.
As a newcomer and recent graduate, these first few months have mainly been about learning new things, getting to know my colleagues and establishing routines. It can sometimes be energy-consuming but on the other hand, it is really rewarding. In my six months of working, I have realised that no matter how much I think I know about something, the truth is I have only scratched the surface. Almost every week, I realise how much more there is to learn, and this is what motivates me the most.
Teamwork makes the dream work
My very first task in my graduate journey was to work as a Shift Supervisor. I was responsible for work and environmental safety as well as for production of the whole shift. The Shift Supervisor also acts as a foreman for process operators. Working at the core of the production was really educational for me. You learn the most by getting your hands dirty.
Anyone who has been in a production environment knows how quickly the situation could change. And every time something occurs, you have to react to it. As Shift Supervisor, I’m in the frontline, solving production-related challenges that affects the quality and quantity of our products. Although I haven’t been working long, I’ve already noticed that you can’t highlight enough how important it is to work as a team. No one can tackle all the challenges alone. This is why you have a team around you.
Thinking of these first six months, I can easily say that I’ve learned most from the people I’ve worked with, across organizational boundaries, not from books or manuals (even though they are important). I’ve been able to grow and learn from different situations, whether a challenge was solved or not. These kinds of problem-solving opportunities have been maybe the most valuable experiences I’ve had so far.
Papermaking is an art performed by individuals: everyone has their own role yet everyone works towards the same goal. I see a clear resemblance to team sports. When we work together towards a common goal, every challenge can be tackled. Sports are full of excellent examples where a team without any superstars has beaten a team full of top performers. How? By working as a team.
Time flies so quickly. After six months, I am happy to note that swimming in the Specialty Papers’ sea is getting better and easier all the time. This would not have been possible without my colleagues who have been really supportive. I am excited about the opportunities that the next six months will bring. I know I will be working more closely with sales and technical customer service-related topics, not to mention my rotation in the UPM Changshu Mill in China in spring.