I started my career at 22 after receiving a master's degree in finance. My first position was as a Customer Service Manager at the Visa Centre. That job allowed me to communicate with clients and develop the skills to resolve conflicts and convince people.
After a year and a half, I got a job as an analyst in the product purchases department at the largest retail company in Ukraine. It was quite difficult and stressful work. My position required me to accumulate information and provide reports to my manager and other departments. The information was provided by department employees (there are more than 50 staff members in my department, and in general, the company has more than a thousand office employees). My effectiveness depended on the speed of my colleagues' responses, accuracy and completeness of information. In this position, I improved my communication skills, writing instructions and creating transparent and clear reports.
After nine months, I was promoted and became a Purchasing Manager of frozen goods. It wasn't easy because I knew some processes in theory and how to communicate with people, but I was too soft for such a multi-million-dollar business. Suppliers put pressure on me and demanded additional conditions for their goods. Moreover, being responsible for all the prices, the company's profit and the inventory made me feel stressed all the time. It was a terrible nightmare for me, but at the same time, in six months, I learned how to negotiate, defend my position and reach the best conditions for my company.
A year later, I went on maternity leave and studied psychology. At this time, psychology and developing people's personalities became my hobbies.
In two and a half years, I returned to work as Purchasing Manager of long-term storage food. I managed the distribution of our brand-name products. This position became the biggest driving force in my development. Together with my manager, analyst and brand manager, we made a cool team that was the most efficient and friendly, according to many. Our strength was that despite the commercial chaos (because everything is very fast-moving in this area), we could take strategic steps such as launching new products (from idea to implementation in at least six months). We always consulted and found very interesting approaches to solving any situation.
Also, in this position, I gave tasks to our analyst and was responsible for her work. Afterwards, I was training a new analyst in all business processes in our team and was a mentor for a new team member.
One big advantage in the retail field is that career development is very fast, the field is very dynamic, and you get new knowledge exceptionally quickly. But there is also a huge drawback: it is incredibly stressful and exhausting communication. Therefore, when I got an offer to take the position in the Financial Technology Department, I accepted it as I needed to slow down. This position involved a combination of analytical work and project management. One part of my work was related to reports and databases, the other to projects. We conducted various studies of the influence on customers' purchasing behaviour, cooperated with banks and thought about what services to provide for our customers in the future.
With the beginning of the war in Ukraine, everything changed. Our projects were stopped, and we urgently did what was most necessary. There was chaos in the stores; people were buying everything from the shelves and trying to stock up for the unknown future. The company struggled with stocks, suppliers, delivery, cash, etc. We did constantly different reports because the environment was being changed every hour.
In six months, the company's owners decided that anyone who wanted to stay at the company had to return to the office. It was not possible for me, so I finally left the company.
Evaluating my experience in various positions and projects, I can establish that the modern working environment's priority is communication skills rather than technical knowledge. Many programs and business processes can be learned very quickly, but the ability to negotiate with other people and build effective relationships is some art.
Author: Nataliia Hrubova (ESOL Level 1 Student)
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