Pekka Lensu

Growth and learning as basis for career development – Pekka Lensu’s path from sales rep to manager

Pekka Lensu, 35, has been working at OP for 11 years in a career fuelled by a burning desire to improve.

Pekka Lensu was never supposed to become a manager, but that’s exactly what happened. Today he’s head of Banking Services within OP’s Centralised Service Production, with some 1,000 working under him. When studying economics and business administration, the idea of being a manager was totally alien to Lensu. The driving force during his career that has taken some twists and turns has been a desire to always develop a bit more.

“I’ve always wanted to learn new things and challenge myself. This is the attitude that has taken my career forward, although I’ve never set any actual career targets. I find it interesting to see what added value I can create with my expertise in various roles in the organisation,” says Lensu.

He’s held a variety of OP jobs during his 11-year career. He began at OP in Joensuu at the age of 24, working as a part-time sales rep alongside his studies. Less than a year later, he became a sales coach and six months later a deputy team leader, subsequently leading into a permanent job.

“Early in my career, I went from job to the next rather quickly, enabling me to test my adaptability for various job. I was able to make progress, because I fulfilled the performance requirements set for me.”

Having been in supervisor positions for some time, Lensu decided to get some more perspective as a human resource planner. He also completed, alongside his other duties, solution-focused Lean Green Belt training. Everything went well, and then he was offered a job as a development manager, which meant that he had to move to Helsinki with his significant other.

Experience brings responsibility

As he became more experienced, he was also given more responsibility. At the turn of 2013, he was chosen to head the Service Production Support and Steering unit. Two years later he became the deputy head of a department for eight months. This brought on new challenges: how to motivate people and to encourage them to improve their wellbeing at work? Interpersonal skills became crucial in management.

“That was probably the most educational period of my working life, because I was able to tap into everything I had learned so far in my new role of responsibility. For the first time, I was a supervisor to supervisors who in turn managed over large areas of the organisation. There was more responsibility than ever before.”

After his period as deputy, Lensu returned to his position of manager, but six months later when the organisation was changed, there was a vacancy for a head of department within Banking Services. His interviewers were convinced by his extensive experience in service production. All his previous experience and learning culminated in him becoming a department head at the age of a little over 30.

“My objective has been to develop myself and advance according my capabilities. In my view obsessive career targets and the setting of other targets can actually be counter-productive. My recipe is that as long as you have the necessary competence and capacity to go forward, opportunities will probably come along your way.”

OP’s work culture supporting growth

The single most important reason for Lensu’s long and ascending career specifically in OP stems from instructive job descriptions and the working culture, encouraging employees to develop themselves.

“None of my new job descriptions has been entirely obvious, as many things depend on how active you are personally. OP as an organisation offers many opportunities. It is continuous learning that has kept me here,” says Lensu.

The greatest support for his career development has come along the years from his supervisors, for whom Lensu has great respect. Sometimes he has been forced to think about his own competences in a very analytical way, as his supervisors have challenged his views. Lensu considers it a privilege that OP values its employees’ potential.

“Considering my position, I’m still a young guy. I am grateful that OP allows people to reinvent themselves and to change things.”

Results achieved together

Having done competitive sports, Lensu knows he has a competitive streak, but balances it with calmness and logic. He considers his strength that he can see the positive side of things. He knows that success is based on the ability of capable people working together.

“Having worked in various positions at OP, I have learned that you are only as good as the unity of your team. Only unity will bring success. If you try to do everything from scratch, the result is probably not going to be that good.”

Lensu praises OP working culture and values especially the way and speed at which work is done at the moment to improve customer experience. The journey to become a diversified services company requires new ways of working and a culture where people pull together. And indeed, this is why Lensu promotes a strategy in his unit where one of the focus areas in the best possible customer experience.

“I get my greatest experiences of personal success when we achieve something together. The unit’s staff is responsible for some two million customer contacts per year. Every positive feedback from our customers is heart-warming. We are working to serve OP’s customers.”

Development is still a core value for Lensu, and OP’s working culture supports this value. He sees that a good assignment challenges you to constantly develop yourself to find solutions. This way, it’s possible to reach what may seem like distant targets. And once the targets have been achieved, it is important to celebrate them together.

“Management is a purely service profession. It is not a position but a job that comes with clear targets.”