My growth at Neste: “New challenges are the best way to develop”
Elina Pousi decided to apply for a job at Neste when she noticed an interesting opening that fit perfectly with her education in Chemical Engineering. Just a couple years earlier Elina had done her Master’s thesis for Neste and the thought of returning to work at Neste was exciting. Now 11 years later she works with implementing the production plan for day-to-day operations in Porvoo refinery with an interesting career history in supply chain management.
In 2011, Elina started as Plant Engineer in the Oil Products business unit working at the Porvoo, Finland, refinery at Neste. Neste aims to become the global leader in renewable and circular solutions and manufactures both fossil and renewable products at the Porvoo refinery.
“My work as Plant Engineer was very practical and educational. The tasks varied a lot from changing catalysts to monitoring and reporting. I also had the opportunity to work with a lot of different stakeholders at Neste which was a great learning opportunity. The refinery environment is really a young engineer’s dream,” she says.
Curiosity and a drive to understand refinery operations better led Elina to her next position as Process Engineer in 2014.
“The role was even more comprehensive and extensive than the previous one and it helped me to gain a better understanding of why we refine the way that we do. I was able to get a new perspective of the Porvoo refinery as a whole. It also opened new possibilities and interests for me at Neste. I started to get more and more interested in the logic and the financial aspects behind the decision making processes,” Elina explains.
Diving deep into mathematics and econometrics
When a possibility to do supply chain planning in the Supply Chain Management team in the Oil Products business unit at company’s headquarters in Espoo emerged, Elina saw it as an opportunity to see behind the scenes of the refinery and understand optimization from a bigger picture viewpoint.
“I wanted to know how the refining units and processes are planned and how the capacities and running modes are decided. In the end, I stayed six years as a Supply Chain Planner with varying focus areas. I started with heavy products, then moved to crude oil and feedstocks and in my last role in the team, my focus was on bio steering which included steering the Finnish and Baltics biomandate fulfilment and other bio-related blending in fossil fuels,” she describes.
The role included working with mathematics and econometrics, counting different possibilities and looking at the numbers from different perspectives.
Elina continues: “Nowadays we utilise sophisticated production planning tools to aid decision making, e.g., Linear Programming (LP) model, but I’m still a bit of an old school type myself. I always urge the newcomers to conquer the basic maths first on a paper; only after that can you really harvest the huge benefits and understand the results of a production planning model. ’Know your numbers’ is part of being a professional in this field.”
Elina sees that the team provided a great balance to the constantly changing work environment. Last couple of years with rapidly changing market environments have been a challenge that has never been seen before.
“Even though my teammates had different focus areas, a lot of cooperation, teamwork and open communication was required to have one unified plan – how to run the refinery. There was always support available in the team to move forward from any obstacles and best ideas usually come when you can brainstorm with colleagues - out of the box mindset should be in a regular toolbox of any planner,” she describes.
”I have always enjoyed the good sense of humour within the team; difficult days and stressful situations are so much easier to cope with when you can lift up the spirits with a good laugh!”
In addition, the teamwork offered a great view to other focus areas and created new interests.
“We had opportunities for job rotation within the team to expand skills into new areas and grow as a professional. For me, new challenges are the best way to develop and I was eager to learn and change into a new role which can be seen from my three different positions in the team. I like to be out of my comfort zone, because only then learning is guaranteed,” Elina says.
Returning to the roots
Later Elina had the opportunity to return to work in Porvoo where she started her career at Neste. In June 2021, she started as a Head of Operative Steering and Optimization in the Oil Products business unit at Neste.
“I had always enjoyed working in the Porvoo refinery so returning there was like returning home. It is great to be close to the day-to-day operations of production and also utilise my experience from Espoo Headquarters to create a bridge between my previous team and the current one. My current team is responsible for implementing the short term optimized production plan to our day-to-day operations,” Elina explains.
Elina enjoys sparring with her team about different ideas but also outside of work hours, she has many ways to take mind off work.
Curiosity and inspiration in the future
In addition to new work tasks, her new role created other new areas for development as she started as the team lead for the first time.
“I have always had a genuine feeling that my managers are on my side and supported me. I’m really grateful for that. They have given me space to investigate, learn and expand my own knowledge, and go for the challenge. That is something that I want to also give to others. It is great to spar and coach within the team and also with other people and see how they get excited too,” Elina smiles.
Elina describes that the positive environment is at the core of the culture at Neste.
“I have always felt safe to express myself and my opinions and to be heard. Especially in all of the different teams I have been a part of here, there has been a very positive culture of working together, a culture of caring, but we have also dared to challenge each other. A positive and psychologically safe working environment is to be valued and cherished and not to be taken for granted – this is a key thing for a leader to remember. You need to earn it, each day,” she says.
For the future, Elina sees many interesting opportunities as a team leader.
“I feel that I have a lot to learn as a manager. I want to motivate and excite my team and all around us. I feel that we have a great opportunity to stand out from other employers, inspire and get people committed to our transformation journey to make the Porvoo refinery the most sustainable refinery in Europe by 2030. Porvoo refinery is such a large industrial site in Finland and in the whole Nordics, that we can really make a positive impact with the refinery transformation. And for young talents, this is truly an excellent place to have the first row bench to the show,” she describes.
Elina concludes: “You can do anything by working hard, being curious and challenging yourself.”