Even though I was interested in leadership already at an early age, I don’t necessarily consider myself a natural born leader.
My path to Business Unit Leader for IP Solutions and a member of the management team at CGI has been shaped by my openness to new challenges and opportunities.
After high school, I did not want to rule out any future opportunities and therefore was drawn to study the wide field of business. I remember being quite excited about starting to study leadership, until my dad told me to focus on something concreate instead, like numbers for example. He pointed out that many leadership skills you will acquire by simply living and experiencing life and work – but knowing numbers is important in all companies. This advice in mind I chose to major accounting, although I did take several courses in leadership as well.
I graduated with a degree in accounting and merchant law from the Turku School of Economics and business administration, and I have found this background extremely useful later in my career. Knowing numbers and figures has allowed me to smoothly take on many new career opportunities. And truthfully, my dad knew me pretty well! To me, most things are clear-cut: either they are, or they are not. In that sense, working with numbers fits my personality.
Marianna Saarinen, Senior Vice President, Consulting Service & Business Unit Leader for IP Solutions at CGI
As a fresh graduate, there were two paths to choose from: a job at an auditing firm, or a trainee position with SAP software. SAP had just landed in the Finnish market and Capgemini was looking for trainees to their consultancy trainee programme. I didn’t even fully understand what it was all about when I applied… But once again, I had shared a conversation with my dad about the options I had and he encouraged me to explore the unknown. We agreed that information technology was going to play an ever-growing role in companies and working life, and that intrigued me. My first customer projects were, of course, difficult – but when thrown in freezing water, one does just learn how to swim!
I joined CGI five years ago, when I started leading the consultancy services in the central government field. I was actually turned down from the original position I applied for, but I continued being proactive. I knew some CGI people through mutual work projects and was interested in joining the forces. When I first heard about the team lead position of the central government, I told them that I don’t actually know much about the field. In return, they told me they already had plenty of experts: they wanted someone who could bring new drive and attitude to the team.
Nowadays, I work as a Business Unit Leader for Cross Industry Solutions. Our team consists of about 400 employees here in Finland, and about 150 in India. We have nearly 20 IP solutions that we are constantly developing to meet customer and industry needs. We pay a lot of attention to customer satisfaction, and it has been great to see our solutions being sold abroad as well. Finnish talent has been noticed!
Even though I have always valued and needed my own time, this pandemic especially has shown just how much energy you get from working as a team with others. Ideas get clearer when you can share and bounce them around – and you are always learning new aspects from others.
“Being a good leader is a continuous learning process: for me, it is important to listen and have trust in others and give them the space and freedom to work freely. As a leader, I cannot micromanage or be involved in every process!“
One of my strongest qualities as a leader is the ability to see the big picture: I am not a person of details, but I see how bigger entities are attached to one another. Being a good leader is a continuous learning process: for me, it is important to listen and have trust in others and give them the space and freedom to work freely. As a leader, I cannot micromanage or be involved in every process! One can never be complete or finished as a leader – you are always learning new about others as well as yourself.
At CGI, our global management has set a strategic goal to improve our diversity: having a diverse workforce is a part of our business plan and operations. We have internal networks that focus on inclusivity and diversity, and we also train our employees regarding DEI matters.
I find it so crucial to have inclusivity in leadership positions (for example women, but this goes further than just gender). If we aim to have organizations full of different kinds of people, we need to ensure our management and leaders can support all of them. Diverse management teams can take into consideration the different needs and backgrounds of individuals. And on top of that, our job is to fulfill such diverse customer needs – how could we do this, if all of our employees were cut from the same cloth?
“I find it so crucial to have inclusivity in leadership positions (for example women, but this goes further than just gender). If we aim to have organizations full of different kinds of people, we need to ensure our management and leaders can support all of them.“
My tip for the younger generation is not to close any doors too early. My own path was shaped by not knowing what I want to do when I grow up, and just being open-minded. By trying something new, we may randomly find the greatest adventures and the exact fit for us! Or, we may learn that what we thought was meant for us, is not for us at all. And that is also OK. We are allowed to change our paths as we go.
Marianna Saarinen, Senior Vice President, Consulting Service & Business Unit Leader for IP Solutions, CGI