Our Management Trainees have gathered up and chosen three skills that are essential for succeeding the challenging Trainee year. The three most important skills were the ability to take initiative and having good analytical and social skills. Here, each Trainee shares their thoughts and experiences about these abilities.
Eirik Mofoss, Norway:
In these times of big data, in a fast-growing software company with dozens of businesses gathering data on what works and what does not work, I believe people with analytical skills are crucial to succeed. This both in order to generate new insights from data, but also – and perhaps even more importantly – to avoid seeing false patterns and drawing wrong conclusions.
On my second project as a Management Trainee, I worked on predicting customer churn (i.e. customers leaving) in one of Visma’s businesses in the Netherlands. I gathered and analyzed data and built a machine learning model to help me with this. That is, I decided to utilize computational power to find patterns in the data that the human eye never could have seen. Working towards this, however, I had to use my cognitive skills to learn about the product, understand the customer journey, figure out why some customers leave and others stay, and break the problem down into some data variables that I could analyze. I used hypothesis testing and statistical measures a a framework, and finally ended up with a model that seemed to quite reliably be able to predict which customers that would leave. However, due to my concern about drawing false conclusions, I also spent much time thinking about how my model could be wrong. Time will show if it was or not!
Jacob Nyman, Norway:
Analytical skills are among the most frequently wanted qualities in graduate-targeted job descriptions. The ability to translate data, facts and statistics into actionable insight is necessary for solving problems and making decisions. While most students utilize their analytical mindset to solve isolated pedagogical problems all the time, situations in the real world are hardly isolated, and least of all pedagogical. To present yourself as a competent analyst in a business setting, a set of higher-level skills must supplement the fundamentals of memory, logic, calculation and notion of probabilities and statistics. Can you configure your mind to pick up only relevant patterns in abundant information? Are you appropriately critical to sources of information and yet confident enough to move forward towards a conclusion? Are you honest, accurate and humble when dealing with uncertainties or facts that disfavour your business or your personal position? As a Management Trainee at Visma, I always try to remember the long term goals of the people receiving the conclusions of my analysis. I think that what most businesses want when they add “analytical skills” to their list of desired qualities, is a trustworthy source of genuine recommendations.
Rebecca Oskarsson, Sweden:
With short project periods of two months, you have to make the best of it. By doing research and analyses you can get thorough insights where to put most effort. When you only have two months, and you start running in the wrong direction, you might not have time to turn around and finish in time. Instead, you should pick up the map and examine all possible trails and tracks before you begin your journey. Which paths end at the edge of a cliff, go in circles or just fade out in the middle of nowhere? Also, determine which ones are made of good material and then maybe you don’t even have to walk, you can take the car there. Moreover, there’s a big chance you find someone who knows the area and have been there before, who can show you the way. Without being able to analyze the situation, the reachability of the objectives, and how to get there, you will fumble in the dark. Chances are you’ll get lost and never reach the goal in time. Don’t trust me? Have a movie night with Bird Box and you’ll get the feeling. Sure, some people make it but most likely they’ve lost relevant gains along the way.
Jo Hvoslef, Norway:
By relating this skillset to phases of a project, I’ll explain why I believe it can contribute positively to your projects during your year in five different companies, cultures and countries.
Firstly, I define good social skills as the ability to interact and communicate with others both verbal and nonverbal ways and use what you observe to improve your relations.
In the start-up phase, this skill can help you properly map your steering group. What are actually their expectations, their perception of the problem or their presumptions? By knowing this you can initiate discussions to align group.
As you start your data collection phase, being able to quickly adopt to the company’s culture can ease your process. Especially if you choose a qualitative method. Then you may be perceived as less of an “outsider” during interviews. They might share more information with you.
In the delivery phase, it’s important to adjust your delivery to what you’ve observed during your 2-month stay. How should I present my delivery? How should I communicate the message to the stakeholders? A person with good social skills most likely have control on, and I believe that good social skills can contribute positively to your projects.
Alexander Geisler, Denmark:
One of the cornerstones of the Management Graduate program is the chance to work in several different Visma units across Northern Europe. For that reason, being able to navigate in different social settings and cultures is definitely an advantage being a Visma Management Trainee. The program offers the chance to experience and learn the differences among the countries first hand, but it also requires the ability to quickly establish social ties and relationships to your co-workers.
This is especially challenging as each project have a duration of approximately 2 months, which means that you essentially start in a new position in a new Visma unit, maybe even in a new country, every second month. In that period, you have to get a grasp of your project, establish ties to your colleagues, learn about the company and culture, and of course finish your assigned project.
But the outcome is fantastic! During your year you will have established a vast network across the Visma organization with a lot of super nice and highly competent people. That is something that must never be underrated. For that reason, I see great social skills as one of the most important in the skill set of a Visma management graduate.
Mikkel Boye Ahlgren, Norway:
Personally, I don’t relate social skills to necessarily being an extrovert or having a lot of charisma, but rather your ability to make use of your colleagues’ competence. Why is this so important? When you’re stepping up on day one of a project in a business situation that’s completely new to you, sometimes even in another country, one of the most important things you could do is to frequently ask those who work on the issue every day. Here’s why:
When you are lacking experience, it’s easy to overestimate how well you’ve actually understood the case at hand, and then become a victim of the Dunning-Krüger effect. A good way to overcome this over-confidence is to just keep on asking and talking to people until you one day understand how much you don’t understand.
There are a lot of competent people in Visma. Once you’ve got a clear understanding of what information you need, these people are happy to help you out.
Personally, I’ve had to get information from the boards that run our business in local markets in order to find challenges that span across countries, markets and customer segments. I’ve also had to ask local domain experts if they see segments or industry niches with uncovered potential, in order to make good recommendations about companies to acquire. Both cases required both a thorough understanding of the problem and insights from people who know a lot more than I do.
Viktoria Hæsken, Norway:
Taking initiative can be defined in two ways. On one hand, it can be explained as the ability to take charge, and on the other as the willingness to get things done and to take responsibility. From my experience, a Management Trainee needs both of these definitions to succeed. These skills are required all the way from the beginning of a project while you are searching for the right one, they are further required throughout the project when driving yourself forwards, and also at the end, where your abilities to take initiative defines the result.
To briefly define what I mean with taking initiative in all three stages, I’ll start with the beginning. As a Management Trainee, you get five projects. The project location and content will be evaluated according to your wishes. However, often projects does not exist (especially in other countries) without someone (read; you) initiating in their existence. Hence, it is your job to be responsible for getting a project you can enjoy and learn from. Once you have the project, the scope might be vaguely defined. Often, the project owner does not know which steps are the next ones to take, and this is where taking responsibility for your own progress and being alert of ways to make something better pays off. In the end, not being afraid of reaching out and asking for that last piece of advice might not be such a bad idea, if you want to succeed.
Julia Hakanpää, Finland:
I see the ability to take initiative as one of the most important skills of a Management Trainee. For me, taking initiative means being proactive, taking charge, and when necessary, stepping out of your comfort zone. By being proactive I have helped others understand important aspects of a task and have started a collective thought process which has eventually resulted in great advances in a project. Taking charge requires trusting your instinct and your ability to carry out this project according to the best of your ability, boosting your self-confidence. Stepping out of your comfort zone has been the most concrete and needed for me especially at the beginning of every project when you’re still trying to figure out what the task and the scope are, who exactly can help you in your task to conquer this project, and when you’re figuring out the best way to carry out the next two months.
From my experience, being fast and effective in taking initiative will help you make sense of a complex situation. This is crucial especially at the beginning of any new projects when you are thrown out into the famous deep end of the pool. However, by continuing to have an unprompted approach in whatever it is that you’re doing, you’ll be able to push existing boundaries further and deliver even better results.
Anna Normark, Sweden:
Taking initiative is an important part in any working role. It is the difference between talking about something and actually doing it. As a trainee, the need to take initiative is even greater. We change project and organization within Visma almost every other month. Starting a new project is almost like starting a new job, we get a new location, new colleagues and a new role and task. Usually when you start a new job, you get to spend some time on getting used to your new setting, but as a trainee you have to work really fast when starting a new project. Because of the limited time, we don’t really have time to wait for people to help us get started with our project, instead we have to take initiative to gather information, contact people and plan the project during a short amount of time.
As a trainee you often have to initiate contact with different people across Visma. This can be because you need to get help or share information. In my last project, I needed to contact people I’d never met in different Visma companies in order to book meetings and get information about their products. Therefore, as a trainee at Visma, you have to initiate projects, contact and changes in the business you are put. It can both be challenging and sometimes a bit frightening, but it’s a very important skill to have, and to work on during the trainee year.