Across 3 countries, 3 time zones, and 3 business areas, seat 3 inspiring leaders of Metso. We recently had the privilege to speak with Irma Kurniwati, San-Mari Rautenbach, and Poonam Gupta about their careers. They shared pivotal moments that shaped their leadership journey and learnings on becoming global leaders.
#MetsoWomen: Empowering journeys to global leadership
Irma has been working at Metso for 10 years. Her background is in chemical engineering and water resource management. Born and raised in Jakarta Indonesia, Irma is a mother of two daughters. She is a seasoned runner and has an unbelievably green thumb - her 900m2 garden blooms with fruit trees all year round.
As VP of Sales and Services, Irma looks after the growth in Asia, including the day-to-day operations, people, and focusing largely on the after-market sales.
She talks about returning to the workforce at the age of 40 after a hiatus to care for her family: “I was hesitant to start working again at 40. I felt uncomfortable in the first few months since my colleagues were really young and clever.” Yet, Irma swiftly adapted, proving that age is no barrier to success. Irma is a great example that your 20s or 30s does not have to determine your future. Dedicating time to family does not mean you can’t bounce back to work full steam: “While my friends contemplate retirement, I feel young and brimming with energy to achieve in my career!"
For Irma, the key to her growth lies in three elements: training, networking and a supportive environment. In a technology-driven field, expertise is paramount. Irma emphasizes the importance of delving deep into product knowledge. Metso's extensive training programs not only equipped her, but also facilitated valuable connections within the company. According to Irma, success isn’t just about knowing every product intricately; it's about recognizing the people you can turn to for assistance. Her advice? "Spend time with your colleagues, understand their roles and build relationships. It’s these connections that pave the way for growth."
As a female leader in a male-dominated industry, Irma's approach is grounded in focusing on her capabilities rather than her gender. Her message to her daughters and anyone navigating similar paths is clear: "Concentrate on what you can do, not on how your gender might limit you."
In moments of doubt, Irma advocates reflection. Acknowledging her achievements brings her comfort and confidence, reinforcing the belief that she's precisely where she belongs.
San-Mari Rautenbach, Director of Project Delivery North and Central America
San-Mari has been working at Metso for 12 years. Originally from South Africa, San-Mari moved to Ontario, Canada in 2018 for new opportunities at Metso. Her background is in mechanical engineering. She is a mum of two girls, and in her free time you can find her outside kayaking, running, horse riding and even tending to their hobby farm.
It is every mechanical engineer’s dream to tinker with large machinery! And San-Mari was no exception. The allure of engineering lies in hands-on experience. Her career journey started in the construction industry where she could be on site and up close with all the equipment. The thrill of site visits, witnessing the transformation of feasibility studies and blueprints into tangible machinery, captivated her. "It's fascinating," she says, her eyes lighting up. "Seeing the equipment being installed makes your work come alive." It’s what made her fall in love with mining.
“I get to travel to really cool locations, see the mines come to life at night with the lights, and realize that I’m just a tiny person next to big machines”, San-Mari describes.
What sets Metso apart, according to San-Mari, is the robust technical training support. There are numerous programs internally at Metso including mentoring, leadership network, and even possibilities to further your studies outside Metso.
The global leadership network at Metso is especially supportive: “We come together and tap into each other’s ideas. You get exposed to different cultures, ways of working, and tools that really round you as a leader”, San-Mari shares. As one of the global heads of project delivery, she meets with other delivery leads monthly, and often in-person to understand the workings of each region.
San-Mari believes in driving her own growth. She highlights that “there are a lot of career opportunities and support systems at Metso, but you need to be proactive and speak up.” A testament to this was her brief departure from Metso back in 2021 when she couldn’t see her career path clearly: “I struggled in silence and ended up leaving. It was 4 months later when Metso asked me to return when they had found a suitable role for me. I respected that, and it made me feel like my work had not gone unnoticed.”
From her studies till now, San-Mari has often been the only female in the room. Her advice is simple: confidence and resilience is key to thriving as a leader. Never be afraid to stand out and always make sure that you keep learning.
Poonam Gupta, Vice President, HR Middle East, Turkey, and India
Poonam has been working at Metso for around 13 years. Growing up next to mine sites and steel plants in East India, her business reality at Metso is reminiscent of her childhood surroundings. Now living in the Bollywood city, Mumbai, she has two teenage kids who are helping to keep her work and life balanced.
Poonam's decision to join Metso was influenced by the company's leadership ethos. She admired the journey of the CEO at the time, who started as a Metso engineer. Equally inspiring was the presence of an Asian representative in Metso's executive forum, reflecting the company's global inclusivity.
Throughout her tenure at Metso, one constant has always held true: the culture of trust. “There was a lot of trust in me from my boss, my colleagues, the team, other stakeholders, and that empowered me to make big decisions”, Poonam reflects. “I've been trusted to initiate and implement several consolidation projects that better our business operations and employee experience, e.g. legal entities, expansions and acquisitions, procurement hub concept bringing synergies among people and business.”
As an HR professional, to make impactful positive changes in the wider organization requires two aspects according to Poonam: “Firstly, understand your business and customers as well as you can. Secondly, empathize with the people you’re serving. Invest time in connecting face-to-face with people in the organization.” Only 7% of communication is spoken words, the rest of the 93% is about body language and tone. By building these relationships, you can better understand one another, learn to read between the lines, and improve your collaboration and leadership skills.
Poonam's analogy encapsulates her philosophy: "Imagine watching a tiger from a distance at the zoo. Can you really feel it? Most likely not. You need to enter the tiger’s den to feel and start to understand them. This is what I'm trying to encourage people to do.”
If you find yourself in a meeting surrounded by businessmen, Poonam’s advice is to know your facts, be confident and to not be afraid of making your voice heard! She challenges traditional HR and gender roles, urging everyone to go beyond these boundaries.
Navigating a male-dominated industry as a woman is undeniably challenging. However, viewing your unique background as a strength, and deepening your business knowledge while connecting with others will pave the way for opportunities. Remember, don't hesitate to voice your thoughts and make your mark!
While celebrating these incredible journeys, we recognize the road ahead. We asked Irma, San-Mari, and Poonam how we can better support career developments at Metso, and their insights are guiding our future:
- Clear career possibilities: Illustrating opportunities for every role, ensuring that every employee knows their potential growth trajectory.
- Inclusive programs: Ensuring inclusive leadership initiatives, job rotation and shadowing programs that span across all regions.
- Diverse leadership: Ensuring diverse representation at every level of leadership.
We are committed to building a workplace where diversity and inclusion are both celebrated and embraced at every level, every country, and every region.