One of my big ‘aha’ moments during the programme was understanding how our thinking is related to our basic instincts. We had a brilliant lecturer who explained various aspects of leadership and how people respond to the way you communicate. We learned about predictability and emotional reactiveness; what resonates with people, and why. Now I’m perhaps more transparent and easier to read, because I’ve learned to control the reptilian side of my brain slightly better.
Communication is so important and the programme was excellent in the sense that we could watch world-leading experts put their ideas in front of an audience. I noticed that they were able to simplify their ideas in order to communicate them properly, and I started thinking that this was a very important skill in bigger organisations. Back in 2018, we saw very few electric vehicles being offered to consumers. Now, of course, we are seeing the huge change that the automobile industry is going through. At Terrafame, we want to be an integral part of building the European value chain for electric vehicle batteries in the future. It’s a very dynamic market and I’ve spent years talking to all the major players, but doing the SEP has really helped me to communicate and emphasise the value-add selling points of Terrafame. Very few people working in my industry have that start-up mentality of pitching your own ideas, so the programme offered me a chance to introduce myself as a new person and find fresh ways to pitch our business.
The lecturers at London Business School have a huge wealth of knowledge and experience, and they often used practical examples of pitching to explain how businesses were run. For me, that was the interesting part; I started to think about how they would use Terrafame as an example, and that was the beginning of my learning curve. It was a real eye-opener and it really sharpened my communication skills. Simultaneously with the programme, we started the process of describing the business model at Terrafame, and becoming more aware of what we were proud of within the company. Then, in October 2021, we announced a new partnership with Renault; with the ambition to create a truly European transparent value chain for which the OEM will purchase responsibly produced battery chemicals directly from Terrafame’s mine for their electric vehicles.
A really powerful takeaway from the programme was the lecture on the idea of the 100-year life expectancy; it was the first time that anyone had told me that I needed to be prepared to live to 100 years old. This had such an impact on my future plans as it made me question whether I’m actually fit to live to 100 years. It made me realise one needs to keep themself in good condition. During the programme we also had morning yoga sessions that I joined from the boat, and those mornings made me become more aware about my own wellbeing, too. So now wellbeing is definitely a longer-term focus for me than it was before.
Another highlight of the programme was hearing from Peter Hinssen, one of the School’s guest lecturers that I was particularly looking forward to learning from. He’s one of the visionaries of the way the world is moving forward, and I was excited to hear ideas from someone who is so involved in new technologies. He certainly lived up to my expectations; I think he has the world’s largest private collection of Apple products, and he lectures from a formal chapel, which he calls the ‘Apple chapel’. It was so inspiring, and my key takeaway from his lecture is that life is never normal. We need to be able to adapt to continuous change, and that’s the way I live now.
Following the programme, I also have an increased awareness of how I allocate my time. We looked at how many hours of the day we spend dealing with today’s issues or yesterday’s problems, versus how much time we spend on long-term planning, where long-term value can actually be created. That really struck me. I’ve become very aware of checking how much time I spend on future gains and how much time goes on things that I’m just doing for reporting purposes. So hopefully the programme has benefitted me by making me more efficient, just through that awareness. It’s certainly impacted how I structure each day; I definitely have more of a focus on creating long-term impact, which is also valuable from the company’s perspective.
By end of the decade, I believe that just one quarter of Terrafame’s employees will be working for the mining part of the business, while the rest will be working on chemicals processing. When I look at the company now, it’s a good story; I’m proud of my input in the team’s dedication to identifying the long-term trends of the industry, all while working in the midst of a hectic turnaround process.
The long-term benefit of doing the SEP for the future of my career would be, in one word, awareness. I’ve learned that yes, you need to be a solid professional worker and yes, you need to be able to spearhead skills such as data handling and analytics. But you also need to have awareness of how other aspects of your role and your work can have an impact, such as how people within my organisation and around us view the company and review the results we get.