22 years – that’s the length of experience that Vidas Gruodis has brought to Danske Bank. Even though he has not felt any age discrimination himself, Vidas has no doubt that that ageism is still wide-spread in Lithuania, especially for people over 50. He doesn't understand why this is so: after all, as you get older, you gain more experience, more knowledge, and still have the desire and energy to use and share it all. The knowledge and experience he has gained in previous jobs is highly useful in his current position in the strategic procurement team, and on the day of our interview he received a congratulatory letter from Danske on the occasion of his 5-year anniversary at the company.
Why did you decide to look for a new job?
I started working at Danske exactly 5 years ago. Before that, I worked in sales for a large international IT company. At that time, several companies were merging, restructuring and downsizing them, thus there was a lot of uncertainty. However, that was not the main reason why I changed jobs. Danske Bank sent me an offer to join their procurement team. All my previous work experience was in some way related to sales. And here I was offered a chance to try, as I say, working on the other side of the table, the other side of the barricade, which is procurement. The offer sounded really interesting. And I had heard positive feedback, and not a single bad thing, about Danske Bank from colleagues who had changed jobs.
Did you hear any age-related comments when looking for a new job?
When changing jobs and joining Danske, I didn't think about my age at all, and I do not think about it now. I didn’t get any ageist comments either. Our team is truly age-diverse – there are several colleagues older than me, some are younger, and yet some are very young newcomers. We all get along well in the team and maintain a good relationship, regardless of age. Whether working on joint projects, discussing work processes or interacting in an informal setting, everyone in the team feels great. I myself am interested in retro computers, games consoles, I like to throw karaoke parties, so I involve my colleagues in these activities and we have a good time together.
Contrary to what it may seem and what many people think, IT is not a field for young people only. Young people may be quicker to pick up new technologies, but those technologies are not completely new after all – they are all based on previously developed solutions and some older inventions.
I know the whole story of it from my previous extensive IT experience and a general interest in IT since I was a child – I know how it started and how it evolved. I can explain a lot of things that may not be that obvious to younger colleagues.
If I had to change jobs now, I would definitely give it a thought whether it is the right time to do that. I value stability in the organisations, team atmosphere and a meaningful job. I am not used to changing jobs very often anyway – I had worked in my first two jobs for nine years each, and three years – in the third one, adding up to a total of about 27 years of experience.
Do you think that stereotypes and negative attitudes towards age are an issue in the job market, or is this just a myth?
I believe people under 50 do not yet face age stereotypes, but those over 50, especially towards 60, certainly do. It’s good if a person of this age has a job, but finding a new one may be a real challenge. I hear about such things from people around me. My close acquaintance has been in this situation, where having left a managerial position where he had worked for about 20 years, he has not been able to find a new job for some time now. Although he has actively been searching for new opportunities and has the necessary experience and knowledge, he feels that he is not wanted because of his age. However, a lot depends on the field of work, the demand for the position, previous experience and knowledge. I see great examples of people who have successfully changed jobs and continue to get offers from other companies among friends and acquaintances of my age.
What was the most worrying about starting a new job?
Procurement was a new field for me, but I didn’t feel anxious. I just had to get to grips with new processes and master the specifics of procurement.
Moreover, my previous experience in sales helps me to better understand the motives of salespeople and to be able to steer the negotiation in our favour in procurement.
In a strategic procurement team, procurement involves much more – it encompasses everything from holding procurement tenders, contract management, monitoring compliance with Danske Bank’s requirements and regulations, commercial negotiations, procurement project management and coordinating the project team. Although I had to learn new processes at the beginning, I picked them up pretty quickly.
What previous professional/life experience comes in handy working at Danske Bank Lithuania?
- My IT knowledge and experience are definitely very useful. Although I have never worked as a programmer or an IT specialist, I have always been interested in IT. It’s my hobby. When someone needed help with computers and software in my previous jobs, usually I was the expert who all the colleagues turned to for assistance.
- Also, my extensive sales experience comes in handy in my current job – knowing how to sell, how the sales process works, knowing what to expect when procuring and how to conclude a better procurement deal. When negotiating prices and contract terms, I understand the sales techniques that salespeople use – whether they are trying to get the most out of the deal, to create a sense of urgency, or are using other sales “tricks”, because I have had many trainings myself and have applied them in practice.
- Of course, my soft skills such as teamwork, communication with different people and ability to control stressful situations, also help a lot.
Was there anything new that you learned about yourself since you joined Danske Bank?
I clearly feel that my previous experience gives me confidence, which I use in negotiations. At the same time, procurement was a new area for me, so I really learned a lot and understood how things look on the other side of the table. I also had to understand the specifics of bank procurement processes. We are an organisation regulated by various institutions, so in procurement, price is one of many important contract terms and conditions, but definitely not the only one. After all, it may not be the price that determines the decision, but, for example, compliance with certain requirements, which the bank is subject to.
What would you say to someone your age who is struggling to find the motivation to look for a new, different job?
I would encourage them to introduce themselves to potential employers by emphasising their experience and knowledge,age itself is not determining the competencies.The experience gained, the various training courses attended and the extensive knowledge acquired are the advantages that mature talents can offer.