“Danske Graduate”: How my curiosity brought me back to Lithuania

Akvilė Kriaučiūnaitė, Danske Graduate, CSD Digital Transformation Office, Danske Bank

I became interested in pursuing a career at one of the largest Scandinavian banks, Danske Bank, while studying for a Master's degree in the Netherlands. It was there that I started paying attention to the various training programmes on offer such as Graduate, Management Trainee programmes, and internships. These types of programmes aren’t that popular in Lithuania, because many students already work – if not during their undergraduate studies, then at least while studying for a Master's degree.
It was the opportunity to be on the Danske Graduate Programme that led me to apply to Danske Bank. The Danske Graduate Programme is designed for young professionals who have completed their Master’s degree. This 18 month programme is split into three different 6-month placements, in which you have the opportunity to join a particular team in the bank. You get to choose the teams you are interested in, and gain experience within the bank from a variety of positions and perspectives.
In addition, one of the placements is international – I had the opportunity to work in a Scandinavian country for half a year. While living and studying in the Netherlands, I felt I wanted to return to Lithuania. My curiosity about this Lithuania-based Graduate programme, and what it had to offer, won me over.
I was also interested to learn more about Scandinavian work culture, where teamwork and personal responsibility are highly valued. During my Master's degree, I did an internship at the largest Danish shipping company, Maersk Line, where I was introduced to the Scandinavian style of work. Although shipping is an attractive industry, I wanted to apply the knowledge I had gained during my studies – I have a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and a Master’s in Organizational Change and Consulting. The Danske Business Innovation Graduate Programme proved to be the perfect choice for me.

 


Change is inevitable: don’t be afraid, be prepared!

In my daily work, I am motivated by three things: problem solving, analytics, and finding creative alternative solutions. Problem solving gets me involved with some real challenges within the organization. This can make me a little anxious at first, but I also feel a really strong sense of accomplishment when I come up with a solution. I like analytics as I have a strong analytical mindset, and I enjoy looking for solutions using data, calculations and facts. When you make a point to do things differently than others, creative and alternative discoveries occur naturally.
In essence, all of these areas are activated by various changes in the organization – an inevitable reality, especially in an organization like Danske Bank. The Agile project management & product development ways of working has been in use here for many years, and its basic principle is to implement change faster, more systematically and continuously in order to improve the end result.
At Danske Bank, we strive to maintain a strong practice of knowledge sharing. Recently, together with my manager Laura Puodžiūnaitė, we gave a presentation on Change Management to the Information Security Master’s students of Vilnius Gediminas Technical University. We talked about what organizational change is in general, why it occurs, and what’s expected within the organization once change has occurred. In short, we defined change as a response to an internal or external stimulus: challenges; opportunities; new ideas; the desire to create the most efficient and market-leading organization possible. Finally, we talked about the related changes of rewriting internal processes, organisational structures, and changes in teams and employees. The crucial thing to keep in mind is probably that there is always a person at the center of change. People are different – some accept change as an unavoidable reality, while others find it a little harder to make changes in their daily work. Therefore, during the lecture we emphasized how important is to consider the role of managers, active communication and employee involvement in the process of change.

 


Creative times at work

If I had to describe my work day, I'd say it's creative, with plenty of time for reflection. Although I don’t consider myself an artist, I sometimes feel like I have a ‘eureka’ moment; and yes, that can even happen in a bank, which might not seem like the most creative environment at the first glance. Interesting ideas don’t necessarily come up at your office desk, but more often in the shower, in the shop, when walking the dog, or in various other places. As a result, I wouldn't say that my work day fits the standard 8am to 5pm. I sometimes start working very early over a cup of coffee at home, or sometimes even late at night. Although I try to rest in the evenings, I make sure to write down good ideas so I don’t forget them.
Of course, unexpected tasks often come up, but I try not to worry too much and adjust my daily schedule, prioritising to get the most important work done quickly. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Over the years, working in management consulting, Danske Bank, and working in an international and multicultural environment, I've realized that it's important to always keep in mind the context around you. You need to consider what your team is like, which cultural backgrounds you interact with, or how many people know about a particular topic. For this reason I always remind myself to be flexible in adapting to my environment. This could mean spending more time on a given topic, or allowing more space for discussion. That said, I always keep my work principles in mind and make sure to give 120% when doing anything.

 


My dream for the future – sustainability

I’ve been developing a strong interest in the topic of sustainability these days. This area has become increasingly topical and is often covered by activists, big business, and the public sector. Interestingly, the concept of sustainability is often thought to imply environmental sustainability, but to me it’s more associated with creating sustainability within communities through various actions such as: reducing pollution; promoting sustainable mobility; developing an ecosystem of business and innovation; and developing sustainable products and services, etc.
That said, Scandinavia is one of the most advanced and innovative regions in Europe in terms of sustainability, so it’s very interesting to have a closer look at Danske Bank and the strategy of the Nordic region as a whole. I am very pleased that during my second Graduate programme placement in Copenhagen (Denmark) I was able to contribute to a project where we generated various ideas related to sustainability in the context of the financial industry.
I am currently reading a book entitled Can Business Save the Earth? Innovating Our Way to Sustainability by Michael Lenox and Aaron Chatterji. Although I am only halfway through the book, I think it conveys the important message that in today's world, we need to think of innovations that not only facilitate or even fundamentally change the rhythm of people's lives, but also their ecosystem in a broad sense, where they are created and how to make the most of the resources available (materials, time, capital, human resources, etc.)