Nothing ventured, nothing gained
Change is a constant, says Wärtsilä’s Xuhong Lu, and one shouldn’t be afraid to embrace it. See how she took this lesson to heart by constantly challenging herself.
In May 2009, Xuhong Lu joined Wärtsilä as a Human Resource (HR) Manager. She soon realised that to be able to provide value-adding service to the line managers at Wärtsilä, she as an HR expert needs a thorough understanding of the company’s different businesses. Luckily, Wärtsilä’s internal recruitment platform offers opportunities to work in different areas, helping hone people’s expertise and broadening their understanding of the total business. This is exactly the reason why Xuhong joined the Wärtsilä family.
“I eventually switched roles to become an Order Intake and Supply Chain Manager in Delivery Centre Wuxi (DCW) in China,” says Xuhong. “Later, to improve my technical knowledge and cultural knowledge, I moved to Wärtsilä Netherlands to work as a Project Manager for the Wärtsilä Transverse Thrusters team in the R&D department and in 2018 I started to work as a Product Manager of Gearboxes.”
Opportunities to grow
Going from human resources to logistics and eventually to product management – as well as moving from one end of the world to the other – sound like significant career changes. However, Xuhong says that the choice given to employees to take drastically different paths to develop their careers is one of Wärtsilä’s strengths.
“The internal recruitment system provides a broad platform for employees to pursue individual career development dreams,” explains Xuhong. “It shows that Wärtsilä is flexible to market needs and is willing to give new hands the opportunity to fill a position. An employee’s personal development plan can be aligned with the company’s development goals, resulting in a win-win situation for both parties.”
The willingness to take risks and engage in new situations is not only important for the individual, says Xuhong, it is also crucial for the company.
“The company has innovated to stay ahead of the times by continuously reorganising and adapting to market changes,” explains Xuhong. “Also, Wärtsilä is willing to give employees the opportunity to move out of their comfort zones.”
Ensuring 100% performance
This trait helped Xuhong deal with a particularly difficult problem in Delivery Centre Wuxi early in her career. At the end of 2010, the centre’s on-time delivery rate for the products was 60 per cent, which was simply unacceptable.
“I listened to the people in the whole delivery chain to understand the factors which were disturbing us,” recalls Xuhong. “Then, I set the baseline and made sure the actual status was always transparent. Employees were encouraged to highlight a problem whenever a potential risk appeared. We helped to solve the risks together so that they saw the benefits of bringing up the problems at an early stage instead of hiding them.”
The results were dramatic: by increasing transparency and integrating the different parts of the supply chain, the teams were able to see the big picture and break siloed thinking. In 2012, the centre’s on-time delivery rate reached 100 percent. Everyone pulled together to make sure the customers got what they ordered and in the time frame they expected it to be delivered.
“It is important to openly communicate the status quo and to focus on the end-to-end picture,” says Xuhong. “Employees must believe the targets they have set are both fair and achievable.”
A cultural ambassador
Xuhong is fond of sports and enjoys playing table tennis, badminton and skiing with her family. Additionally, she is an advocate of lifetime learning and her free time is often spent in self-study. She uses the knowledge gained from her Master of Business Administration studies to understand customer needs and to find the right solution for them.
Xuhong also feels her role as a cultural ambassador between China and the Netherlands is an important contribution that she has made to Wärtsilä. The sharing of different cultures and backgrounds, she says, enriches the workplace experience.
So how does Xuhong foresee Wärtsilä faring over the next few years?
“Wärtsilä is currently in the leading position to fulfill customer needs in the marine industry,” she says. “In the coming years, Wärtsilä will focus more on integrating its different products and services into a complete smart solution. This allows us to see the overall picture and to be clear about our own value proposition to customers.”
Xuhong is a firm believer in Wärtsilä’s innovative future, but she is also a great example of personal evolution, showing how employees can grow by challenging themselves and jumping into new situations and environments.
“Everything is possible in Wärtsilä if you insist on pursuing your personal dream while aligning it with the company’s dream,” she says.