Pille Reiljan's career success story is a great inspiration for many. In 20 years she has grown from an accountant's assistant to Leinonen Group's Director of Operational Excellence and Process Development.
Pille grew up in Estonia's capital Tallinn. Thanks to her father, an accountant, she got her first job in the financial field. She was an accountant's assistant at the Vasar factory, where she manually entered vast amounts of purchase invoices. Alongside the work, she studied accounting and finance management at the Tallinn School of Economics. Pille states that the work of an accountant today and 20 years ago is entirely different.
"I've had a pretty exciting time period for my career. It has been fascinating to grow in a changing world."
An international career from Estonia
Pille's career has been quite international, considering she has never lived outside Estonia. Having worked for an American, Lithuanian, and Finnish company, one of the most significant changes has been her job at the Finnish Posti Group. Pille was one of the first employees of the Estonian service center. The rapidly developing company grew and soon nearly 100 employees were employed in the Tallinn unit.
She had the opportunity and demand to work in a new world at the time - creating accounting robots (RPA). Since this technology was new to the entire company, Pille was able to participate in the initial development and deployment of accounting robots. From there, it became apparent that the processes that had worked smoothly before were no longer up-to-date. It was almost impossible to add fully automated sections. This started a two-year work period on describing, reflecting, and optimizing processes.
"We made all the mistakes that can be made in a project and just moved on."
In 2021, Pille moved from the exciting world of service centers to Leinonen, one of Estonia's most prominent accounting offices. Exemplary talent never goes unnoticed, so she got to be in the role for a short year and a half. Pille was promoted to Director of Operational Excellence and Process Development in Leinonen Group and is responsible for all 11 countries - Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland, and Kazakhstan.
"It is important not to limit yourself to a program, country, or company - only this way can you grow. Accepting change and working beyond your comfort zone is difficult, but it is worth it."
Dare to go out of your way and distinguish between work and private life
Pille says that children have always accompanied her career. She admits that there's always been help in caring for children throughout her life. Children have never been an obstacle. Instead, they have always been motivators to do exemplary work to set an example for them.
"It's a big part of one female leader's life - to move up in my career and raise two young children simultaneously.
One of the essential topics Pille values is work-life balance. "Through many years and perhaps not the brightest moments, I have realized that working life and private life are very different things." She finds that work needs to be done during working hours and resting during time off.
"Give your best during working hours and focus on yourself and your family in your spare time."
Pille often reads books, moves around in nature, and plans her next trip in her free time.
Interestingly, she says she likes to listen to classical piano music when working. "If I need to focus and calm the fire of many thoughts, piano music is my secret trick," Reiljan suggests.
Challenges are a way to evolve.
The question, "What gives you the power to deal with challenges and accept new ones?" Pille humorously admits she is lazy and doesn't bother doing mundane work.
"If something can be done faster and easier, I am all hands."
Pille's long-term background in the accounting and financial world allows her to see the big picture, but she also finds it essential to notice the details. "I believe you should know how to do something well. This way, you can be ready for difference and innovation." She considers curiosity and keeping an open mind the basis of her professional success.
There have been many inspirational people around her in her work life. She has learned from her colleagues that high-quality work is the key to success. "I have found myself working with charming and talented people who are very demanding in their work. I believe it has influenced me a lot."
"We can talk and discuss everything, but when work needs to be completed, it needs to be done excellently and on time."
Events with colleagues have given her a different perspective on working life. Pille tells about a case from years ago: "Our CFO announced that they were going to the hospital for two months for a life-saving operation with their child. We, novices, pulled ourselves together and just got the job done. Moments like this teach you. You can't wonder how we will do now or what will happen."
"Just do it! See opportunities, not obstacles in life."
The changing world will not be the end of accountants
Pille recommends keeping an open mind and adapting fast to all technical changes for current and future accountants. "Trust-Trust-Trust-Trust! Your leaders will bring you what is good and reasonable. Introducing new software and robots is now inevitable, but it is not certainly bad. Technical changes improve reliability and speed and make the work of an accountant more value-based."
"Go as far as you can, and see from there. This world full of change opens up to us step by step. Everything that was still foreign yesterday will soon be our lovely today."