Leena has her dream life—a senior role with Ernst and Young and a home in Bondi which means she surfs every day. We caught up with Leena on the eve of her baby’s birth and then again 12 weeks later to find out how she’s finding the transition into motherhood. We loved talking to Leena about her career ambitions, how she’s planning to stay connected and the challenges of adjusting to her ‘new life’ as a mum.
Tell us about your career journey.
I did my bachelor’s degree in business in Finland and partially in Hawaii due to my love for surf. Then I completed an MBA in business administration/management and leadership in 2008 and immediately after landed a bank branch manager role at a very young age. From there I moved into an internal consulting role within a large bank and worked across eight countries. But having to travel and fly all the time for work wasn’t working for me. That’s when I moved to Sydney and landed a job at KPMG in management consulting. I was headhunted to work for Ernst and Young and am now senior manager.
How has the journey been for you so far?
Throughout my career I have been very determined and worked hard to get to the position I am in now. I did go through some tough times and health issues due to a burnout at work and as clichéd as it sounds, only after the health scare I learned properly to listen to myself, to say “no” and to manage my work life balance better. I still have decades of work life ahead of me, so I need to save some energy for that.
Have you faced any career-related challenges being pregnant?
I have been very fortunate with my pregnancy, both career timing wise and health wise. Actually I’m still working today and will have my baby in less than 24 hours via a caesarean section tomorrow.
How are you feeling about your career as you head into parental leave?
Going on parental leave is so exciting for me that I’m not too worried about my career. I know what I’m capable of and a year will fly past so quick that I’m just trying to enjoy the moment. Obviously there are many questions that I don’t know what the answers are yet, about how it will feel to return to work after becoming a mum. But I’m confident everything happens for a reason and it will sort itself out in one way or another.
How do you plan to manage your career whilst on leave or will you totally disconnect?
I have planned a few informal catch ups to stay connected with my leadership team and my colleagues can’t wait to meet our little boy as well. I don’t think I’ll be 100 per cent disconnected from my work but I’m definitely not planning to perform any work for a year.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Efficient, energetic and eager.
What do you most admire about working mamas?
I always admire how you can’t even tell most working mums at work are mums until you get to know them personally. Somehow they are able to smash their career goals and raise amazing children at once. I’m yet to see how I will succeed in this dual role.
When I left work to start parental leave I …
I won’t be staring at my laptop or sitting in corporate client meetings for an entire year! It feels surreal and I’m super excited to start this new chapter in my life.
Has anyone given you tips for managing your career through parental leave?
Some of the female leaders in our business have been very kind and offered their advice and support should I need any.
Tell us about your daily routine?
I get up at 5AM and head straight to the beach for a surf or a sand run and a swim. On the way back home I get my morning dose of coffee and head home for brekkie and wake up my fiancé by 7AM, and we’ll head to the CBD for work. I go in and out of meetings with various clients or presentations. After work I love to relax over dinner or catch up with friends or on house duties.
What is your approach to health and wellbeing? How have you kept it up while working?
I have always been a crazy exercise fanatic and like eating healthy and looking after myself. It just makes me feel so good physically and mentally. Getting a surf session in or a sweaty run before hitting a day full of meetings keeps me going all day. I know I have my dose of the ocean and sports before anyone can mess with my day. You can’t ‘unsurf’ that brilliant wave you caught in the morning, can you?
PHOTO CREIDT @SURFOGRAPHER
Congratulations on the birth of your gorgeous son Jackson! So Leena, your little boy is now 12 weeks, tell us, is motherhood what you expected?
Motherhood is quite like I expected in terms of it being intensive, exhausting but also a pretty amazing experience. It is the best feeling on earth when I lift up my son in the morning from his cot and his face lights up to the biggest smile ever!
What’s been the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for me has been the constant worry and stress. I didn’t know that I was such a huge worrier until I had my son. We had a very tough start with him being admitted to the newborn ICU when he was born and ever since I’ve been in constant stress and worry about his health. It is mentally exhausting to be 24/7 worried about the little man and I didn’t quite realise how big of an impact it would have on my mental well being. I’m getting a bit better at not stressing and worrying constantly and I’m learning new techniques to overcome my fears. It will be a long journey and I bet the worrying will never end but perhaps I can relax a bit more in the future.
What’s been the best advice someone has given you?
The best advice I’ve been given is to do what works best for our family, not to google too much and try to “go by the book”. Also “happy mum makes a happy son” and I do believe in that. The times I don’t take enough care of myself, it instantly reflects on the bubba. When I’m exhausted and unhappy he feels it too. I’ve made sure with my partner that we focus on ourselves as well. We are better parents when we’re happy!
What do you look forward to?
Short term: I’m looking forward to my in laws arrival in Sydney so they can meet the little man and also help us a bit on this journey. And I’d lie if I didn’t admit looking forward to a quick surf session whilst they take care of the bubba!
Longer term: I’m looking forward to Jackson learning new skills and me becoming more confident as a mum.
Favourite time of the day is … 5AM! I am the earliest bird one can find. I love my mornings down at Bondi beach, being part of the ocean at the crack of dawn.
Instagram sites that inspire you … Positive sites that put a smile on my face.
I’m happiest when … I’ve caught some fun waves and had coffee with my fiancé.
I’m addicted to … Being near and part of the ocean as well as severely addicted to exercise.
Favourite wardrobe staple for work … any black and white outfit.
Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend … bikinis and sunscreen.
My role model is… my parents. They have raised three kids whilst both completing their doctoral studies and becoming professors in sports science. They showed us around the world and allowed us to live in three countries gaining amazing experiences from a young age.
Heels or flats? Heels. I’m still in heels one day prior to the birth of my first child.