Aidzil Subohi - Director of Finance for the North & Western Europe Region at Greif

Finance & Accountancy
07 September, 2023

Aidzil Subohi has spent the last 22 years growing her career within Greif, a global supplier and manufacturer of industrial packaging products and services in the Netherlands. Currently Director of Finance for the North & Western Europe Region, Aidzil shares fascinating insights into her career path, management style and personal development philosophy.

Greif has ambitious sustainability targets – specifically, to reduce scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 28% by the end of the decade. What are the challenges the company faces in its bid to achieve this goal?

The target is a challenge in itself! And rightly so – because it’s hugely important and we need to take it seriously. By setting the bar high and having a clear mission, I believe we’re far more likely to push ourselves and reach our goals by 2030 than if we set the threshold lower.

We’re committed to reducing our energy usage for every production unit, as well as delivering products and services in a more sustainable way – promoting a circular economy wherever possible.

Doing all that at the same time as offering the best value and customer service is a tall order, so our sustainability initiatives must be smart. For example, we’re seeking new opportunities in renewable energy, looking at new ways to recycle raw materials and manage waste or byproducts, and investing in green initiatives across all our locations – like solar panels and water pumps, right down to increasing greenery in our locations and finding ways to minimise paper usage in office environments. It’s about every team and every department doing their bit.

What are the successes and opportunities that have kept you at Greif for almost 22 years?

Since I started at Greif, there have been significant advancements in technology, business landscape, infrastructure and environmental perspectives, and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to experience and contribute in the company’s continual development and growth.

To keep myself on the front foot, I’ve had to develop myself, keep learning new topics and not be afraid to step outside my comfort zone. I also think that when you’re genuinely passionate about the work you do, your career progression increases naturally.

I’m good at connecting and working with people from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and disciplines, and my management approach is people-first. I encourage critical thinking in my teams and keep an open mind when it comes to communicating and implementing business strategies, because information and new ways of working will always be interpreted diversely by different people. You have to stay aware of that, recognise the sensitivities of each individual and adapt your way of communicating accordingly.

Did you always have your career path planned out from the beginning or has it happened organically?

I graduated with a Law degree, so - in the early days of my career - I assumed I’d follow a fairly standard path, though I still had a high interest in Finance!

There was high demand for Finance professionals at the time, hence I specialised in this area and completed an MBA, thereafter started as a Finance Controller at Greif. It was an exciting time – full of challenges and opportunities to learn. I trained to become a Certified Management Accountant in the mid-2000s and, as the business grew, I became involved in projects such as business acquisitions and reviewing major capital investments.

I always had an awareness that, if I wanted to continue being involved in complex tasks like these, I needed to keep developing myself and taking on new responsibilities – even if they felt overwhelming at the time.

I still use skills I learned in my Law studies on a daily basis, i.e., analysis, critical thinking and problem solving, to name just three. No degree or textbook, though, can give you the learning curve you get from on-the-job experiences. It’s the knowledge base you build from these small steps that ultimately keeps you climbing higher in the structure of an organisation.

I’ve also had a lot of support at home during the most challenging times, from my parents in those early days and, later on, from my husband. You can’t underestimate the peace-of-mind that brings.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever been given?

That I am reliable and connect with people from various levels and disciplines. Also being described as a leader with emphatic values. I am able to connect to each individual according to their respective skills, as well as encouraging my team to problem solve independently, while at the same time guiding and supporting them along the way.

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders?

It would be to keep learning and developing yourself, both professionally and personally. Formal education, professional qualifications and on-the-job training are all important, but I give equal weight to softer skills, such as communication and presentation skills, and having the self-awareness to know when coaching will improve your way of thinking or approach to challenges.

I also believe career progression doesn’t have to be vertical. The best experiences and learning curves often come from moving sideways in an organisation.

Outside of work, what does relaxation look like for you?

I love spending time with family, reading and watching concert performances. I also love doing long-distance running and practising karate. Both sport activities increase my focus and sharpen my thinking. In fact, it’s not unusual for me to come up with ideas or find the solution to a problem at work while I’m out on a long run!

Karate, in particular, teaches self-awareness, discipline and anticipation, working out your competitor’s moves in advance, and those skills transfer over into my professional life. There are so many benefits, I could go on and on!

Thank you to Aidzil for speaking to our Finance & Accountancy recruitment team in the Netherlands, led by Hannah Mallia and David Harper.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment