" “Sometimes we don’t always know the right answers, but I will engage the team to find solutions together.”

By Joanna Argent, Writer, GENCFO

Natalia Iakymenko

Head of Finance Business Partnering

OLX Europe

With 17 years of finance and transformation experience, Natalia Iakymenko’s natural curiosity about different parts of the business has fuelled energy for business partnering and to continuously expand her leadership skills.

“Now I’m going for the Executive MBA”, she says, “I need to continue building my skills even more.”

She may be looking forward to her next challenge, but where did her career begin?

Natalia’s journey

After graduating from the Kyiv University of Trade and Economics in the Ukraine, Natalia’s early career moved quite rapidly through several Finance Controller positions.

However, she also became significantly involved in the production of content for them, outside her finance remit, in roles like Finance Controller for Central European Media Enterprises.

“I was curious about the production process, so I would do three days a week in production and only two days in the office with my finance colleagues.”

“That's what probably set me apart from other financial people at that time.”

Similarly, in her second role in the media industry as an executive producer, she was able to expand her role to include managing the production process, together with finance responsibilities. 

“I decided to spend the time in media production so I could have a better sense of that side of the business.”

OLX has been a big adventure

Taking her experience from the media industry, Natalia saw a future within IT solutions at OLX Group. 

They now provide a huge range of online trading platforms globally, recognising the growth potential in that field at that time.

She has enjoyed nearly a decade there, and the company continues to grow year on year.

“Despite it being a start up, I trusted my feeling that their offering was worth it.” 

“OLX is unique in its proposition. It works because we give the customer the opportunity to save and optimise their spend,” she says.”

Transformation became necessary when the business matured

Natalia explains that early on, OLX was in startup mode, but after two years they had to recognise that transformation was necessary for them to operate as a more mature business.

“I had already been through some automation projects in my previous roles, as well as some difficult cost-cutting redundancies, appreciating the need to balance optimising costs but protecting the assets that are our people,” she explains. 

“However, this was the first big transformation for me and it was a big challenge.”

“I didn’t have experience with that kind of project. I did an intensive project management course and then I was the one who managed the whole thing.”

Natalia successfully managed to implement the SAP, the procurement system, the contract management system, and to integrate the web platform with their accounting. 

This was over a 2-year period across 4 teams, across several countries - the systems are still working and they haven’t had to re-do them.

Communication is critical for finance

The transformation process completely changed Natalia’s perspective on how important communication skills are for finance professionals.

“When you start your transformation journey, you must have the support of your team” she says. “The support is only really possible if you engage them.”

Engaging teams requires you to explain the idea of the project and why you need them involved, but then it’s quite natural for people to resist those changes.

“I learnt how to do continuous communication with the business leaders and my team to overcome their initial resistance.”

She prepared herself ahead of time to answer these questions, for example undertaking brainstorming with them on what they all wanted to achieve and offering ways for how they could do it together.

Striving to be an even better leader

Natalia is rightly proud of her achievements. However, when trying to describe her leadership style, she says she wants to lead by example and sets herself a high bar to be an even better leader than she is today.

“That’s why I’ve enrolled in the Executive MBA which will give me a more holistic view of the business.”

Natalia would describe herself as being a leader with a human face: showing empathy and support to employees, even vulnerability. 

“Sometimes we don’t always know the right answers, but I will engage the team to find solutions together.”

Crossing the bridge to work effectively 

Natalia’s continual curiosity about other parts of the business has paid off in her more recent Business Partnering role. 

“I understood how knowledge of the business can be crucially important to reach out to different teams with the right message.”

She sees herself as more than just finance in isolation. She feels that with proper knowledge of the business, we can talk the same language. 

“You have to be a good communicator to engage people, you have to persuade people about your ideas and to deliver the message in a way that is meaningful to them.”

“Of course, we have to challenge them,” she says, “but at the same time we need to understand the limit of the challenge and help them with the business strategy.”

Business partnership requires a new skillset

Natalia recognises that there has been an increase in business partnering roles within finance in recent years to support partnership with business colleagues on their strategy. 

However, they are hard to recruit for.

“I needed people with a flexible mindset, but with a background in finance and a holistic view of the business.”

It has taken 2 years to fulfil these positions; finding the right finance professionals is a real challenge - communication, cooperation and storytelling skills are hard to find. 


Power Profile

What music inspires you?

"For energy, I like songs like Unstoppable by Sia. I also listen to a Ukrainian rock band, Ocean Elzy - I admire their leader, the lyrics are amazing and they comment on social events. They fuel me through some challenging periods. To reflect and regroup, I like to visit St Paul’s Church in London on a Sunday where there is the most amazing organ music you can go and listen to for free."

Who is your hero?

"Recently, I’ve been very inspired by Jacinda Ardern, previously Prime Minister of New Zealand. She was an incredible role model to the whole world, as a woman in leadership, who led with such strength through events like the volcano eruption, COVID-19 and the Christchurch massacre. She showed empathy while being a bold and decisive leader. She formed a leadership style we now call ‘adaptive leadership style’, for when you don’t know how to lead but you adapt yourself as you go. She revealed her womanhood, showing the world what it means to be a woman in leadership, such as breast feeding in her office. Even how she resigned, saying ‘there’s not enough in the tank to do justice’, which was bold and very honest. As I mentioned before, I love leadership with a human face."


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Joanna Argent, Writer, GENCFO

Joanna is an interviewer and writer at GENCFO. Read her finance leader and industry expert interviews for The Shift.

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