Yunji Schuster is a Vattenfall power trader working in Hamburg. Vattenfall is a European energy company, which for more than 100 years has electrified industries, supplied energy to people’s homes and modernised how we live. With 20,000 employees and operations primarily in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and the UK, Vattenfall is now working on making fossil-free living possible within one generation.
Yunji recently returned to work after her second maternity leave. We caught up with her to talk about how she juggles being a parent with a full time and demanding role as an energy trader.
Falcon Brook: Tell us a bit about how you came to work as an energy trader?
Yunji Schuster: A friend of mine introduced me to both Vattenfall and the energy sector. I had absolutely no experience in the industry. I applied for a position in logistics initially, though after the assessments I was offered a position as an intraday power trader. I can remember my first day entering the trading floor. There were eight monitors in front of me, and a lot to learn. Soon it all started to make sense. I realised the opportunities of working at Vattenfall and how broad the power market area is. We did cover European and Great Britain at that time – and now I am working on Japanese power trading.
Falcon Brook: How did you plan your parental leave?
Yunji Schuster: I researched how I could arrange my parental leave in the best way. I talked with my husband about perhaps sharing it, or whether I should take a whole year in one piece. During my research, I discovered that in Germany you are allowed to break your parental leave once without any allowance from your employer.
When I was promoted to the new position of Japanese power trader, I spoke to my manager about which option would be best for the new role. I gave him three options and we agreed that I would take seven months parental leave, come back to the office for three months, and then going back to parental leave for another five months. So altogether it was 12 months parental leave, with three months in the office in the middle working as a Japanese power trader.
Falcon Brook: How did you get back to speed when you came back from parental leave?
Yunji Schuster: I kept contact with my colleagues and my line manager. We had a monthly update for 10 or 15 minutes where we would talk about what was happening at Vattenfall. My colleagues would share information on market moves on an occasional basis. There was no pressure, and it was easy for me to keep up to date. It is very important to keep your network. Talking to my colleagues I was able to keep in touch with what the market needed. For example, today everyone is talking about the need for Python programming skills. I realised that this was very important, so I started to look at Python YouTube during my spare time. I keep educating myself and staying on top of what is new.
Now I’m not a superwoman! I’m just a normal regular person doing a full-time job. If you’re not a superwoman, you don’t have to push yourself to do everything on your own. If you need help, then get help – it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You can get support from your husband, your family, your friends or your parents. Just ask for it and then you can relax.
I’m from Korea – Asian women! In general, in Asia, the perception is you’re not allowed to ask for something. Coming back to Germany I realised that it was ok for me to express myself and I started to show my opinions, and ask for help when I need it.
Falcon Brook: Do you think you’ve had to make compromises either around work or family life?
Yunji Schuster: No, I don’t think so. This is an important message for mums, or parents: trust in your children and that they are going to have a great childhood with you as long as you are happy with your job and with your life. I was told by the kindergarten how great my children are. You don’t need to worry about kids spending all day at the kindergarten and maybe it’s too long of a day. They are having fun with their friends.
Falcon Brook: What more can businesses do to encourage mothers to come back to work after maternity leave?
Yunji Schuster: Let people be flexible as long as they do their job. Corona taught us that business can trust the employees to get their jobs done. Employers should also support fathers to take parental leave. There are men afraid of missing out on a job or promotion opportunity, and this shouldn’t be. Meanwhile parents shouldn’t hesitate to get help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.