Day in the life of Jenny Burbridge, Commercial business controller
Jenny Burbridge, Commercial business controller, manages to balance her passion for the environment, being a busy parent, and her love of all things systematic. In our latest day-in-the-life blog, she considers how she and Solarcentury have evolved together over the past twenty years.
How did it all begin with Solarcentury?
I joined Solarcentury in 2000, a year after having my second baby when I was ready for a new challenge. I got into renewables by accident – applying for the job because it was local and the hours were flexible, but once I learnt what Solarcentury was all about I was so excited! Our family has always been passionate about the environment, so the company’s purpose was a huge bonus to the practical side of the job.
I had studied bookkeeping since I quite enjoyed maths at school, and was hired at Solarcentury as a Financial admin assistant working one day a week. Within the first few months we raised £6m of funding.
I spent most of my first year writing cheques for suppliers and within a year I was working full time.
As you can imagine, writing 100 cheques a week was fairly tedious so I started looking for better ways to do my job. This is when I implemented my first system improvement by procuring branded cheques which we could print with integrated supplier remittance advices.
Process improvement is something I get a kick out of and l try and implement even small changes as often as I can. This has been so important as the company’s growth has constantly put pressure on our processes and systems.
How has your role changed as the company has evolved?
In the first 9 years my role changed four times, progressing from Accounts assistant to UK Financial controller. Accountancy is as much about being organised and having everything in the right place as it is about maths. This appeals to my slightly OCD personality; at home – I like a well–labelled cupboard!
During this decade I studied, with support from Solarcentury and some great line managers, and qualified as a chartered accountant in 2008. I was particularly proud of managing to juggle the job, kids and studying and am eternally grateful to my husband for taking the boys to the park for hours on end in the freezing cold to let me study in peace.
In 2009 I took a side step from the day to day role to implement our first ERP system (enterprise, resource planning) which brings together project accounting, inventory and sales in one tool; Navision. This was a really interesting project where I learnt a lot about accounting software and project management. The team were amazing and we managed to have a lot of fun along the way.
A year later I had my 3rd child and took the opportunity to reassess my work life balance. I was lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive manager who gave me the time and space to work out how to return from maternity leave to a role that was both interesting and would work on a part–time basis.
I was given the role of Financial planning and business analysis, working two days per week, with full flexibility on timing. My first task was to source some reporting and planning software so that we could report our financial results and plan our future performance in one place.
I thoroughly enjoyed the research and put together a comprehensive review report which resulted in it being used for all future business case assessments.
This role evolved as the company grew and by 2018 I was working four days a week on flexible hours running our monthly forecast process, annual budgets and ad hoc reporting. To give you an idea of the growth in this period – in 2011 we had ~5 companies, by 2018 we had 60 and today its closer to 98 active entities.
I was ready for a new challenge and was keen to be involved in day– to– day finance. Again I was lucky to have such a supportive line manager, a bit of a theme at Solarcentury, and I was offered the role of Financial controller for our African and residential business units.
It was a very diverse role and both of these business units are completely different from each other and come with a whole host of challenges.
Our residential business was high volume and needed lean processes to ensure profitability. I really enjoyed working with the teams to try and plan the path to profitability (and surprisingly if you’ve been there, Helmond will always have a place in my heart!).
Whereas the African business had a small number of complex projects, and navigating financial compliance and setting up a new business in Ghana were challenging. Visiting and working with our Kenyan team is an experience I won’t forget.
In 2020 we sold our residential businesses, which was a fantastic learning experience as I hadn’t been involved in the sale of a company before, and I was offered my current role...
As Commercial business controller I have a global remit and focused on managing our day to day-to-day operational finance with a great team of finance managers. I run our month–end reporting process with accuracy and explanation for our board reports. And spend a lot of time on team management, catch ups and team scrums, and allocating resources appropriately; a constant challenge when we’re growing so rapidly.
Quite a journey – what is a highlight of your role today?
We have monthly meetings with each business unit head to review their region’s financial performance and discuss the forecast. I really enjoy this part of my job as it’s a chance to see what’s happening around the business from someone else’s perspective.
I’m a people person and I enjoy relaxed, chatty meetings which I think is helpful when learning about what is going on with other parts of the business.
What is it that makes you tick, outside of the office?
I love the outdoors and try and spend as much time as I can walking, cycling and kayaking. I run at least 3 times a week and start the day with yogalates.
I also love food and drink and have thoroughly enjoyed some experimental home brewing this year making some delicious elderflower champagne and cider from my neighbour’s apple tree.
I’m part of the Solarcentury book club which has grown to be some of my closest set of friends – we now have weekends away together and some of my most inspiring and thought-provoking conversations.
Since lockdown I’ve spent much more time with my neighbours and we regularly meet around a firepit for a spontaneous drink in the evening (when allowed). We’ve also met lots of new neighbours which has been wonderful.
I enjoy puzzles and board games, particularly the catan set which is made by a German company and is different every time you play and keeps everyone in the game right up to the last minute.
Over lockdown my daughter has introduced me to Among Us, which we played on Christmas day with 3 generations of our family spread across 3 continents alongside a Zoom call… totally 2020!!
Solarcentury is on the cusp of a great transition. With your investment in the company, what are your hopes for the future?
I’m looking forward to the transition to Statkraft as I believe we have similar values and mission. The potential to work with different technologies or regions is also exciting. From a purely technical perspective I’m looking forward to moving our accounting software to Statkraft’s SAP as this is one of the most commonly used ERP systems and I don’t yet have any experience with it.
If you’re looking for a job which has purpose, excitement and challenges.. renewables would definitely fit the bill.