From Numbers to Notes

Relocating for work often evokes contradicting emotions of both excitement and apprehension towards the unknown awaiting your personal and professional life. From changes in culture and colleagues, sometimes it takes getting out of one’s comfort zone to allow for the magic of the unexpected to take form. In the case of Morten Engelund, now Corporate Vice President of Finance and Operations for Region Europe, sometimes it takes moving from Denmark to Turkey, a volunteer event and a shared love of rock ‘n’ roll, to orchestrate a magical harmony between a career and a passion.

Having had experience as an external auditor for KPMG, Morten began his life-changing career at Novo Nordisk in one of our finance functions.  He soon stepped into his first managerial role in group internal audits with responsibility for the financial and IT audits. After some years, he was offered the position of Finance and Operations Director for our Turkey affiliate headquartered in Istanbul. This exciting opportunity presented two primary concerns for Morten: How would his family thrive in a foreign country and would he still be able to jam on his guitar? Placing trust in his course and a guitar in his hand, he set out for an unforgettable adventure. It wasn’t long after moving to Istanbul, that Morten realized he had nothing to worry about.

The year was 2013, and both Novo Nordisk and the Turkish Republic were turning 90 years. As a TakeAction initiative, our Turkish affiliate office committed to doing 90 hours of volunteer work for the local community to honor the 90 year accomplishments. At the time, Morten had come to learn that his colleagues Akin Aksekili, Sales Director at the time, had a talent for singing and playing the bass and guitar, and Can Okar, Public Affairs Manager, was Jerry Lee Lewis on the piano and a fantastic singer. They decided to round up their instruments and performed at an elderly home. “With just 2 guitars and a keyboard, that is how it all started,” Morten recalls. Cenk Ozengin, Logistics Specialist from the Turkish affiliate, later contributed his beats as a drummer, and the four musically-gifted colleagues formed NovoBand.

In 2014, the band took part in a music competition called “From Office to Stage.” “We had around 100 colleagues show up to support us,” Morten explains, “it’s an alternative way to create employee engagement, but it’s certainly one that works.” The band made it all the way to the finals, taking fifth place. NovoBand acquired the attention of other Novo Nordisk offices around the world, and they were soon invited to play a concert at a hemophilia conference in Lebanon. Not long after, the Novo Nordisk headquarters invited NovoBand to Copenhagen to perform, and since, the band has played at various global meetings around the world. After four years in Turkey, directing Finance, Supply Chain, and IT operations for the Novo Nordisk business areas in the Middle East, Morten returned to Denmark as Senior HR Partner and Executive Assistant to Executive Vice President of Business Services & Compliance, Lars Green. After 1.5 years, Morten accepted his current role as Corporate Vice President of Finance and Operations for Region Europe. “Moving to Turkey gave me the opportunity to meet these wonderful guys. We have played together for almost five years now, at least whenever we have the chance. It has been quite an interesting journey from where it all started, full of fantastic opportunities.”

Today, NovoBand has welcomed Christina Steen, Media Relations Manager and vocalist. With the band members now working in four different locations within Novo Nordisk, Denmark, Switzerland, Turkey and Kuwait, it isn’t easy to find time to practice together. But of course, as Morten puts it, “pursuing a career and my ‘internally exposed passion’ is always a balance because my job comes first; we cannot just run around and play music. So in that regard, I need to be very focused on specifying what are and are not the right priorities.” Morten expresses that he feels supported by management, “I feel that Novo Nordisk provides with an outlet to pursue my passion, as they continue to invite NovoBand to come and perform from time to time. Our band is a like a team that comes together outside of the office and shows our spirit and support for our colleagues in our own melodic way.”

Morten believes that it is imperative for him and others in the work force, to find spare time throughout the day to engage in activities other than work. For him, he tries to get in at least 30 minutes of practice each day. Leaders often have different hobbies to recharge their mental batteries so that they can take on the work-tasks at hand with full force. For Morten, playing music and participating in NovoBand is his way of doing so. “I can easily have weeks with a heavy workload where I don’t have time to play, and that is okay. But you must remind yourself that it is also okay to have room to breathe; to separate yourself by partaking in something outside of work that gives you clarity. That is important.” Playing guitar in NovoBand has given Morten more than just space to pursue his career and passion. It has furthermore allowed him to build international friendships that redefine the meaning of colleagues. Keep on rockin’ Morten! 

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