Meet Ines Mensah | Lead Financial Controller at PRISMA
Meet the PRISMAtes and get to know our team! In this series, our employees tell us a little about themselves and their journey to PRISMA. Let's start and meet Ines!
“This is Doudou,” Ines says, holding up a stuffed animal in front of her slightly bemused colleagues.
“Last time I had a stressful day, my daughter approached me, handing me her Doudou, saying, ‘This will make you feel better.’” Ines smiles at Doudou before continuing. “Doudou always helps my daughter, either comforting or calming her. Doudou is her emotional anchor.”
Ines's colleagues in the audience are already captivated.
“You might be wondering why I'm telling you this, and if I've really taken my daughter's stuffed animal away. I can reassure you: For security reasons, we have three Doudous.”
Her audience chuckles in unison. And Ines gets to the point she truly cares about:
“We can achieve the same soothing effect that Doudou has on my daughter in our personal lives and at work. You don't necessarily need a stuffed animal for that.” Ines's presentation will last less than five minutes in the end, but will leave a lasting impression.
“I enjoy doing this,” Ines explains afterwards, “Providing insights into topics and methods I don't necessarily encounter in my daily work."
Balancing financial precision with a side passion
Ines is the Lead Financial Controller at PRISMA. She usually deals with cost planning, budget, revenues, and checking if what was originally planned was accomplished.
“This is not something you dream about when you are a child. Of course, I have a kind of passion for clarity, structure, and making decisions. But I believe that everyone in this field also has a passion on the side."
And Ines can get excited about a wide range of topics. For example, she led a workshop focused on 'Perfect Timing': a method that helps determine the best time for brainstorming, tackling routine tasks, and engaging in sports.
Ines conducted an Open Space Session on this topic. Ines also educated her colleagues about visualisation techniques. During the offsite in September 2023, she briefly introduced the technique, detailing how the intensive visualisation of achieving one's goal can help turn it into a reality.
Breaking free from the familiar
The freedom to delve into new topics and engage in discussions about them is one of the reasons Ines is still with PRISMA. She started working at PRISMA in 2016, initially intending it as a temporary stop in her career.
“Honestly, I mainly wanted to escape from France,” Ines says with a laugh. From a young age, Ines was frequently on the move. Both her parents were doctors who worked in different cities and countries. Ines was born in France, but lived in Ivory Coast until the age of 15 before returning. She began her studies there, but she soon felt the urge to go abroad again, and completed part of her studies in the USA.
Shortly thereafter, she interned in the automotive industry, was hired, and worked for 1.5 years in Romania. But when she returned to France, she felt like she had outgrown her old self while the environment she returned to remained largely the same. “I had this idea that I could rediscover myself by going away again.” Initially, Ines wanted to go to Switzerland, but learned that to have better chances on the job market there, she would need to be fluent in German.
“I have had some high school German lessons and thought: ‘How difficult can it be?’” As a hands-on person, Ines booked a one-month course in Berlin, and started to like life in Germany.
When your boss finds you a job abroad
So, finding a job in Germany was now at the top of the wish list. Her manager at the distribution company where she worked in 2015 also knew about her desire. “She constantly asked me if there was any progress. And I always had to say: I haven't applied yet.” Then came the day when her manager presented the job offer at PRISMA to her. “You have to apply today,” she said. And Ines did just that.
Three days later, she already had her interview. “I remember that after looking at the website, I was uncertain. Everyone was wearing suits and ties, and it seemed quite formal.” An impression that did not turn out to be true. “I sat in the interview with Götz and Paolo. And when I talked about Ivory Coast, we spent a long time discussing Paolo's memories of his last trip there. No one was in a suit either. The atmosphere was immediately relaxed.”
Everything happened quickly after that. Ines left the PRISMA office for a short walk through Leipzig – a city completely unfamiliar to her. After just 20 minutes, she received a call: PRISMA wanted to offer her a position. She signed the contract and started as a Financial Controller at PRISMA a few weeks later – at that time, the only one in the company.
Turning a blank page into positive change
The company was quite small then, with about 15 employees. What a difference to the automotive industry she came from. Also, her focus changed: “At PRISMA, it’s not all about the margin, and they’re not constantly in cost-cutting mode,” Ines explains. It was like a blank page back then. Ines didn't have to follow processes that were already in place. “This was the main reason I said ‘yes’. I have repeatedly had the opportunity to develop processes and myself,” Ines adds emphatically.
She implemented controlling tools to eliminate chaotic spreadsheets. She changed the method of cost allocation twice to stay up to date. Furthermore, she is now also the Risk Manager at PRISMA. “I assess the risks the company faces, not only externally but also internally. This includes, of course, investments and whether they are worthwhile. But it's also about whether we uphold the culture we promote externally, or if it damages our reputation.”
In addition, Ines is now the Lead Financial Controller, as the team has grown to include a Junior Controller.
“I got this position right after returning from maternity leave.” It's a point that Ines finds important to emphasise.
“I think, this is still unusual in other companies. Also, while pregnant, and afterwards, my colleagues treated me at the same level where I was and helped me grow to the next level.
There was no difference between having a child or not having a child.” Furthermore, PRISMA is a hybrid company: Ines can freely choose when she works from home and when in the office – a significant advantage for families.
Globetrotter meets true Leipziger
The company culture keeps Ines at PRISMA. But above all, it's her family that keeps Ines in Leipzig. “I mean, I met my boyfriend who was born in Leipzig, who grew up in Leipzig, planning to die in Leipzig,” she tells with a laugh.
She met her future boyfriend after one month of living in Leipzig. “He was my language exchange partner, and we obviously got along very well.”
So well that they now have two children together. “German became my second language because we always speak German at home. We never spoke English, so I have no idea what his English level is,” Ines laughs.
After all the restless years of moving between many different countries, Ines is taking a little break. “Of course, we visit my parents in France once or twice a year and travel around Germany a bit, but with two young children, longer trips are still in the future. Maybe when my youngest child is three, it will be easier,” Ines muses. She already seems to be mentally planning possible travel routes.
The Next Session: From Stuffed Animal to Bracelet
Ines is confident that she won't get bored until then. If in doubt, Ines creates additional tasks for herself at PRISMA. She's already planning new workshops to provide her colleagues with more insight into finance and controlling so that everyone understands the impact of their own job on it.
But at the next Open Space, she first wants to finish the topic of ‘Emotional Anchor’. “That first short presentation was just a teaser,” Ines explains. She will then wear her own emotional anchor, just like every day.
“My bracelet.” Ines raises her arm and shows a black band on her wrist. “It's actually a step counter, but honestly, I haven't charged it for a month and still wear it.” There was a time when Ines gently touched it during stressful moments; now, even a simple glance at the bracelet helps Ines recentre a bit. “And if it works for me, it might help my colleagues as well. It’s just my way to give back. And also, a way to have fun.”