While I was still studying at the Helsinki University of Technology, I was pulled in by one of the Finnish mobile operators to solve their radio network capacity problems. This led me to Nokia and new projects to plan and design networks. Gradually I moved to sales, marketing and business development in a number of companies and ended up with leading large, global customer account teams. The next step was to move to strategic business development, which was a significant and a very motivational period – huge amount of learnings about how to engage with stakeholders and bring value to them, how to build and maintain trust.
But things do not go as planned. After more than 20 years, working for several employers, without ever applying for any position I was in a new situation: on my own.
That suited me fine. I had no doubt that I would find new opportunities. First I took time to myself and my family. Very nice, very important. And again a new learning: to stay at home and not to travel all the time.
After 6 months, when I had done nothing to find a job, neither planned anything, an ex business acquaintance asked if I was interested in establishing a consultancy company with a couple of guys. I said yes. We spent a lot of time defining what we wanted to achieve. The most important decision we made was to do something meaningful – things we like and want to do, and what is important to our customers and further to their customers. We even refused to sell work by days or hours, instead we talked about the desired outcome and sought for the right pricing based on that.
The entepreneurial life appeared, of course, to be completely different to corporate life. Strategy – my favourite topic – proved to have a new kind of meaning. And there were no corporate resources, assistants, subject matter experts, not any of such luxury available. Identifying new opportunities, focusing on something and forgetting others, making choices, taking risks, taking full charge of all the decisions and not consulting the boss – it was the new normal.
One of the biggest risks I took was to pursue African business. That started from a blog I wrote, which was captured by an East African. Now, after years, after huge efforts and learnings business has started in many fronts. My belief was that in challenging conditions I can utilize my extensive experience to find opportunities where I can apply innovative solutions based on technology and business modelling. I was persistent, and I proved to be right. But by no means can I afford to be complacent; things can change overnight.
The journey has been long and it still continues. I have climbed my ladder from a technical problem solver to fulfilling customers’ and other stakeholders’ needs. At the moment I feel I have achieved a next level, where I can do what I am compassionate about, what I believe in. I also want to leverage that excitement, confidence and desire to engage others – customers, partners, suppliers. I don’t say it is easy. It is not. But I also claim that it shouldn’t. My public secret is that I have never avoided to go beyond my comfort zone.
There is an inspirational story that illustrates what this all is about. When David faced Goliath, he seemed to face a mission impossible. A young boy had to fight against an armoured giantic professional soldier. David was truly beyond his comfort zone. His weapons and armours were heavy and clumsy. David decided to use what was available – stones from the ground, a simple leather sling – and his skills. David beat the giant because he used what he had in the right way. And probably he was able to hit Goliath on the forehead because it was big enough.
I believe that in search of our own growth, we need to identify our own Goliaths. We need to recognize our own strengths and use what we have, as David did. Everybody needs to experience and learn it oneself, it can not be taught or transferred. Nobody else can tell what you want, can, or shall do. And growth follows.