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Let’s not let the pool of talented international professionals already available in Finland go to waste

9.10.2020

Siamäk Naghian came to Finland from Iran to continue his studies. With dedication and a great effort, he did just that and graduated with a Master’s degree of Science in Engineering, Licentiate of Science in Engineering and a Doctor’s degree of Science in Technology all from what is today known as Aalto University. When Siamäk jumped on the adventure and moved to Finland back in 1986 he had no idea that he would end up becoming the CEO of a Finnish company – Genelec. What’s more, Siamäk was named the Enterprise Executive of the year in 2018.

Siamäk Naghian

How did you end up in Finland?

Moving to Finland was rather accidental for me. In 1985 I moved from Iran to Ankara, Turkey, where I had passed the entrance exam of the Middle East Technical University. However, I had also applied to other universities, including in Finland. I had no idea about Finland at that time, more than what I had read and heard from a couple of students. Surprisingly, the first university admission I received was from Finland. So, I just picked up my bag and came to Finland, a totally unknown place for me. I was enthusiastically looking forward to my adventure I had just stepped into.

What has helped you along the way in your professional career in Finland?

My purpose, determination and attitude formed the starting point. I had a purpose and clear goal before coming here and this helped me tune my expectations. I didn’t expect anything else than studying and working or vice versa. In addition, I have learned that resilience helps a lot in life. I am interested in people and in different cultures. So, starting with almost a non-existing network in Finland, I got more and more friends gradually. Learning the Finnish language was not a question for me because, first, I like to learn languages, second, I see language as the bridge to learn a new society, its people and culture. Later, I also learned that Finnish society, its values, Finnish sauna, nature and culture just fit my mindset and mentality. The help and acceptance I have received from Finns have been the most important success factor in my studies, professional career and life in general in Finland.

What main obstacles have you experienced?

I am not someone who looks for obstacles. I believe that in all circumstances we have options. You can always find obstacles if you want, as there is no perfect world anywhere. Of course, starting a life in a new society without any network and support, and without knowing the language – is not an easy task. The lives of foreign students in Finland in the 1980s was very limited and there were not many foreigners here at that time. However, the good part was that I had the opportunity to live with Finns, learn the language and culture and become part of this society.

What do you see as the main value of international professionals working in Finland?

I have seen the value of international professionals when working at Nokia in the 90s. It was an amazing era enabled by mobile and cellular technologies. The company grew exponentially within a relatively short time and became an international market leader globally. Even so, the company maintained strong operations in Finland and without a suitable global mindset and international professionals, the phenomenal global leadership in emerging technologies would not have been possible.

I see diversity as enriching if mutually understood and if expectations and responsibilities are dealt with properly. While diversity is the source of creativity, the right mindset and cultural competencies are essential for those companies which intend to operate globally. Taking into account the recent development in Finland and different industries it seems rather a must to attract international professionals. Those who have realised it and prepare for it, will have a better chance to survive in the future.

How would you comment on the language matter, how has the languages you speak helped you?

For me, it is sad to hear that this is often a question in some social conversations in Finland. If one wants to live in a new society, learning the language is almost a must. I see it as a unique opportunity for international professionals to expand their mind by learning the Finnish language and culture. When you start diving into the inner layers of Finnish society and culture, you will realise the beauty and uniqueness of it. I hope that as many societies as possible around the world, will learn to follow the equality, transparency, trustful atmosphere, and the right and freedom to be “yourself”, social justice and so on, practised in Finland and the Nordic countries. Without learning languages, one will lose out to feel all these which is a pity – such a lost opportunity.

What is your message to international job seekers in Finland?

Whether moving to a new society to study, work or just live one has to be well-aware of his/her purpose and expectations. You have to tune your expectations to be realistic. You should also keep in mind that your own attitude matters 99,99% as you will build everything else on top of that. Whatever your purpose is such a journey is about starting to build a new identity. Unfortunately, too often this is ignored. The more you are aware of that, the more open your mind will be to building a happy life in your new home.

“You are a treasure, if the gems are your aim.
No more than a grain, if a loaf is your claim!
Recall this secret, when you play this game:
Whatever you pursued- is what you became!”
(Rumi (1207 – 1273)

The best thing you can gain in Finland is the opportunity to be yourself. Unfortunately, I think that there are not many places in the world you can get such a wonderful advantage – the most important gift for a human being. In return, one should also be ready to contribute to this society to make it even better for the generations to come.

What is your message to companies employing people in Finland? Why is diversity important in your opinion?

In the current world, also societies operating mainly domestically need to understand global codes of success. This calls for multi-cultural thinking and cultural competencies. Any business is a human to human business and therefore creating a diverse mindset and culture in the organisation is a must to succeed in the future. Creating that may require jumping to an uncertain, perhaps uncomfortable, zone. However, that is where the opportunities lie as well. Diversity is a social, cultural, and mindset journey so you have to live through it to gain a deeper level. Employing people already in Finland would minimise the risk of such a journey.

However, please don’t advice your employee that she/he doesn’t need to learn the Finnish language since almost everyone speaks English here. This is a “karhunpalvelus” as we say in Finnish, a disservice to the person. Working to include everyone in building our society is the benefit of every one living in this society now and in the future.

Though people are different, respect, transparency and authenticity work for everyone universally, so please don’t waste the pool of talented international professionals available already in Finland!

#WeWorkFinland


If you are an international professional living in Finland, you can register your CV with Pointer Potential here.

More than 400 000 people with an international background live in Finland. In Helsinki alone, every sixth person has a background other than Finnish. The We Work-series shares glimpses of the real-life stories of international professionals living and working in Finland.

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