Finnish working life through the eyes of a Somali trainee


In September 2015 I completed my Master of Finance degree in Turkey. My plan was to go back to Somalia, but due to different reasons I changed my mind and then travelled to Finland to start a new life here.

After arriving here, I started to chase opportunities, and finally, I was selected as a business lead program participant by Hanken University. The program was aimed to help the educated asylum seekers in Finland who are looking to take their first steps into Finnish working life. The program includes a 2 month internship in one of the Finnish partner companies.

I started my internship at Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company in mid-August. I was welcomed warmly and friendly by Katri, SVP and Kata, Corporate Responsibility Manager. After being introduced to some departments, everyone welcomed me friendly and also wished me to have a good time here.

Ali and his co-worker Anna PesonenI still remember every moment of my first day including the coincident meeting with Varma's CEO Risto.

My supervisor Anna Pesonen (in the picture with me) has been really nice and fantastic. She had a list of tasks and assignments for me. I joined an investment software implementation project during its final stages. My tasks ranged from data analysis, through data mapping and migration to validation and reconciliation.

This work experience enabled me to put my theoretical knowledge gained at the university into practical action. Thanks to the close cooperation with private equity and real estate teams, I have learned a lot about specifics of the investment processes in a complex international environment.

There is one more thing that made me feel special. My supervisor Anna and corporate responsibility manager Kata scheduled a weakly chat for me to discuss what I have learned so far, and what the next steps will be. They also discussed with me about my ambitions, hopes, and if I met my expectations. This kindness depicts how they really want to care and give help to their fellow employees and that is what I will never forget.

Observations on Finnish workplace culture

At the workplace culture, Finns generally adhere to planned schedules and deadlines since punctuality is taken seriously, for instance if a meeting is scheduled for one hour, it will end after one hour. Managers and Supervisors do not monitor their employees' work continually. Employees are independent, self-motivated and decide on the details of the work individually.

Although there is a hierarchy system in the company, Finns do usually use first names (rather than boss, manager, Mr.), they enjoy with low power distance environment between managers and subordinates. At the workplace, Finns are reserved, silent, place great value on words and avoid to fill the quiet moments with unnecessary small talk and this makes them more focused on tasks and realize big achievements.

I am enjoying my internship and I thank Varma for giving me the opportunity to have an internship here. I am grateful to Anna, Kata, Katri, Essi, the project team and everyone in Varma for making me feel welcome and a part of them. Thank you.

Abdulkadir Ali Tifow
International Trainee, Varma
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