The panel discussion took place on 26th of March in Think Corner. Experts attending the panel:

Päivi Kuusela, 3stones

Lived in Asia for 15 years. As a 3rd culture child she has a toolbox of personal experience. She is fluent in Chinese. She came to Helsinki for university studies. She started her career with training Finns about how to do business with the Chinese. She feels herself more Asian than Finn.

Salla Hänninen, Palava Global

She is a linguist and moved to England for studies at the age of 20. In England she noticed that with her English friends she had problems with communicating although they all were speaking the same language. Because of this experience, she became interested in intercultural issues. Her main interest is in the differences and problems of the cultural business relations. To solve these problems, communicating with other people is the key. To do your work well in any field, you need a good team. At the same time, you must roll up your sleeves and work hard to get what you want to achieve.

Jaakko Soiva, ABE Consulting

He has always been interested in languages. He wanted to learn Spanish so well that he can work in a Spanish speaking country. He has worked in several Spanish speaking work environments. In addition to language studies, he has studied global business. He started to help a friend with an innovation and suddenly it went global. Now he has a small company. He is working with consulting and learning disabilities/problems. In his consulting work he helps companies to expand their business outside Finland.

Panelists Päivi Kuusela, Salla Hänninen and Jaakko Soiva discuss how their educational backgrounds relate to their professional careers.



Interview with Katja Köykkä

Katja Köykkä

24.4.2019 Veera Wusu


Interview with Katja Köykkä, advisor in Fida International

Katja Köykkä works as an advisor in Fida international. She is expert on lobbying and advocacy training. The core tasks of her work are, in addition to lobbying and advocacy work, training, networking and content production especially to social media.

Katja’s background is originally in health sector where she worked in the health administration on the public sector. Between 2011-2018 she worked in development cooperation in Jordan where their family also lived 2011-1016. Katja describes the experience in Jordan as one of the core foundations for her current position: while working ”in the field” she saw how important it is to strengthen the abilities of local actors to advocate for the matter they themselves find important.

When asking about the most rewarding aspect of her work, Katja does not hesitate. She says it is delighting to see how people own tools and methods of lobbying and advocacy in different contexts where she trains them on these topics. She feels that the whole organisation of Fida International has gone through a change of mindset in just about one year, and the willingness and abilities to influence has increased significantly.

On of the most inspiring stories Katja recalls from the years she worked in Jordan. She remember meeting a chair of women’s organisation when starting the development cooperation. When asking what she, the chair, expected from the cooperation with Fida International, she wished to have a bus to take women from rural areas to different kinds of trainings and happenings. She did not want anything else. The bus did not work out – no money, no driver, no-one to fix and maintain it – but cooperation was done in other ways. In just few years the chair herself became a person to influence and advocate first at local level and later on she was a candidate in election. Katja describes this kind of change in attitude from a receiver of benefits to an advocate in such a short time something that motivates in her work greatly.

On future plans or chances for promotion, Katja comments that the opportunities to be promoted are very limited in such a small organisation in which she works. One option, later in the future, would be to work as a programme or sector director but at the moment she finds her position as an advisor permitting more possibilities and freedoms to influence on grassroot level which she finds to be the most motivating part of her work.

To conclude, Katja comments on her work that it is sometimes like jumping from one topic to another as most of the work is very project-like and dependent on the funding periods. In such context the importance of smooth cooperation with colleagues with different professional expertises is a key ingredient for successful and meaningful work. Good atmosphere and enthusiasm defines the team which Katja works with.

Interview with Eve Kyntäjä

Interview with Eve Kyntäjä, Advisor for Migration Policy at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK by Tytti Aalto 20.3.2019.

I interviewed Eve Kyntäjä at SAK’s office in Hakaniemi. I wanted to know about her career path to her present position, her most central responsibilities and how she sees her work developing, among other things.

Eve Kyntäjä works in SAK, which is a labour market organisation, social interest group, campaigning force and NGO. It is a confederation of 17 trade unions in industry, the public sector, transport, private services and culture. The mission of SAK is to improve the welfare, living standards and democratic participation of employees and to promote a fair and equitable society.

Eve Kyntäjä is working as an Advisor for Migration Policy and she has worked for SAK for almost seventeen years. Her background is in research. She graduated from the University of Tartu in 1982, after which she worked a little while as a researcher Tallinn. She moved to Finland in 1991 and continued working as a researcher for the Migration Institute of Finland for five years. Interest in further studies took Eve to the universities of Turku and Helsinki, but in the middle of doing her doctoral thesis in Helsinki University she noticed in 2002 a very interesting job add by SAK. They were looking for a project manager for a 3-year project related to labour market co-operation between Finland and Estonia. She was so interested in this opportunity, that she decided to apply, even though she had some doubts about fitting into a quite different role than that of a researcher. She was selected to the position, and during the next three years she did pioneering work in cross-national labour market collaboration. One of the biggest achievements was opening and running an information centre offering information on the rules of the Finnish labour market to the Estonians in Tallinn. In addition, the work included e.g. networking, communication, sharing information, publishing material for different stakeholder as well as organising education and guidance related to labour mobility from Estonia to Finland. The project was a success and it was rewarded by the European Commission for enhancing labour mobility. The work continued for another three years after the project, but after that the field had developed to the point that it was time to move on to other responsibilities within SAK.

Eve stayed for a short period with collaboration issues with the Baltic Sea region as she made an interview survey among the Estonian and Russian about their experiences of labour unions and in working life in general. After that Eve was given more responsibilities related to representation, labour immigration, labour availability consideration and integration issues. As the labour market field has evolved during the years, so has Eve’s responsibilities. Since people are moving after work opportunities more than before, the work is changing to more international and collaborative with EU. There is a national level, tripartite and EU level in the work. Eve’s work contains a lot of collaboration with different stakeholder as well as lobbying for the causes that are important for SAK and its interest groups. Nowadays the European Union directives and EU level co-operation are an important consideration in Eve’s work. She represents the Finnish trade unions in an EU committee that works with the free mobility of labour.

The most important responsibilities in the work are influencing the migration policies both in Finland and on EU level, lobbying for the important issues and sharing information and expertise to the interest groups. One of the most important competences that Eve needs in her work is a holistic perspective on things, seeing the big picture, since her work consists of so many different aspects from the point of view of politics related to immigration, labour market, education, social issues, taxation and housing. Other skills that she mentions are the ability to get along with people who think differently, diplomacy and co-operation. Though the parties have different ideologies, working for the common goal must be priority. Eve finds most rewarding in her work the effect that she can have on decision making and legislation. On the other hand, she finds the statements that are requested but lead nowhere frustrating.

The work becomes more and more international and at the same time EU level decisions harmonize policies. There are development projects and initiatives on regular bases. The most recent project Eve is involved in is Mahdollisuuksien aika (Time of Opportunities) which concentrates in immigration and the effects of climate politics in employment. Seems like Eve Kyntäjä’s work is far from done.

Interview with Ville Wacklin by Kaija Leikas (10.4.2019)

I interviewed Ville Wacklin at the Finnish Church Aid headquarters in Helsinki. The reason why I chose to interview him is my interest in the entrepreneurship training at the refugee camps. In my opinion it is smart to help people to get an education during their stay at the camp. Sometimes it can be many years of their lives that they are forced to live at the camps. So it is very important to give them education that really makes a difference. In this interview Wacklin tells about how he ended up working for a NGO, what kind of work does he do and which qualities a person working for a NGO needs.

Ville Wacklin works at the FCA (Finnish Chuch Aid) as a project manager. He is mostly doing programmes/projects related to entrepreneurship and education export. He ended up working for FCA by a bit of luck and a lot of entrepreneurial attitude. After high school he travelled for several years abroad. He visited many countries in Africa, Middle East, Latin America and Asia. Then he decided to come back to Finland and start to do something that is remotely remarkable or meaningful.

He started to study to become a class teacher, but after finishing his BA he was not sure if he he wanted to be a class teacher for the rest of his life. After a while he decided to finish his Master´s degree. He became interested in education in refugee context. He wanted to collect data at the refugee camps and to be able to do this he contacted FCA and joined their research in Uganda. After graduation he pitched his ideas to FCA of how FCA could boost entrepreneurship in refugee context and after a lot of maybes he finally started working for FCA in Uganda. He was part of a team that made the curriculum for the entrepreneurship education which is a part of a vocational education. Even if the student decides not to become an entrepreneur, this education gives the student tools for acquiring a job. Later on FCA has also started to help people with start up ideas. FCA offers now different kind of education in the field of entrepreneurship in Uganda, Jordan, Cambodia and Eritrea.

What kind of qualities one should have when working in a NGO? Wacklin says that all the travelling he did for years helped him to adapt for different environments. He also feels that he learned how people interact and work in different environments. One needs ability to adjust in his line of work. It is also important for your own wellbeing to let go of micro managing in sub-Saharan countries. He says that rather than navigating the boat, you must navigate the stream. According to Wacklin, you must understand that things will happen in the last minute. It is not possible to plan a head, atleast not more than 2 weeks a head. You should always have Plan B and Plan C, because things will always change. One needs to be flexible. You will get to the goal, but maybe not the way as you wanted. For the language skills needed for the work, Wacklin says fluent written and spoken English is very important. Languages like Arabic or Spanish might also be useful depending on the country you are working in.

Does religion play any part in your work? No, not really. Even as a faith based organization, religion does not show in his work. Only when it comes to local staff in Uganda, they are very religious and we have to respect that. Being a church aid also opens doors especially in Middle East. There Faith based organizations are not seen by covernments as a threat but as more reliable than other kind of NGO´s.

Why did you choose Africa? Africa is the continent that fascinates him most. At the same time it is the most frustrating continent to work in. I travelled earlier before my work at FCA in different countries in Africa for a year. I feel that it has helped me  to adjust for my work in Uganda. My competence is mostly in Africa, in how to run projects or programmes in Africa. I have learned how to deal with crazy traffic and people with different backgrounds. I know how to react when somebody calls me “white face” or wants to touch my hair. You get by well when you can talk some words local language and find a reason to laugh together with the person you meet.

What would you like to say to students wanting to work at a NGO? I want to say that be curious, be resilient and don´t take no for an answear! It can be tough but at the same time I have to pinch myself for living my dream. I am very happy and also very proud of myself for achieving all of this!

Interviewing Ville Wacklin was a very nice task. We were talking about important things both on and off tape. What I enjoyed most was all the sharing of wise thoughts and laughs. I hope the readers will find this interview useful. I recommend every one to contact NGO´s, do interviews and network, it might help you to find your dream job. So Thank You Ville for this nice interview and continue to enjoy your work and life atleast as much as you do at the moment. Keep up the good work and spirit!


Some links related to FCA (in English) and Ville Wacklin (in Finnish):