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Anssi Käki: I want to develop as a leader who gets results and possesses a broad understanding of business

‘Acting ethically with openness and equality are key qualities in a leader. In my role, I also need analytical thinking, broad-mindedness and an open mind.’
Käki Anssi

What do you do for a living and why

I’m a director for one of UPM’s key areas of growth, UPM Biorefining. I’m in charge of the pulp supply chain and, on a more general level, responsible for developing tools and processes. I have a doctorate in applied mathematics and have previously worked with supply chains as a researcher and consultant. A long-standing area of interest for me has been the use of information technology in business, particularly in decision-making (support) systems. My current role allows me to combine my interests for the good of business development.

How did you become a member of the management team in UPM Biorefining?

I served six years in different specialist and managerial positions at UPM before  starting in my current job a few months ago. I applied because it seemed to suit me well, and I knew the business area as well as the people working there. I was very impressed that the management had the courage to pick me for the job despite my young age and limited leadership experience. We have a brilliant and experienced management team, which wants to give room for new thinking. 

What have been the highlights of your career?

While I have had significant successes in all stages of my career, the greatest strides have been made during my time with UPM. I used to run a centralised analytics team that was founded on an idea of mine.  It was great to be able to see my vision become reality and see that there is demand for advanced analytics at UPM. I had a great team and I do not think I will experience anything exactly like that ever again in my career. In my current role, I am developing business in an area that is among the most heavily invested-in industries in Finland and we are preparing for a growth of 60% over the next three years. I am almost certain that this will turn out to be a new high point in my career.

What is the best quality in a leader?

Acting ethically and humanely, while treasuring openness and equality are key characteristics for a leader. In my role, I also need analytical thinking, the ability to see the bigger picture, and an open mind. Although we operate in an industry which has a long history and is unlikely to be completely disrupted by technology, we too need new technologies and ways of operating. It’s important to strike a balance between the old and the new.

How did studying at Aalto prepare you for the world of work?

As part of master’s studies, we had a project work seminar in the systems analysis laboratory where we worked on a problem provided by a company. Often we had industry representatives visiting us and telling us about mathematical modelling in businesses, and it was customary to then do one’s master’s thesis for a company. I think I got even more out of my doctoral studies, during which time I significantly developed my own way of thinking and gained confidence in solving difficult problems. As a researcher, I learned to search and process information in a way that has been very useful for me in the professional life. There is also something to be said for the networks one builds as a student, although I was not among the most active revellers as a student.

What advice would you give yourself if you were a student now?

Whatever your major is, it definitely pays to study coding, algorithms and information structures as well as other areas of computer science, because you will need them now and in the future in almost any job. And coding is fun, too! When looking for a job, rather than focusing on salary, you should focus on whether you will have a chance to develop yourself under a good supervisor.  Getting to start one’s career with interesting duties and an encouraging supervisor will bear fruit later.

What are your expectations for the future?

At the moment, all of my energy is going into my new role and into getting the operations organised. A bit further down the road, I wish to develop into a good leader who gets results and understands business across a broad spectrum. I really do not want to make any plans very far into the future. Career planning has never been the most important thing for me. My goal is to lead a good life surrounded by a happy family and good friends, while contributing to an interesting and inspiring job. I doubt I’ll ever go back to school.

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