How did you go from research on plasma impurities in fusion reactors to private equity?
I’ve always been curious and eager for new challenges. I love problem solving and that’s what you get in plasma physics research. Problem solving skills have also been useful in other tasks I have encountered in my career. To give you an example of few of these, I can mention my experience in change management for a listed company and my work as a management consultant for McKinsey for nearly eight years. I think problem solving truly is a part of developing and making the company grow.
Tell us more about who you are and what you do?
My name is Pia Kåll and I work as a Managing Partner for CapMan Buyout. The company I work for is one of the oldest private equity companies in the Nordic countries. I am in charge of a team of 14 people, who invest in small and medium size unlisted companies. I studied applied physics and mathematics and my master’s thesis examined plasma impurities of fusion reactors. I worked quite a while at McKinsey&Company and later on I was responsible for the Strategy, Marketing and Operational Excellence on the Executive Board of Outotec, a mining and metal technology company, where I worked little over three years.
How did you end up studying your particular area?
When I was still in high school and even during my matriculation exam, I was convinced that University of the Arts was the place to be for me. However, at the time of applying I changed my mind and applied to Aalto University to study applied physics because it sounded challenging. It also felt like the right thing to do - to let art be a hobby and get a job from another field.
After I graduated, I started my dissertation. However, I didn’t finish it because I visited a McKinsey recruitment event and decided to grab the opportunity to influence the development and strategy of large, global companies as a consultant. When I was offered a seat on the Executive Board of Outotec, I just couldn’t decline the challenge. At first, I led Strategy and M&A and later on broader responsibilities including product development and development of business processes and operational models. In that position I realised that I enjoy working in different situations and with different people in as many different fields, and among as various questions as possible. In private equity , these sides are combined. When I transferred to CapMan, I first worked as a Partner in Buyout, and starting from June 2017 I have worked as a Managing Partner.
What's the best memory you have of your study times?
There are plenty of good memories. I met my husband while studying and all my best friends are from that time period. If I need to pick one memory, there’s one in particular that rises over the others. The World Athletics Championship was held in Helsinki in 2005. All the athletes stayed at the Teekkari Village in Otaniemi. At the time I was in charge of everything that took place at the Teknologförening -building. To mention few examples, security staff of 200 needed food 24/7, there was an internet café, a beer terrace, and also a nightclub for the athletes where the best DJ’s in town entertained them every night.
I have great memories of that event and the athletes. There was great energy in the village and our group of nearly 80 students shared an incredible team spirit while we prepared everything and kept the show running.
What's the best thing you have learned during your studies and how has it helped you in the working world?
Working in a students’ association taught me invaluable leadership skills. Everyone there worked voluntarily and forcing was not an option. Goals can only be achieved if you can create joint goals and motivate everyone to work towards them. I think that’s the best way to lead in business as well.
Tell us something surprising about you?
I was recruited to the executive board of Outotec when I was on maternity leave. It may not be such a surprising fact about me but it shows the broad-mindedness of Outotec management, which unfortunately is not found everywhere. It surprised me when the phone rang and they offered me the job while I was feeding my 5 month-old baby.
What should everyone experience at least once in their lifetime?
One should do and experience as many things as possible at least once.