Ville Wikström: Peace of mind and interpersonal skills are the characteristics of a good custodian

Ville Wikström, the custodian at Väre Lobby Services, says in a ‘Walk in My Shoes’ interview that he likes problem-solving, students, and helping others. He wishes creativity could blossom more at Väre.
Ville Wikström through the kaleidoscope. Photo by Ville Wikström.
Ville Wikström through the kaleidoscope. Photos by Ville Wikström.

How did you end up as a custodian at Väre and what are your responsibilities?

My previous job was as a project manager in the events sector. I started at Arabia, Media Centre Lume in 2011. In the beginning, I worked as a rehearsal manager, which meant building performance stages, grandstands, black box events and helping students with TV productions and rehearsal films. For example, I worked with artist Tero Vesterinen on studio stages and events. Our students are fun.

I moved to Otaniemi together with the Department of Film (ELO). I first worked at Otakaari 7 and I was helping to build exhibitions. The film studio is now in Otakaari 5, the TV studio is in Roihupelto and there will be a small cinema in the new Marsio. The spaces are scattered.

Now, as Väre's custodian, I'm a bit like a janitor: taking care of mailings, fixing things, and doing exhibitions from end to end. When people don't know who's in charge of something, they ask the janitor. In the end, it's the janitor who takes care of things.

What do you particularly like about your job?

I am an enabler. I like to engage with people and help others so they can shine. It's a chance to chat, interact and help. Solving problems is fun. For example, if I solve IT problems in classes, people might come back afterwards to thank me. It gives me a good feeling.

When I came to Väre, there was no dedicated space for staff. Even though I like students, I wanted my own space. Getting that is one of my achievements.

Ville Wikström at the museum. Photo: Ville Wikström.
Ville Wikström at a museum

Can you share a story about your work?

The campus is quite chaotic, and addresses change all the time - I think our loading dock already has its third address. Once a Danish truck driver called me for directions and I couldn't give him instructions on phone. I couldn't even do it in Finnish.

He told me he was at the taxi station with his truck. I didn’t have any other opportunity but go there and help, otherwise we would probably still be on the phone with him. I jumped in and we drove together to Väre. We had time to talk about things like the weather and Danish beer.

From demonstrations to exhibitions, what kind of events do you experience at work?

I was happy when the students in Väre demonstrated for a living wage. I went to cheer them on when I was on the evening shift. I also went around to say kindly that the exhibition was off limits, and one of the students got a bit upset. But the others reached out to him - they were on my side. That was nice.

The protesters were in the lobby for a week, and it didn't matter, quite the opposite. But the School of Business and the School of Arts and Design are a bit like fire and water, there's a difference in cultures between the two. In the School of Business, for example, there was no protest.

I was happy when the students in Väre demonstrated for a living wage. I went to cheer them on when I was on the evening shift.

Ville Wikström

How does it feel to walk in Ville Wikström's shoes?

I have indoor shoes because I don't get out much during the day. I guess it's nice to walk around in my shoes. At least I meet a lot of people that I know.

How do you cope with different situations that come up?

We've had Verbal Judo trainings. But I'm naturally good at talking and I don't get nervous easily. I'm not afraid to stammer. It's all about how I present things. I get on well with people, especially students. Students are easy-going and polite. Talking is good - peace of mind and interpersonal skills are the characteristics of a good custodian!

What would you like to see more in Väre?

Väre is a kind of soulless mausoleum, a kind of crypt or fasade. Sometimes it feels like everything is forbidden, nothing could be done. But what if we relaxe a bit, because the house is made for people, after all, and it's not a huge exhibition space. Arabia was really cool, rustic and historic, whereas Väre has no rust, and the space is noisy because there are a lot of hard surfaces. It makes the space restless.

I would encourage students to do art or something similar on the walls. But almost all the walls are made of glass, and nothing permanent should be put up. The house is functional, but it shouldn't be at the expense of coziness. And you shouldn't always have to appeal to regulations: fire safety or accessibility. Creativity should be allowed to bloom more so that it shows. It would inspire others at the same time.

Ville Wikström's shelfie. Photo: Ville Wikström.
Ville Wikström's shelfie

What kind of team do you have in the lobby services?

There are about thirty of us in the lobby services. But we rarely all meet together, therefore I tend to think of the house I'm in as my team. I'm in my own cubicle in Väre, and I don't really know what's going on outside. There are a lot of old friends here, though.

Each house in Otaniemi has 1-3 office managers depending on if the house is on evening shift. Securitas does the signage, while we have to do the key making and access passes once they have been approved. Securitas has been with us for a long time, everyone is familiar from years of experience. They know the ins and outs of the house. And when the need arises, we're there in the back.

What do you do in your free time and why is it important to you?

My children are 15 and 13. They are important, as are my hobbies. I play badminton twice a week. We've had a badminton guild of five persons for 15 years now.

I've always liked vinyl records and we've also had a six-person vinyl club since 2007. We meet twice a year, listen to records and chat. I have about 400 vinyls, and they used to be in my booth at Otakaari 7. My supervisor wasn't too keen on the idea of me listening to the music, but the students were digging them. They often came along to listen with me and talk about music. Now the records are at home and now my wife is not really warming up to the idea. And every now and then someone at work comes to ask why the vinyls don't play.

I'm also a serial nerd. I'm a big reader of European comics, especially French quality comics. I must have 15 shelf metres of comics. And I also like cooking, I'm a restaurant chef by profession.

Interview and text: Tiina Aulanko-Jokirinne

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Walk in my shoes

Inspired by the saying that you should walk a mile in someone’s shoes to understand them, the ‘Walk in my shoes’ series aims to share some of the experiences, thoughts, perspectives and challenges faced by another Aaltonian.

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