Virva Salmivaara: I study the role of entrepreneurs in sustainable development
Postdoctoral Researcher Virva Salmivaara, what is the focus of your research and why?
I study expectations on companies’ environmental responsibility: the discussion on what is expected of companies and how these perceptions and requirements arise. My research is centred on natural resource-based industries, especially agriculture. Natural resources must be used in agriculture, despite the fact that agricultural entrepreneurs are aware of the requirements of sustainable development and the expectations to take environmental responsibility into account. This creates an interesting starting point for the discourses I study. I am interested in societal perspectives, and explore how environmental issues are discussed politically, and how entrepreneurs themselves speak about these matters. Agriculture is politically subsidised, which violates the principles of market logic. Moreover, nationalism and emotions are associated with it, making the research very interesting.
How did you become a researcher in entrepreneurship?
I defended my doctoral thesis in the School of Business in 2017. Before this, I worked as a communications director in a large corporation, spending a lot of time working with language and how it is used to influence matters. After working in business for ten years, I decided to take a sabbatical year during which the idea of doctoral studies arose. Once I had completed my doctoral thesis, research took over entirely.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
My first publication was important to me because I felt that it allowed me to truly enter the world of researchers. There have also been some very inspiring research visits, during which I have been able to meet experts whose texts I have previously read. At the beginning of this year, I spent the first three months as a visiting researcher at emLyon, followed by three months at the Saïd Business School of the University of Oxford.
Conferences also offer fantastic opportunities to exchange ideas with other researchers. During my exchange visits and at conferences, I have come to realise that all universities are different, and all of my trips have been very educational.
Which qualities are the most important for you to succeed in your work?
Perseverance is of utmost importance when working as a researcher. You simply have to be able to work persistently, unlike in the business world where you also work hard, but things progress much more quickly. Nobody calculates the workload, only the end result matters. Moreover, a researcher should never be complacent, but always strive for something a little better. In addition, researchers must have a personal vision they believe in. In other words, they have to keep a cool head even if other people might question their ideas.
Researchers usually do something new, which means that good researchers are also quite radical. And of course, cooperation skills are important even if you conduct research independently. It has been good and comfortable to work with the people in the Entrepreneurship unit. My colleague, Assistant Professor and Academy of Finland Researcher Ewald Kibler, who supervised my dissertation, is extremely encouraging, which has really helped my work and guided it in a good direction.
What do you expect from the future?
I hope that I will have the opportunity to continue working as a researcher. It is wonderful to have the freedom to do what you want, as long as you can justify why the topic is interesting and important. For me, content is the most important thing, instead of titles and such career goals. I also feel that the international aspect is very fruitful.
My current contract as a postdoctoral researcher will continue until the end of next year. I have recently worked on a postdoc application for the Academy of Finland. The decision will be made next spring. I am hopeful and look forward to this decision with excitement.
Virva Salmivaara was interviewed by Terhi Ollikainen.