Making Finnish IT known

 Tarja Virmala, Director at the Federation of Finnish Software Industries writes: “To be a good rider, you need to fall off at least a hundred times. To be a good business manager, you need to go through the wringer a couple of times. We have too few keelhauled managers”. Also according to Ms Virmala, a condition for the growth of Finnish IT businesses is that software should be aimed directly at the international market.

Should business management also be aimed directly for the international market? Where do we find those internationally “keelhauled” executives to run our companies? Finding a tough international executive with mileage and perspective is definitely not an easy job. It’s like trying to recruit hunter-killer solution sales executives that are self-guided and capable of accurate monthly forecasting.

Having lived abroad for majority of my life I see the world through ex-pat eyes. My tough and experienced colleagues would be great assets in the management groups of Finnish ICT companies. Professionals that have had to learn international business the hard way (by trial and error) in the field, where feedback in immediate and brutal. The problem is that over the years these executives have lost a lot of their professional network in Finland. Like the saying goes: “It’s not always what you know, but who you know”. I submit that Finnish headhunters are lax in their “duty” to return this intellectual capital back home.

I hear stories constantly how headquarters see their best performing expatriate executives as threats to the ivory tower rather than invaluable assets. They challenge the status quo and point our flaws in thinking. I see colleagues being passed over for promotions year after year. New regional VPs are often sent from the HQ to re-establish the corporate party line in the “territories” and yet again the learning curve clock is dialed a few years back each time. HQ’s try to impose their understanding of reality onto markets that are over thousand times larger… it’s beyond comprehension. HQ’s should rotate their international battle field trained executives back placing them high in the corporate organization in order to institute an international transformation within. HR managers should not be focusing on how to train the corporate mantra to the field, but rather what can the corporate learn from the field.


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