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Petri Virtanen: “I feel at home in Kostroma”
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A few years ago, Petri Virtanen came to Russia to take the position of First Vice-President of Specta. Has the small Russian town become home for Mr. Virtanen during this time? Did he have time to feel the special national spirit of Russia? All this is in our interview.

Petri, you’ve lived in Kostroma for three years now. Are there places in the city that have become special to you? Have you gotten attached to the place?
I have lived now 2,5 years in Kostroma. I like to live in the city, especially in the summer time Kostroma is a very nice place to live. I like Volga river and in the weekends I like to walk in walking promenade next to Volga river.

Do you miss your homeland – Finland? Does it have anything in common with Kostroma? Or are they different? Say the people, the weather?
I miss my homeland, I miss my family and my friends, I miss my summer cottage. In Finland I lived outside of the city centrum in a house and in Kostroma I live in a flat in the city centrum so my living environment is a bit different. Kostroma is a bigger city than Lahti, city from where I am coming. I was a bit surprised that weather is pretty much the same in Finland than in Kostroma. Long dark, cold winters and beautiful short summers. So I feel pretty much like to live in Finland.

When you just came to work here you wished you spoke the language. Have you mastered it by now? What is the most difficult aspect?
I haven’t learnt Russian language. I can survive in shops and restaurants. Russian language is very difficult, or I am coming old and its more and more difficult to learn new languages. All people in our office like to talk with me English so it seems my colleagues learn English. I really would like to learn to speak the Russian language.

Have your family been to Kostroma? Haven’t they thought of moving here?
My family has been several times in Russia, currently there are no plans for them to move to Kostroma. My daughters have studies in Finland and my wife works in Finland.

As we know, you and your wife are engineers and must be fond of technology. Do your children take after you? What are they into?
My daughters, well – they are very good in languages, I am 100% sure that their favorite profession is not to be engineer. I am very proud of my daughters – I support them whatever are their dreams, It’s most important that they will find professions which they really like to work in.

Speaking of favorite activities, your hobby is restoring vintage cars. What are the recent exhibits in your collection? Haven’t you thought of getting a legendary Soviet retro-car like Pobeda?
I like old cars, unfortunately I haven’t had time to renovate any cars in long time. There are many nice old Soviet retro cars, Popeda is nice but I like to buy old Chaika. I like also old Lada!

Cars from Petri’s collection

VW Karmann Ghia year 1973
Ford Galaxie XL 500 year 1969

You travel a lot for business and you’ve been to all kinds of places. What countries do you find favourable to set up business and which are just comfortable to live in?
I have lived in Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary and now in Russia. I liked a lot to live in Hungary, climate was excellent and location in Central Europe was good – short distance to many European cities. But I have to say all places where I have lived have had a lot of positive things. I would say that most important are people around you, they make places nice to live and work. And what comes to favorable place to set business – Russia is pretty good, huge country a lot of possibilities!

There’s a famous saying by the Russian poet Tyutchev: “You can’t grasp Russia with your mind”. It implies that here everything is different. Living here, do you experience this peculiarity? What was difficult? And on the contrary – what was easy?
I have enjoyed to live in Russia, I can’t say that life is so different in Russia than other places I have lived. People are very friendly. Of course Russia is a huge country, we have here different nations and different climates, it takes a lot of time to reach different places – Russia has a lot of opportunities.

Since the day you joined Specta, it’s grown. And what has changed – not just about the company as a whole, but also in your job particularly?
We have new clients, we have new employees – so we have worked a lot to improve our processes and way of working, every day we make improvements, every day we want to be better and better.

Who is behind these improvements? How much is top management open to new ideas coming from employees and not only senior executives?
I really believe that best ideas come from persons who work close with clients, processes. Persons by themselves can find best ideas to develop own working environment, no matter the questions are health and safety or efficient improvements or improvements of business processes – definitely Top management is open to all kind of improvements and new ideas.

So, we can say that the spirit of freedom and democracy prevail in Specta at all levels?
I hope that my management style supports spirit of freedom and democracy. For me freedom and democracy also mean that we have common processes and rules which all of us follow. I believe when all of us do our best we will reach good results and it supports philosophy of team work and allows us to work better together.
I have never thought that titles are important – the most important is challenging work. That motivates best. But I have realized that moving ahead you learn, without mistakes you will never learn. I have downgrade myself ones or twice, but every time I have done it because I wanted to develop my personal competence – and sometimes you just need to start from the beginning.

Every large company has its atmosphere and character. How would you describe Specta’s special “aura”?
Specta is a special company – I would say that our “soul” means – hard working, entrepreneur approach for business. We have good strong team which wants to build Specta better every day.

You have to work a lot. And, naturally, the days vary. What would you describe as a perfect working day? How should it go so that you would feel a happy person who managed everything?
Perfect working day means for me that we have managed to reach our targets, clients are happy with our deliveries and quality, and the most important we, Specta’s employees, have worked together for developing our company to better than before.

You have to work a lot. And, naturally, the days vary. What would you describe as a perfect working day? How should it go so that you would feel a happy person who managed everything?
Perfect working day means for me that we have managed to reach our targets, clients are happy with our deliveries and quality, and the most important we, Specta’s employees, have worked together for developing our company to better than before.

And what would it be like when you are with your loved ones?
Time with my family in our summer cottage, good food, free time just time to relax…

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