Connecting Humanity

Month: January 2021

Susanne: A Nokia story turned into a life story

Back in 1994, when I was 23 and applied for a position at Nokia Telecommunications’ project office in Frankfurt, maybe I should have taken it as a sign of fate already that a distant friend, whom I had met as a teenager while camping in Portugal happened to work for this company. We hadn’t been in touch much, but when Nokia offered me the position, I remembered that he worked in telco and contacted him. I had another promising application going elsewhere and wanted his input. He encouraged me to take the job in Frankfurt, and I did. I started as a team assistant and later moved to the head office in Düsseldorf as Project Management Assistant for E-Plus, one of the biggest network implementation projects Nokia had going at the time. The company was growing significantly, and fast.

I hadn’t studied engineering but over the years learned a lot about the technology and responsibilities in project management. I loved the industry and felt that I was growing, too.

After four years, I began playing with the thought of going overseas. I had been to Australia before, on a holiday, and (unsurprisingly) loved it… so, early in 1998, I sent an open application to Nokia’s Sydney office. The reply: “We don’t have anything right now, but we’ll keep your details on file.” I wasn’t in a hurry and kept on with my busy life.

Skyline Nokia Optus
Skyline Optus Nokia

After four months, I got the phone call: “We have an opening in Sydney in the Optus project team. You have been in one of Nokia’s fastest GSM projects. You know the company workings. We’d like to interview you.”

Several phone calls and a hurried visa application later, I resigned from Nokia Germany and moved to North Sydney in September 1998, to start a new chapter on a two-year contract as National Project Coordinator.

After 10 months in the job, I got a bit homesick; I liked my work but felt lonely in my personal life. I put in my resignation letter and booked a flight to go back to Germany. My boss was great, he regretted that I wanted to leave, but he understood.

Susanne in Sydney 2000 – Olympic flame

In mid-July, three weeks before I was due to leave Australia, Optus and Nokia organised a party to celebrate the end-of-financial-year achievements. And this… was the night I fell in love with a deployment engineer at Optus who is now my husband of 18 years. When a few days after the party I went to talk to my boss (at the risk of him thinking that I am a complete nutter), I only got to: “I’ve met someone”. He jumped in straight away, saying: “And now you want to stay? Awesome!” I ended up working at Nokia Sydney for another two years.

So much more has happened since then; my husband and I have two daughters and we now live in Brisbane, in Queensland, the Sunshine State. I no longer work in telco but am running my own business. There are so many things that influence a person’s life path – and I am convinced that Nokia has been a key player in mine.

meeting notes sketch

Maarit: Mission possible – a small Nokia story

This story is going to be a slightly sweet. A little story. The story of an ordinary worker who decided to look through the good lenses. Connecting People. A mission that taught me what the inside of a company means. I learnt it by sketching on the grid paper.

The mission sums up the company’s business idea. That is the reason for company’s existence. Role in society. The foundation on which the activity is built. This is how the mission is described in the textbooks. How many company missions live and breathe in the actual operations of everyday life? The analytical definition often overlooks the emotion needed to accomplish the basic tasks. A feeling that makes the amygdala tickle. I cannot say if Connecting People ever achieved official mission status. For me, however, it was.

Maarit Lappalainen
Maarit Lappalainen

I sit with a consultant psychologist in a conference room planning coaching process for a group of Nokia people around the world. It was around the year 1998. As the conversation meanders, I draw a globe on the corner of a piece of paper, surrounded by a ring of smiling stick-man figures holding hands. The visual implementation is not attractive, and it is a bit childish too, but the meaning of Nokia’s basic mission opened to me. I named the sketch: Sea of ​​people. I think it was printed on the trainers’ t-shirts too.

The human was at the heart of Nokia, as the Connecting People mission says. Both the end-user on the streets and the company’s employees could identify with it. The mission was close to people and it was active. It was concrete enough and suitably open to new possibilities.

Connecting People served different business areas from phones to networks. I will call you. You call me. The brand was strong, visible, and coveted. With the help of the maps’ service, people found each other. Music connected worldwide. Games were played with friends. Photos were taken and shared. The global factory and logistics giant pumped products seamlessly in the integrated chain. Workers built the cutting edge of technologies regardless of skin colour. The teams were close. Family acquaintances were born, and kids were also born to Nokia couples. Beyond Nokia Facebook group instantly grew to a network of nearly 30,000 people. Examples of Connecting People could be listed endlessly.

To myself, Connecting People has meant hundreds of encounters in an international network. Living together in chaos during wild growth and sharing frustrations on a downhill slope. Sometimes the bad sides of life were shown. Fatigue. The stomachs were often laughed at in a curl. Pride was felt. We learned together. We combined tremendous ideas into a concrete product, services, or industry 4.0 approach. In my strategy work, bringing people together to build on common goals sums up for me Nokia mission. Connecting People opened the importance of process work when we described the activities between different parts of the organization. In product management and customization development, I worked at a node. We combined product development, production, purchasing, design, sales, and marketing, and, above all, customer wishes. Further, I interpret my role as a developer as a bridge builder in the spirit of the Connecting People mission.

Connecting People is all this and much more. The mission reached the age of 25 couple of years ago. We will remember longer. I am grateful to respect the colleagues with whom I was able to connect with people.

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