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A Latino in Finland: My Cultural Journey

One question comes up every time I meet someone new in my current home country, Finland. Almost everyone asks, “Why are you here?”. I normally look the person in the eye and smile, asking, “do you want the short story or the long story?” Then, I often say without waiting for an answer, “Never mind, there is no short story.”
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Why I moved to Finland

At the end of the telecommunications bubble era (around year 2000) I was an entrepreneur with a small IT company that serviced middle and small companies in Panama City. I started to experience the slowdown of the economy and had other dreams for higher stakes in what I wanted to achieve for humanity and myself. That led me to the decision of selling my company and taking a learning and development journey. This started with the possibility of doing an internship in a very far away country with Ericsson. Later on, I intended to try to find more opportunities countries closer to home.

The work sounded very interesting. I would be working with the latest software developing tools with new developing paradigms to produce equipment for the newly standardized 3G networks. After a bit of googling I quickly learnt about Ericsson and Finland and both sounded like fascinating places to start accomplishing my goals.

Even if it sounds very straightforward to move from a developing country to a developed country, it was not. There are many things that are done very differently. From the personal side, I struggled with many things, all of them providing some learning and experience. For example, when I tried to open a bank account, the bank clerk was totally unaccustomed to see Venezuelan passports, so she claimed that it was fake and didn’t allow me to open the bank account. Other banks asked me for payments, bills or any proof of financial transactions in Finland that I didn’t possess at that time. Finally the question was solved in another branch of the same bank, with a younger and more understanding clerk, for me a sign of the times to come to Finland, which has opened much better and welcoming foreign people like me since then.

Smaller things are mainly funny.  For example, some of my colleagues wearing shorts and T-shirts were puzzled when they saw me with a jacket in the middle of July. But, to me it was quite cold! Furthermore I wasn’t used to weighing my own vegetables in the supermarket. In Panama, someone does that for you. That, and other things I experienced showed how the honesty of people is expected and assumed, which truly amazed me about Finnish society.

From the professional side, I also faced new ways of working, ways of communication and information flowing, vocabulary and acronyms never heard before, and totally different relationship with the rest of the colleagues in contrast with  I was used too. The first thing that impress me about Ericsson was how my manager serviced me instead of being the opposite. I understood very quickly that my manager role  was in great extend to be a tool to make my job efficient, removing all the difficulties and caring for my development as a valuable asset of the company. This was something I wasn’t used at all. The role models I have seen were acted more like watchdogs that were more worry of their own prestige than their employees and even the final means of their companies. In Ericsson I experienced to be proud of the values that the company stands for and that we try to live for day by day and see my colleagues and managers follow the same principles. I was allowed to use part of my working time for development and increase my value for the company, eventually leading to a change of position that ended in what is my today’s dream made true, being a researcher. I wanted to make a difference for the world and I believe I’m now in the position to achieve it. I continue with my personal development in day by day bases and I have been immensely lucky to have met incredible colleagues with world class competence, super interesting ideas and personalities and sharing a vision for a better world through our work.

Today when I look back after more than 15 years in the company and in Finland, I dare very much the journey that brought me to today. I have been part of the story by helping 3G , 4G and even 5G development. I’m looking to the verge of the new connected world with our team current research work for IoT and machine intelligence. All this things excite me and motivate me to continue working further in all the interesting things that we do to improve our societies.

Finally, maybe there is a short answer to the initial question that people does frequently makes me, –  Why are you here?

I’m here thanks to Ericsson.

Learn more about the rich cultural diversity at Ericsson in the Cultural Journeys E-Book, which was released as part of Global Diversity Awareness Month in October 2017.

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