Today, Finland’s ICT industry is going through the worst of times and the best of times.
The situation is very tough as almost 20,000 ICT jobs have been lost after Nokia fell from its once dominating global market leader position in the mobile handset business. Those of us who worked for Nokia witnessed an incredible rise to a globally dominant market position, owning that peak position for over 10 years and then, a fast and painful collapse. Traditionally, there has been an undersupply of ICT workers in Finland but now the situation is quite different.
On the other hand, due to the current global situation, a new opportunity is clearly emerging; an opportunity to build a more robust structure to the ICT industry by enhancing and developing the already existing talent base and ecosystem.
Helping foreign ICT companies to use this situation to their advantage would create an important win-win for both Finland and the foreign companies. What we need to acknowledge, however, is that a new situation calls for new remedies.
FINLAND needs to recognise its sweet spot in the international ICT market place. In terms of salaries Finland is a lot more cost-efficient than for example Germany or the United States. We excel especially in high value-add areas where end-to-end solutions are also implemented.
The challenge comes from finding the right market channels to help foreign companies discover the opportunities Finland has to offer. There is a large demand for ICT professionals in Europe and in places like Silicon Valley, so the market potential certainly exists. The question is how do we make our potential known to the world?
The answer lies in people. Social networks have gained a foothold in recruiting but they also bring along an element of superficiality. Can we really trust a mere CV on a webpage? Perhaps, while the world becomes seemingly more transparent, in fact, strong personal connections increase in importance.
One working model utilising the power of personal connections is the KAATO community. KAATO is a strong network of over 250 senior ICT professionals working in Finland and abroad, who all use their personal networks to solve the market channel problem.
During the Nokia era, there were a huge number of personal relationships built, which still can be utilised today to help open doors to international companies. That’s what KAATO is all about. The work often happens in informal circumstances. A good example case is a lunch discussion in the UK that resulted in a software company setting up two teams in Finland only three months later. They were simply amazed about the available talent in Finland stating that it would have been impossible for them to hire as qualified people in London.
The task at hand is not easy. Today, Nokia is rebuilding itself and has been hiring, but the numbers are far from the peak years. On the other hand, big names like Intel, Samsung, Google and Nvidia have set up operations in Finland, and last spring in a period of couple of weeks, Facebook acquired two Finnish startups.
These cases make it is easy to believe in Finnish sisu. When the going gets tough, we Finns get going. It’s time to look ahead.
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