My career: From start to Finnish
Troy Woodson, US
When Troy moved here from the US, he wanted to make a big contribution to the society. He started as a freelance English language teacher in 2010, then pivoted to sales consultancy in 2016 with his own company to meet the growing demand for international sales expertise in Finland. He has seen Helsinki change a lot during this time and become much more multicultural. “Lots of foreign tongues and shades of melanin,” as he puts it.
1. What I find surprising about working in Finland is… actually, at this point nothing surprises me about working here as I’ve been here for almost nine years. It’s no longer a mysterious place. It’s just home. In the beginning, I would talk about the harsh winters and darkness or the seriousness of the people during the winter months. What I’ve found is that neither the weather nor Finnish characteristics are foreign any longer. I no longer see Finland through an American lens. When I filtered Finnish culture through my own cultural bias, I was handicapped by my point of view and unable to see the opportunities that were here. I’ve adapted to how life is here, and I like it. Perhaps the surprise is that there are no surprises here for me anymore because in the beginning I would never have imagined the opportunities that have come my way. Life is fairly predictable and routine – just the way I like it. It is in sharp contrast to the world I left behind in the States (NYC).
2. My favourite thing about Finland is… the friendships I’ve made. My Finnish friends are very authentic in that I can count on their word (of course I’ve met some real jerks as well!). Most are part of the startup scene and have looked out for my best interest as I do theirs. They have an international perspective and are more open to collaborating and working with foreigners than established Finnish companies. The resistance that a foreigner often confronts when working with established Finnish companies is the language and cultural gap, but, with Finnish startups looking to scale beyond Finnish shores, talented foreigners with drive are embraced for the value they bring to the table.
3. The piece of advice I would give to someone contemplating coming to work in Finland is… be open to change. BIG CHANGE. This is not an easy place in the beginning, especially if you’re not from the Nordics or Scandinavia. It’s important to understand before coming how you will integrate into the society. How will you support yourself and your family?
4. The best way to enjoy the weekend after a working week is… this is a good place to kick back during the weekends because there is plenty to do. There is a growing food culture here with lots of restaurants and street food options. While I prefer hanging out at a cool restaurant having what my friends and I think are deep conversations, the nature here is astounding to behold. This is a great place for hiking, camping and bike riding, and I encourage everyone to enjoy the nature here. Last summer, I biked from Helsinki to Tammisaari and it was amazing and extremely difficult. I tested the limits of my endurance and am grateful for the experience.
5. What is good to know when doing business with Finnish companies is… building trust will take a long time. I’ve found that having a good product or service is not always good enough if you’re an outsider. They need to trust you. Be prepared to prove yourself. I’m still proving myself everyday…
We are getting to know what people born abroad think about working life in Finland.
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