December 21, 2017

10 Questions: Bruce Oreck

Bruce Oreck

Former US Ambassador to Finland 2009–2015, now e.g. executive in residence at Aalto University School of Business and a chair at F-Secure.

  1. What does a typical day in the life of Bruce Oreck look like?

There’s no typical day – everyday is a surprise and that’s how I like it. There are, of course, some routines, but it’s much more fun to walk through life on a tightrope – if everything is too safe, it gets boring. I like to do crazy stuff and learn new things that I haven’t done before.

  1. You’re known as an “avid fan of all things Finnish” – is there something in particular you love about this country?

There are many things, but one thing that’s particularly close to my heart is the sauna. I enjoy the sauna culture tremendously and I understand how much it belongs to the Finnish DNA. I also enjoy the closeness to nature and the Finnish straightforwardness. Whenever Finns do business, they’re dealing in an honest way – they don’t say one thing and then do another.

  1. What are the best tips for foreigners when they first enter a Finnish sauna?

To not enter with an expectation. Be willing to go on the big adventure and do the sauna as Finns would do it, and when you’re done, you’ll have a great experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

  1. What is your best memory from your time as the US Ambassador to Finland?

There are so many, but it really was the fact that as the ambassador you can ask to do anything: walk on the roof, climb on top of a building, go to people’s homes to have dinner… I would ask for crazy stuff and always get a yes and that was fun. For example, on Helsinki Cruising Nights I would go and ask people if I could talk to them or sit in their car. Had I walked up to them as a stranger, they would probably had said no, but since I was the ambassador, the answer was, ‘Yeah sure, can I have a picture?’

  1. Your dog, Deckard, has managed to make headlines as well. What does he think about Finland?

He likes it when it is cold and snowy; when there’s a lot of snow outside, it is hard to get him back in.

  1. What is the one thing you hope your students remember from your lectures at Aalto?

It’s that each one of these young and creative students has an opportunity to make an impressive impact on the world. For the most part, external things don’t limit us, but it’s what we think we can do – we tend to limit ourselves when we shouldn’t.

  1. You have expressed that Finland needs to be better at marketing itself. What is good marketing to you?

It’s good communications and understanding who the customer really is. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the cure for cancer or a new video game: the same thing always applies. It’s all about what the customer needs or wants, and then, to communicate to the noisy world why your products are the ones that fill that need or desire.

  1. What is your favourite place on earth?

I have a home in the middle of nowhere on the beach, which to me is what the summer cottage is to Finns. It’s where I get away from everybody, where it’s sunny and warm. Sunny and warm means it is not Finland, but I won’t tell you where it is.

  1. How would you describe yourself in five words?

Adventurous, outrageous, creative, forward-thinking and curious. In general, I don’t do very well with rules. Life is more complicated than a colouring book. Rules are to say you can only colour within the lines in the colouring book, and I am not interested in living my life that way.

  1. You have an impressive CV, but is there still something you feel you have not accomplished?

There’s more I have not accomplished than there’s time left on earth for me. I have notebooks filled with a zillion ideas that I want to experiment with, build and try. For example, when it comes to buildings that are designed to last and that have a lower energy footprint, I have many ideas. It’s not about doing something that’s already been done, but to look at what others have created and then connect the dots to get a better product.

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