10 Questions: André Noël Chaker
- What does a typical day in the life of André Noël Chaker look like?
As an entrepreneur every single day is different, so I don’t really have a typical day. In general, I am busy with customer meetings and different kind of events. I do a lot of public speaking – last year I participated in 115 different events, of which 100 were around Finland. Additionally, I am involved in many different technology projects and companies, some of which I am a board member for, and this keeps me occupied.
- How did your story with Finland begin?
With a phone call. Not that regular call from a Finnish girl who was eagerly wanting me to visit her, but from a Finnish scientist offering me an interesting job opportunity. It was back in 1992, when I was a young attorney in Montréal who planned to build a career on Wall Street. Eventually, I moved to the city of Jyväskylä and started working in a global scientific organisation.
- You are known in Finland as a productive lawyer, linguist, musician, author and speaker, as well as university lecturer and entrepreneur. Is there something you feel you have not accomplished as yet?
I feel like I am merely getting started! The latest project I am working with is in TV and film concerning presenting Finland to the world. One of my favourite topics in Finland is Santa, yet I think that globally people still haven’t heard the story of the true Finnish Father Christmas.
Moreover, I have a mission to help Finns to become great speakers. There is a myth, which is partly true, that Finns are not the greatest performers. The way I see it there is a huge potential for Finns to be a lot more influential globally speaking. I am writing another book following The Finnish Miracle book called Puhu tai Kuole, which will be published in early 2019. It is about public speaking and how that can be used as a tool for influencing others and how to become an effective leader.
- What is the one thing you hope your students remember from your lectures at the University of Jyväskylä?
The desire for continuous learning is the message I hope I’ve managed to deliver. My wish is that the students share my thirst for knowledge.
- What do you show your friends and family when they come visit you in Finland?
It really depends on who they are and what their fields of interests are. My next visitor is my good friend and business partner from the UK, who is coming together with the whole family. For them we chose to stay at our Villa Stenberg in Lohja. It is perfect for a family vacation. It is a lovely place that we renovated recently. Its nature trails, own lake and little mountain constitute a fine blend of Finnish nature. For other guests, we would consider a tour of Finnish cities. There is so much on offer in Finland!
- How do you relax?
I love to do different kinds of sports every day, even for as little as 30 minutes. This daily habit I only skip with a heavy heart. It doesn’t really matter whether I ride a bike, run, swim or do yoga. I just enjoy the nature and want to be in good shape. Besides that, many of my best projects are relaxing. They don’t feel like work. Especially, when they succeed.
- You have written five books, including The Finnish Miracle. What has living in Finland taught you?
Well, so many things. In fact, The Finnish Miracle is all about that. Through hundreds of examples in the book, I describe how living in Finland is different than in North America. The rest of the world could learn a lot from Finland and the other Nordic countries when it comes to business life. I’ve learned that a large number of Finnish companies plan and operate their business in a sustainable way. I argue that Finnish companies’ success is based on sustainable values such as transparency, competence, trust and strategic planning.
- What was your dream job when you were young?
At very young age, I wanted to become a lawyer, because I wanted to change the world. In North America, the predominant culture works in a way that being a lawyer holds a significant advantage. It opens many doors, as a lawyer can be, for example, a politician, CEO or a journalist who can all have an important impact on society. Now after living in Finland over 25 years, I still want to make a difference. I’ve been participating in hundreds of Finnish-speaking events as a keynote speaker and moderator. This, regardless of the fact the Finnish is my fifth language. Even the strangest dreams can come true.
- How would you describe your relationship with Finnish sauna?
It is a very intimate one. I have a wood sauna in my home in Espoo and we have a very luxurious sauna at Villa Stenberg, our villa in Lohja. In addition, I enjoy ice-swimming as much as I do sauna itself. I’ve hosted the Polar Bear Pitching event in Oulu twice. It is a startup pitching competition where entrepreneurs pitch from the ice hole. I never miss the chance to go in as well.
In general, sauna is not only good for your health, but I see it as an equaliser for Finnish society. When people are sitting naked on the benches, one’s title or rank doesn’t matter. Everyone can speak equally or just be quiet as they please. It is a very special institution.
- What are the biggest differences between Canucks and Finns?
First of all, I think we share a lot in common. The nature and cold climate, great education systems and ice hockey, of course. The biggest difference is that Finns appreciate silence more. What I mean is that the myth about all Finns being silent is not true, but it is true that Finns value silence more than many others. Finland, as a more silent country, is driven to success since people are more focused on listening and learning. There is nothing bad about speaking up and having a lot of team-oriented activities, but I think that in Canada and especially in the US they push it sometimes too far.
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