Curious innovators also reinvent themselves again and again: Jarna Tanskanen’s path went from researcher to business manager

“I didn’t know anything about cheeses,” Jarna Tanskanen chuckles about the start of her Valio career. She initially joined Valio to do microbiological research on emmental cheese. Now, 17 years later, she knows her cheeses and has reinvented herself many times over. Jarna’s work as a researcher has shifted to that of a business manager, and today she is working on new creations with value-added powders.

Your educational background is in molecular microbiology. Today you are a business manager responsible for Valio’s innovative milk powders. How did this happen?

You tell me! I joined Valio in 2005 to research the formation of the holes in emmental cheese. The starting points were interesting, since I really didn’t know anything about cheese – except that I like Valio Mustaleima™ cheese. That got the ball rolling. Along the way, there have been a range of things that have happened as a researcher and a research manager. I have sat in a milk truck collecting samples, and I’ve seen Valio farms in person. For me, the experience cemented the reason why we do this work. Maintaining the vitality of the Finnish countryside is a very effective motivator every morning.

Alongside my research work, at some point I joined Valio’s innovation programme in which people working in different jobs take part in solving specific challenges. Real out-of-the-box thinking that I found really inspiring. I’m still on that road.

You discovered that you are an innovator and a business manager?

Yes! I realised that I wanted to be on the operational side of business, and I ultimately made my way into it half forcibly. Initially, I was doing all kinds of things, learning my way around the new playing field. Since 2015, I’ve worked with Valio’s value-added powders. I was involved with the launch of the first lactose-free protein powders in Finland.

Tell us a bit more about the value-added powders.

Value-added powders include, e.g., baby food powders, powders that offer better solutions nutritionally, or milk powders that our food company customers can use to create added value for the users of their end product, i.e. for consumers. We sell these powders around the world, including in China and other Asian countries. The Valio-patented lactose-free Valio Eila® milk powders are the most impressive innovation of our value-added powders. It is pleasing to be expanding the product range of these powders internationally!

What does your workday entail?

In my daily work I'm focusing on value-added milk powders and the development, conceptualisation, launch and sales support that goes along with it. As a business manager, I work as a sort of central hub for product development, materials sourcing, production and exports, for example. And that’s the best and most inspiring; I enjoy playing in many positions with many functions.

You have obviously enjoyed working at Valio.

Definitely. My years at Valio have given me the opportunity to revamp myself and try out new roles. Valio is us, the people, not the corporation. You can use your potential and find opportunities to make a difference. People also give more meaning to the work: the people you do it with and the people you do it for.

Jarna Tanskanen

  • Considers herself a people person
  • A Valio Coach, supporting individuals and teams in their work
  • Loves Valio Mustaleima™ emmental cheese and whipped cream (separately)
  • Nourishes her creativity through dance
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