In Russia, Valio and the Finnish origin of the brand stand for high quality and clean products. Based in St Petersburg, Reetta Tikanmäki works every day to promote the exports of Finnish Valio products and burnishes the image of the country and Valio for international markets.
International work through the Trainee program
Reetta Tikanmäki took her first steps towards Valio’s St Petersburg unit through the Trainee program. “In autumn 2010, Valio arranged an application process for their in-house international Trainee program. There were positions available in Russia and Sweden. I was one of three selected, and got a position in the marketing department in St Petersburg,” Ms Tikanmäki says.
That was how she started her ongoing excursion to Russia. Ms Tikanmäki is currently Brand Manager for Valio Butter and Spreads. In Russia, the job description of a Brand Manager is slightly different than in Finland. The common factor in all brands positioned for export is that the projects require more resources than an ordinary product launch. “I perform market surveys, product development, legislative surveys, profitability calculations, conceptualisation, package design and so on,” Ms Tikanmäki explains. Butter is exported to Russia in large volumes, and working with two butter brands is very rewarding.
"In Russia, we stress the Finnish origin of the Valio brand and products."
Finnish origin is appreciated in Russia
“In Russia, we stress the Finnish origin of the Valio brand and products. Finnish products are appreciated here for their high quality and cleanness. Export products are not necessarily so highly regarded in all markets,” Ms Tikanmäki says. The Valio logo serves as a symbol of quality in Russia. Valio butter, which is Ms Tikanmäki’s responsibility, was the first product Valio exported, in the early 20th century. So she’s working with a highly valued export brand.
In terms of international career opportunities, Valio is an important company by Finnish standards. “More than one third of Valio’s net sales stem from international operations, so the international aspect is involved in the work of many Valio employees. Co-operation with the subsidiaries has not been concentrated to an international unit; instead, many people contribute to international operations in addition to their work in Finland. Subsidiaries have mainly local staff, but there are continuously a few people posted abroad.”
Developing at work is rewarding and motivating
Every job should have something that motivates advancement and development. For Ms Tikanmäki, the motivational factors are often related to solving problems – and especially noticing that you can do something on your own which previously required the help of your colleagues. At that point, the idea of learning at work becomes concrete and proven.
Moving to St Petersburg was a big step into the unknown for Ms Tikanmäki. “Previously I worked as an expert at Valio R&D in Finland.” The work comprised developing production processes and products. “In my role as an expert, I aimed to develop my skills in that position. When I wanted to head in a new direction and expand my expertise, Valio gave me the chance to do so. It was a great step forward and means learning something new every day,” Ms Tikanmäki says.
Valio is striving to be a workplace where everyone is able to develop themselves or influence their own job description. Ms Tikanmäki sees smaller scale development in her own role on a daily basis in terms of contacts. “It’s understandable that it’s easier to ask for help from a Finn sitting in the same room, and it’s easier to contact a familiar Finn in St Petersburg. I have also completed concrete development work by contributing to the launch process of a product between Finland and Russia,” Ms Tikanmäki says. When a job involves managing the launch activities in Russia, it is extremely important that the smooth flow of the process between the countries be continuously improved. It also affects the smooth flow of your own job.
“Taking responsibility is one of great aspects of life at Valio.”
Valio values also prevail in international units
You might easily think that what works in Finland does not necessarily apply elsewhere. Regarding the core values and ways of working, this does not however hold true. On-the-job learning and evolving as a working community are reflected in Valio’s work, regardless of the site or its location. “In my opinion the opportunity to develop and learn is important in units of all sizes, whether they are located in Finland or elsewhere, and there is no essential difference between the means applied. Joint training with the Finnish organisation helps us come up with common ways of working. In smaller international units, the job descriptions are probably more flexible and it may be easier to expand your area of expertise. Bigger units offer better opportunities for career development and the potential to switch to completely new positions. It depends largely on what you want and in which direction you aim to go.”
Taking responsibility is one of the great aspects of life at Valio. “Valio offers diverse, responsible jobs, which open up good opportunities for career development. And it does matter that Valio is a company whose products and owners I am glad to support with my contribution,” Ms Tikanmäki summarises her view on her employer.