Hi Tiina, where are you based and how long have you been there?
I am based in Tallinn, developing new business with Norwegian companies in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. This means daily communication and often travels between Norway and the Baltics. I have worked for Norway for twelve years.
What made you to choose Norway?
My relationship with Norway goes back in time to when I was seventeen. I had special interest in languages, geography, history. Anyhow, a stipendium for a school year in Norway basically just fell out of the sky. It was especially awesome since the iron curtain and other walls had just fallen and it was a big adventure for me. I learned to speak Norwegian, got acquainted with Norwegian culture and have had many Norwegian friends since.
What is it like to work with Norwegians and what challenges have you had?
Norwegians are an outdoor and sport nation. They have energy, a sparkle in their eyes and like a little laugh. Their society is value-based: such as equality is important – and not only in words, but in people’s behaviour. Business wise, Norwegians like people who take responsibility and give them a lot of freedom and trust.
Challenges have been related to some cultural differences – though small, differences exist. For example, in education system there is a focus on lot of information and studying things by heart in our part of the world (Estonia), whilst in Scandinavian countries it is on pro-activity and discussing around few relevant subjects. Thus, ways to communicate differ. Instead writing a long informative email, it is usually much better idea to take a short talk with a Norwegian instead.
Was it easy to integrate in your current environment?
Being one of the very few foreigners, one of the youngest, as well as a female person holding my type of position – I have personally experienced a fantastic attitude. But there are many prejudices and myths about the Baltics, as the general awareness about the region is still very low in Norway. I could possibly not do my work without the knowledge of Norwegian language and culture.
How do you make your living and what has been your best experience?
I work as Director of Innovation Norway in the Baltic States. Innovation Norway is a state owned company helping Norwegian businesses to grow – with funding and competence. The work with Norwegian companies entering to the Baltic markets gives me incredible insights to so many different business areas. It also opens the door to fantastic networks on both sides – company managers and owners, industry organisations, high level officials. Among the best experiences is definitely also seeing where some developments have grown to.
Have you had any setbacks and how do you cope?
Thinking hard to recall setbacks – I am a positive person and this is possibly how my brain copes – simply forgetting. At same time there sure have been setbacks, believe they make room for new and better developments.
What motivates you in life generally?
Inspiring people and places. Good words and deeds. Seeing world becoming a better place.
What’s your recipe for success and advice for others?
Be positive and innovative. Surround yourself with excellent people and have good networks. Knowledge of foreign languages and culture gives strong advantage.
Do you still have a connection with Estonia?
I work for Norway but indirectly this creates value for Estonia too – My work brings access to new clients, markets, capital, competence, technologies for Estonian businesses. I’d also like to see and hope that my work contributes to a growth of Nordic values in Estonian society.
Is there anything special you miss about Estonia when you are away?
I love to live in Estonia – the country and nature exude special energy. I have fantastic friends and family here. If I was living elsewhere, I would possibly also miss trust of the small society and daily efficiency – as an Estonian resident, I can do all dealings online. An attractive and flexible business environment. Indeed, I think that it is one of the best combinations in the world to live in Estonia and work with Nordic countries at the same time.
What are your future plans?
My mission is to build closer connections between Nordic and Baltic countries – there is simply so much win-wins. Growing green business (good for business + good for environment) between Norway and the Baltics is one of my focuses in coming years. Sustainable and responsible business is increasingly important – never exited a business conference with as good feeling as when Nordic companies presented their best CSR (corporate social responsibility) cases – believe, this is how the business will be in the future.
Front page photo: Maiken Staak/Anne & Stiil
Second photo: Christophe