As VEO made the decision to merge its diesel, hydropower and thermal power units into one, Jari Vataja was appointed as Vice President of the new Power Generation segment. Jari is a multi-skilled and experienced electrical engineer and process developer with an MBA degree in the energy business. Responsible for both sales and profit of VEO’s power generation segment, Jari almost feels like he is running his own business. For Jari, the decision to start working for VEO was the result of many pieces falling into place. After a long career at Wärtsilä Services and Marine Solutions, plus 2 years at Logset Oy, Jari is now able to combine his vast experience in a large-scale organisation and power generation with his life-long interest in on-shore power plants, and hydropower in particular.
Jari has worked most of his career for one employer, Wärtsilä, but his path to this point has been far from dull and traditional: Despite his education in electrical engineering, Jari started out as a mechanical engineer. He has worked as a service engineer, repaired engines and installed propellers. Having the education of an electrical engineer but mastering also mechanical engineering has proven to be an unbeatable advantage in many tasks, such as in fault detection, commissioning, customer relations, project management and automation system design. His years in the marine business, many of them spent in Asia, have given Jari valuable experience and some useful lessons: “I learned that accountability for business results and sharing your know-how with your co-workers should be reflected in all business”, he says and continues: “Now I also appreciate our fluent traffic and the fact that for most people in Vaasa it only takes a few minutes to get home from work.”
From off-shore to on-shore
After the family’s return to Finland in 2003, Jari has worked at Wärtsilä as an expert and developer in sales, project management, maintenance and customer service. He has also spent a couple of years in after-sales in the forest industry. Eventually, the long time in the off-shore and marine business made Jari’s interests shift towards the on-shore power business. “The thought that I wanted to be part of making a bigger difference globally started to crystallize, and all signs pointed toward the energy business. That’s also one of the reasons I did an Energy Business MBA on the side of my work in 2014–2017; I felt that my qualifications weren’t sufficient enough”.
VEO at heart and mind
But where does VEO come into the picture? Jari got to know a couple of VEO employees during his Energy MBA studies, and said yes to a meeting – just out of curiosity – when he was contacted from VEO. Even though he was not looking for a new job, he soon understood that VEO could be the missing link he had been waiting for. “There was the connection to the energy field, together with energy efficient solutions and hydropower, which is an important business segment for VEO”, says Jari. Hydropower is close to Jari’s heart, not only because of his former work but also because of his childhood. “They built a hydropower plant near my family’s farm and led the river across our lands. As a boy, I used to sneak into the power plant to see how it worked.” Even Jari’s family name Vataja in Finnish bears the meaning ‘the place where the river is the broadest’. And If you ask about his spare time interests, yes, he loves to go fishing, too.
Happy and motivated employees lead to success
Another reason why Jari chose to come to VEO is that he now has the chance to lead the unit in his own way and influence its processes. “VEO has some growing pains because of its rapid growth but the opportunities overweigh them manifold”, says Jari. According to him, the core of VEO is made of talented engineers and individuals, who work as a team, are proud of their know-how and excited about their work. Jari sees that it is his duty to ensure that the employees are happy and thrive in their work. All guidelines must be clear and concern everyone equally, but at the same time, the company must have competitive strength. Jari admits that he already has some ideas on how to ensure that: “Energy storing, key account models and expanded after-sales services are some of the questions that we should look into and discuss.”
In the future, Jari believes that VEO will be an even bigger player with a major increase in turnover and operations in new segments and countries. The most important challenge will be the one that the whole energy industry shares – how to recruit and keep enough skilled electricity and automation engineers. That is where Jari’s, as well as other segment directors’ managing skills play a significant role. “For me, getting positive feedback from the employees and accomplishing things are the best possible rewards for my work. Being able to bring the whole Vaasa region forward as a part of the global energy business and green energy solutions also comes as a nice bonus.”