Mari Tenhunen, Timegate Instruments Oy
"A job in a technology company can be anything but maths, physics and chemistry. It's often people-oriented, and these days interpersonal skills are really important".
What have you studied and how did you choose this option?
I studied chemical engineering at Otaniemi, then TKK. My favourite subjects at school were chemistry and photography. I thought I would either become a chemist or an architect. I ended up at TKK after talking to a neighbour's son, a couple of years older than me, who was finishing his studies at TKK in the chemistry department. I borrowed a study guide from him, and the courses seemed interesting.
How did you become CEO of Timegate Instruments Ltd?
Before my current entrepreneurial career, I worked at VTT as a senior researcher, project manager and team leader. Timegate was born as a spin-off company as a result of a commercialisation project between VTT and the University of Oulu. That commercialisation project needed a leader and I was asked to take on this role. We manufacture optical measuring instruments for the process industry that can see the chemical composition of a material in real time.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing is the variety and diversity of the work. As a start-up entrepreneur, you never know in the morning what the day will bring. You often get to be out of your comfort zone. Through this job I have learned a lot of new things and met a huge number of new people, also internationally.
What have been the highlights and most important lessons of your career?
Being an entrepreneur and taking responsibility for the progress of a business brings a special kind of depth to the work. Any new milestone that a company reaches, such as the completion of a new product, new customers, or even the completion of a financing round, feels particularly special. One of the most important lessons is that you never graduate in this job. There is always a rather respectable pile of books on my nightstand that I would like to study, and that pile never gets any smaller.
What are your expectations for the future?
At the moment, professionally, I live very much by the needs of the company and I try to update my skills according to what the current growth situation of the company requires. Our goal is to be internationally renowned and a force to be reckoned with in our field within five years.
For whom is this a suitable career option?
A young tech start-up leader needs to see the opportunities and be bold enough to seize them. That's why I see the need for optimism, whatever the situation. In a busy world, you also have to learn to prioritise, otherwise you get overwhelmed by the amount of work. You also need perseverance and persistence.
What greetings would you like to send to a young person considering a career?
A job in a technology company can be anything but maths, physics and chemistry. It's often people-oriented, and these days interpersonal skills are really important. A basic technical education gives you a good foundation, after which you can focus on things that you feel are relevant to you. Have confidence in your skills and what you do. Often girls are more critical than boys about their own skills.