Katri Valtari | Director Learning Services Sulava since December 2020 | 58 years | Humble | Rebel | ICT adept | Pioneer | People person
Katri works and lives in Helsinki but was staying at her farmhouse in the countryside at the time of the interview. Her next-door neighbour, a local farmer of nearly 100 years old, refers to her as ‘The master of the house’. Katri is the talk of the town, as she is the only woman in the village who bought an old farmhouse, renovated it, and regularly comes over to enjoy the beautiful countryside. This characterizes her as a hard-working businesswoman who follows her instinct and has not always done what society normally expects of women.
The power of mathematics
From an early age, Katri has always been fascinated by mathematics. After graduating high school she decided to enroll in an ICT program, which was clearly not an obvious choice 40 years ago. “One of my male teachers told me I should better train to be a nurse,” she says. Not satisfied with this option, she talked to a woman for guidance, but here she received the same answer, ICT was not for women and she would be better off studying something else. Being frustrated with both of their recommendations, she decided to go against their suggestions and set her own course. “To this day I’m proud to have gone against the mainstream expectations and trust my instincts. I’m convinced that more emphasis should be put on mathematics from the first grade at school. By making it exciting from the age of 7, I truly believe more young women would progress towards scientific and technical professions.”
A day in the life of Katri
The best way to catch up with Katri would be to go to the Training Center in the Helsinki Office. She loves taking the time to talk to customers during coffee breaks, as these conversations give her inspiration on how to improve and progress in her field of expertise. Katri says: “It’s also the perfect opportunity to catch up with Sulava consultants and trainers. The challenges they face in their projects help and inspire me to further enhance and optimize our learning services. That is why I’m so fascinated by this industry, you learn something new every day! I would not dream of doing anything else, because every day brings creative challenges and new technologies and I just love turning something complicated into elements understandable for everyone.”
“Now that we are part of the Broad Horizon Group, we can focus on training internationally too. Our webstore for training courses has now been published in English and all Broad Horizon companies with their clients can also participate in our classes.
Personally, I believe that you learn so much when meeting new people and can achieve great things by working together. And the good thing is, this works both ways! I recently found out more about the welcome class that Cmotions organizes for new colleagues, and I would like to recommend this to Sulava customers too.”
Katri has not seen large amounts of women working in ICT throughout her career. At Oracle she was the first woman ever to be part of the Management Team. “I never felt as though I did not belong. There was one instance that was rather challenging during teambuilding days. After having skied together, it is a Finnish tradition to end the day with a sauna. For obvious reasons, I chose the steam sauna, much to the surprise of my male colleagues when I joined the conversation,“ she says smiling. It was also at Oracle that a female colleague came over to her to say how proud she was to have a woman represented in the Management team. “I never looked at it that way, but apparently, I was a role model for quite some women back then,” says Katri.
How do you stimulate other women in this industry?
“Twenty years ago I was very fortunate to have been approached to join the ‘Women Business Leaders Summit’. All fifty conference members were women from Finland, the Baltic Region, and the USA. It is there where I met Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, who was US Ambassador to Finland at the time and the female Finish President was also one of the members. Together we shared thoughts and ambitions on ways to promote peace in the world using business solutions. Our ideas were inspirational and served as examples for similar initiatives throughout the world,” says Katri.
“Did you ever notice that the shape of our country is that of a lady with a big skirt? In Finland nearly all ministers are women, the Prime Minister is a woman and in our country, it is customary to have women in leadership positions. We were the first country in Europe where women received the right to vote, this was in 1906,” says Katri proudly. She continues: “In Finland, we have a strong sense of entrepreneurship, 95% of all companies are privately owned with less than 5 employees. We see a lot of female entrepreneurs who are self-employed, they set a fine example for future generations. I’m very proud to say that at Sulava men and women have equal salaries, unfortunately, this is not the case for all of Finland. Still, too often, women get pushed into certain professions such as nursing where the salaries remain quite low.”
Who has had a strong influence on your professional choices?
Katri had unconventional role models when growing up, her father was a hard-working farmer who bred horses for a living, while her mother was a bank Director. “This was unheard of 50 years ago, all my friend’s mothers helped their husbands on the farm and ran the household, while my mother was a real businesswoman. Both my parents made it very clear that you can achieve great things in life by doing what you like and working hard,” says Katri.
What’s your favourite quote?
‘Can’t is buried in the backyard’. Katri explains: “This quote comes from Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, former US Ambassador in Finland, and it is a true story. She wrote ‘CAN’T’ on a piece of paper, placed it in a box, and buried the box in her backyard. It’s a very symbolic way of saying everything is possible in life and you should never give up on your dreams and ambitions even when the road can occasionally get very bumpy.”