She who dares, wins.
Change is constant and for the enterprising, it means a slew of opportunities that otherwise would not have existed before. The key, says Wärtsilian Eleonor Hedström, is to never give up. Read how this philosophy has helped her develop new business innovation areas for the company.
Eleonor Hedström, or Elli as she is affectionately known, is from Vaasa, Finland and has been working at Wärtsilä for the past 14 years. In her current role as Senior Manager, New Business Portfolio, she helps drive new business innovation for Wärtsilä Energy Business. “My role is to find ‘the next big thing’,” she says enthusiastically.
As someone responsible for strategising new business innovation areas and activities, Eleonor uses her extensive experience for innovation within Wärtsilä. For 10 years, she has been working to build on the company’s innovation initiatives, including establishing entrepreneur programmes, implementing new idea handling tools, and meeting partner and benchmark companies. While innovation is not a new field, Eleonor says the length and breadth of learning, and real-world tasks she has been able to take on, have made the experience unlike any other. Besides, when evaluating experiences with benchmark companies, she has found out that Wärtsilä – and hence her work – have truly been at the forefront of exploring new processes and tools.
“Sometimes, in innovation, professionals focus on one specific area and become experts in that field and end up moving from one company to another, doing the same thing. At Wärtsilä, I have had the opportunity to see and try out various tools, processes and way of workings, all in one place,” she says. “It has been an amazing learning journey and I have gained deep and wide-ranging knowledge in innovation.”
Enabling the Power-to-X journey
This, says Eleonor, was most evident when looking at Wärtsilä’s ‘Power-to-X journey’ where the company is exploring innovations around energy solutions of the future. A challenge that enabled her to unleash her skills and help Wärtsilä unlock new avenues for growth.
“When you produce energy, sometimes there is an excess, and we can either store this excess energy or make use of it,” she explains. “Through the Power-to-X process, we can make use of this energy and turn it into gas or synthetic fuel. This means that electricity will become raw material for the future.”
Eleonor was part of the team that was tasked with exploring innovations in this field. They used employee interviews, university collaboration and initiatives, like the SparkUp challenge for start-ups, to find viable Power-to-X technologies that were mature enough to develop. This was followed through by consultations between external experts and Wärtsilä’s own experts to gain a greater understanding of the technology’s ramifications.
“First it seemed that the technology wasn’t ready. But we worked tirelessly and did feasibility studies to identify partners with the most promising innovations that made the greatest financial sense. Finally, we proved that the technology is indeed mature enough, and provided seed funding to our selected partner Soletair Power Oy. Now, after all the hard work, Wärtsilä has made the decision to establish its own Power-to-X business,” she says. “My mission is complete, and this is now a very real and very promising new business possibility for Wärtsilä. Of course, that only means that I must move on to my next challenge and find the next big thing.”
Get up, dress up, show up
So, what is the secret to Eleonor’s remarkable success? In her own words, she says it is to never give up, no matter the circumstances.
“There have been many changes in Wärtsilä, but the company has been able to transform and meet the change with innovation. I have learned that even if something ends, it is also the beginning of something new. I live by the philosophy that no matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up and never ever give up.”
With this philosophy backing her, Eleonor did not feel nervous at all when getting on the stage in front of nearly 500 people at Wärtsilä’s internal EnergyUp event. “Handing out awards to our employees at EnergyUp is another memory that I’ll cherish,” she recalls. “And the list of most memorable work days wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the launch of the Committed community, a collaboration that we initiated together with St1, Tieto, Fortum and Demos Helsinki at Slush 2018.”
Eleonor also credits her success to being part of various initiatives in the company while working with top experts who have helped broaden her knowledge and understanding of Wärtsilä. To her, it is something that has given her a very specialised set of skills and made her an innovator in the truest sense of the word.
A true-blue innovator
“Today I have a unique set of competencies, have developed effective collaborations with our people, and have a general understanding of our offering combined with a very broad innovation toolbox,” she explains. “In the field of innovation, where professionals usually come and go, this has given me a great advantage and I dare to say that I have not met anyone similar to myself in any of the other companies that I have interacted with."
Driven by such talents, as well as an enabling environment where professionals are given freedom to push the envelope, Eleonor feels that Wärtsilä is poised to meet the challenges of the future head-on. Over the next few years, she feels that Wärtsilä’s Marine and Energy Businesses will continue to innovate and produce path-breaking trends in their respective industries, especially in the field of renewable energy innovation.
“Both our businesses, Energy and Marine, are united by shared projects, such as future fuels,” she says. “I cannot wait to take part in this exciting energy journey and develop new innovations that will help make this world a better place for future generations.”
When she is not busy taking on her next big innovation challenge, Eleonor loves spending time with her family in the Finnish countryside, where she studies and reads up on new fields of interest.