Racing at full speed on the innovation lane
Jussi Heikkinen’s career at Wärtsilä started more than 40 years ago as a summer trainee within Wärtsilä shipyard and engine factory in his hometown Turku, Finland. Later, he joined Wärtsilä on permanent basis. “I still remember the day when everything started. It was just before Christmas in 1982, when I walked through the gates of Pommila in Turku to the small power plant department to start my engineering thesis,” Jussi reminisces.
Currently, as the Director of Growth and Development within Wärtsilä Energy Business, Jussi is heading market and project development as well as marketing activities in the Americas area. Before, he has worked in various positions from a salesman to a head of business unit and head of business development, and his career has taken him to many different countries: to Sweden where he stayed for five years, and now to the USA where he has worked two times, some six years in total. Jussi has been a member of the Energy Business’ management team in several strecthes, first time already in 1991.
Jussi has been truly enjoying the journey and decided to stay with Wärtsilä through the years despite all the other opportunities. “I’ve enjoyed the entrepreneurial spirit, the freedom to learn and test ideas as well as to make (small) mistakes. Wärtsilä encourages you to think and do what is right, on the spot, in order to act fast to beat the competition,” Jussi begins. ”In project business, it is important to maintain such entrepreneurial spirit and culture with competent people, to capture business and opportunities we want and believe in. Right now, we have a major opportunity – actually the biggest ever, so far – to capture leadership on the emerging but soon very large markets for global flexible power generation and energy storage. Capturing such global opportunities is not easy, it takes time and stretching from all of us. It requires that we stay focused and believe in the business and our goals. We need to keep aligning our actions and efforts, as well as work and support each other as a team. These are the keys to maintain and improve the special position we have built during the years in the energy industry,” Jussi continues.
This is what keeps Jussi motivated and has kept him with the company. Jussi feels that the company culture has supported his creativity and his optimistic never-give-up attitude by giving freedom, responsibility and tools in an interesting and fair package. During the last 10 years, Jussi has worked hard on learning to model power systems with renewables and his special emphasis has been to beat the gas turbines, as well as to replace other brands with Wärtsilä in the industry lead, as Jussi says it himself.
Other things that he appreciates in the culture of Wärtsilä are his great colleagues and good bosses, and their trustworthiness. It is something that Jussi practises with his own team too. One good – even funny – example happened in 1989 when Jussi was living in Vaasa. As the Head of Power Plant Sales in Scandinavia, he had to travel a lot in Sweden and Denmark, relying on the public coin phone connections at the airports. There was at the time an analogue mobile phone network, called NMT, covering most of Scandinavia.
“It was bothersome to call the office and customers from airports using coins, so I asked my line manager if I could have a mobile phone. He understood the need but said at first that it is clearly forbidden in our rules to have a mobile phone – no other sales colleague in Wärtsilä had such a phone. However, eventually, he understood how it would really ease my work and allowed me to buy one.” Some weeks later, Jussi went to talk to his manager again and happened to overhear a heated phone conversation where the CEO at that time was yelling to Jussi’s boss saying: ‘This is wrong and forbidden’ so loud that Jussi could hear it standing outside the room.
“When I entered the room after the phone call was over, my boss looked at me saying ‘our CEO does not seem to like your new phone’. I was ashamed and pushed the phone deep in my pocket. What I appreciated greatly was that my boss stood behind his decision, not a word of blame to me.” And as a matter of fact, only two weeks later all the power plant sales colleagues had a new, shiny mobile phone. “I guess they should thank me for being the rebel one,” Jussi says laughing.
In Jussi’s career, one can find plenty of similar examples where he has been leading the way. One such initiative took place in the early 1990s when Jussi was heading the power plant business in Sweden. “I was wondering how we could utilise and benefit from the small Nohab engines in the power plant business, and proposed a new electronically controlled lean burn gas engine concept, which we later named SG (Spark Gas). At that time, our engine engineers were strong believers of diesel engines. So, it took a while but finally I managed to push the R&D project through in our engine division. Back then, I could not have even dreamt of the business the Wärtsilä 25SG engine opened for us later on when the same technology was applied to our larger engines,” Jussi describes and continues “The performance of our current gas engines is beyond any and all dreams we could even think of 25 years back”.
A heart beating for the energy business
Jussi’s heart beats for the energy business. As Wärtsilä’s operations in the energy markets started later than its marine business, Jussi has had the opportunity to see Wärtsilä Energy Business overcoming various phases and taking new shapes. It all started on 1 January 1986 when Wärtsilä’s power plant business was established, and the growth to a recognised player in the industry has been possible thanks to the professional empowerment and entrepreneurial culture. “For many years, we Wärtsilians have been ‘the guys to copy’, doing things first and faster than others. This has not only been about technical innovations but also the business innovations of ours, which have been changing the energy game,” Jussi shares his thoughts.
According to him, this is most clearly seen in the development starting in the 1980s. “At that time, there were engine manufacturers much bigger than us, building power plants in the developing world. But with our competitive solutions and new business models, we managed to enter the Independent Power Producers’ (IPP) game early with innovative solutions, such as Operations and Maintenance concepts and since a long time, we’ve enjoyed a major market share in the global engine power plant business,“ Jussi says. “Now, we are taking the lead again as we focus on balancing the renewables. I believe, we are well geared up to capture the future growth opportunities of flexible power generation and energy storage solutions,” Jussi concludes.
In the office, Jussi is energised by the joint mission of capturing new markets and businesses, and figuring out new ways to do things together. In addition to that, he is eager to support team members and appreciates the good, supportive spirit they share. But despite his calm behaviour, there is a racer inside him that keeps him going on the right path – fast. “In my free time, I have raced cars and have a Ducati Diavel motorbike that I still actively use. As I am older now, more free time is spent with my wife and our dog, travelling and enjoying the small things in life,” he says.