Sari Neulaniemi

General Manager, Financial Accounting Services, Wärtsilä Shared Service Center

Vaasa, Finland

27 years at Wärtsilä

Originally from Finland


Team of 19 nationalities and 29 languages

“When I joined Wärtsilä in 1991, I was only looking for a summer job. I planned to prioritise family and wanted to have more kids. However, when a permanent position was offered to me, it was an opportunity I jumped to take, as a chance to work at Wärtsilä was too good to miss,” Sari Neulaniemi starts her story.

Sari’s journey with Wärtsilä has grown into an impressive commitment of 27 years.

“I remember the Wärtsilä introductory course where the trainer was explaining the structure of a piston. Most of us had no clue what he was talking about. Afterwards I told at home that this company is strange, especially the engineers working there,” Sari laughs benevolently.

So, have her feelings towards Wärtsilä evolved?

“My career path has been interesting as I have been able to learn a lot from different roles within spare part sales, purchasing, logistics, credit control, business control, accounting, monthly reporting and in Wärtsilä Shared Service Center (WSSC) with several different financial processes. I’ve come to understand end-to-end processes from various perspectives, and especially getting to know wonderful persons worldwide. After all these years, Wärtsilä is an integral part of my family,” she tells.

Currently, Sari is working as a General Manager in WSSC that supports Wärtsilä companies globally in financial accounting and other operational tasks. “We are one of the most international teams in Wärtsilä with about 19 nationalities and 29 languages,” Sari shares proudly.

Even if ‘multiculturality’ is one of the things Sari loves the most at Wärtsilä, it also poses some challenges. “Most challenging work tasks are actually related to leading people. There is no ready-made pattern for how to solve various problems, but the only way is to make errors and learn from them,” says Sari who has nine direct reports in her team. “I come from Eastern Finland, where people are known for speaking out and honestly. This is not always the best approach, especially when there are people from several different cultures. Treating people equally but still considering every single person as an individual is difficult.”

The work days in WSSC are hectic – which is the biggest motivator for Sari. Every day is different, full of various challenges and surprises. However, it also means that the daily communication must work – both within the team, with external stakeholders and with the wide network of Wärtsilä companies that Sari’s team is supporting. “Serving all Wärtsilä companies globally is not a minor responsibility for our team. With the other team leaders, I ensure that operations run smoothly but I could never manage the work without the support from the whole team. It’s a real advantage to work with all these personalities that bring in their high knowledge, intelligence, different cultural backgrounds and huge potential. Working with several different processes is demanding but still extremely rewarding.”

One can, with good reasoning, state that Wärtsilä is lucky to have Sari staying with the company longer than the initially planned summer job period – so much has she contributed with her team to the development of the WSSC organisation. “I am proud to say that our team has been building up the Wärtsilä Shared Service Center to become one of the most competitive, efficient and high-quality service centres in, and outside, Finland. We have brought Vaasa and Finland to the world map with a unique shared service that other companies are benchmarking actively. And I’m proud that the company management and our customers see our team as a value adding partner whom they can trust,” Sari tells.

According to Sari, Wärtsilä’s focus on continuous development has kept the company vital for this long. And that makes her confident towards the future as well. “Since I joined, everything has changed; the country scope is wider, the product offering is completely different, we are not only manufacturing engines – instead we are a smart technology company and the company is growing with acquisitions. The need for innovation has been growing and digitalisation is also one remarkable change – and even the personnel skills needed are different. WSSC was the first department piloting robotics and artificial intelligence in Wärtsilä. Today, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence implementation is business as usual in WSSC, work done in-house by internal persons. Digitalisation in general offers a huge potential for the future.”

One could think that Sari has had her share of changes but it’s the opposite; she is ready for more as it is the fast-changing environment with opportunities to grow that makes the work enjoyable. “The future is unknown but what is certain is that Wärtsilä will develop and change even faster as the company reacts to world events. For us employees, it means more learning, new ways of working and tools – most important ones being robotics, artificial intelligence and analytics. There will be new work tasks replacing old ones, and new skills are needed. It is an attractive challenge to stay on course with all this development, to be able to grow with others,” Sari says with determination.

As Sari says, she enjoys the global, fast changing environment and the culture that offers lot of opportunities to grow daily. And there is no doubt that she will continue developing herself in the future too.

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