On life and work: In conversation with Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions Sales Director Panu Sorvisto

Finnish-born Genoa-based Panu Sorvisto didn’t always see himself as a sales director. Growing up, he wanted to be an engineer. He enrolled on a course in mechanical engineering. But he soon realised that sales, in a field related to engineering, would be a more appropriate career path.

Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn. As a teenager, Finnish-born Genoa-based Panu Sorvisto wanted to be an engineer. He followed the conventional route, finishing upper secondary education and enrolling on a degree—mechanical engineering in his case. But soon after, he realised that a career in sales, in a field related to engineering, would be a more appropriate path.

 “My first sales-based job was with multi-national power and automation technologies company ABB in Finland, and later the UK,” says Panu. “I was responsible for selling long-term service agreements and managing a field service team of ten people.”

 “After a ten-year employment period with ABB spanning various sales positions, I wanted to experience something new, something completely different away from the land-based industry.”

The phone call that changed everything

“I was at the airport in London waiting for a flight to Finland when I was approached by a recruitment consultant about a job with Wärtsilä UK Ltd (now Wärtsilä Defence Solutions Limited),” says Panu. “I rescheduled my flight, interviewed for the position and was successful.”

 Now Sales Director for Wӓrtsilӓ Shaft Line Solutions a decade on, Panu has set his roots firmly in marine sales. But everything looks quite different. “The business is almost unrecognisable from when I started," says Panu. "It was much smaller back then and we didn’t have the capacity to operate like we do now. We’ve really invested in acquisitions, skills, manufacturing and technology over the years. That’s really set us apart.”

 One thing that has remained a constant for Panu is his passion for people and dedication to the job. “I like to see the people around me succeed and I enjoy working as part of a team," says Panu. "Working with people motivates me to push harder and get results.”

Life outside of work

A 25-year-career in sales has taken Panu all over the world and required him to relocate several times. But being at home with his daughter and family is how he likes to spend his spare time.

 “When I’m not working, I’m with my daughter and family,” says Panu. “During the holiday seasons, we’re usually in the Alps, skiing, hiking and snowboarding.”

 In the warmer months, Panu and his daughter like to pick fruits in their garden. “My daughter and I make olive oil together, picking the olives from the trees in the garden. We also grow lemons, oranges, plums, apricots and passion fruit, and Granny makes the preserves.”

Looking to the future

“As an end-to-end business with factories, sales and support, parts coordination and field services, and almost 900 professionals worldwide all dedicated to the SLS portfolio, we are in a really good place to support our customers,” says Panu.

 He owes this in part to Wӓrtsilӓ’s commitment to cultural and gender diversity. “We now have more women than ever before in management positions across different parts of our business. We have a truly multi-cultural team covering more or less the whole globe, from Colombia through to Australia.

 “That’s fundamental to advancing the industry and securing our future success. I’m excited to see what the future holds for shipping. There’s still a lot to do, but we’re heading in the right direction.”

Written by
Gemma Lake