Malin Berg in Switzerland

People with Purpose: Malin Berg

9 min read

29 Jan 2021

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Marianna Vento

Malin Berg

Photo

Malin Berg

9 min read

29 Jan 2021

Text:

Marianna Vento Malin Berg

Photo:

Malin Berg

A surprising fact about Malin Berg: she originally joined Wärtsilä to be able to play football regularly.

Malin had been playing football in her hometown of Vaasa, but her employment in other locations made it impossible for her to take part in the football season. Eventually the team coach urged Malin to take a look at Wärtsilä, since the company could probably offer her a local position in Vaasa.

Even if Malin’s decision to join the company was a bit of a coincidence, her journey with Wärtsilä has continued for 24 years. Now, Malin is the General Manager (GM), Product Sales, Wärtsilä Marine Power for 4-stroke and propulsion Middle East and Asia, and her colleagues know her as an honest, approachable, and courageous leader. They praise Malin especially for her people management skills, international experience, and visionary ideas.

Malin’s story is the first in our new People with Purpose series, in which the people of Wärtsilä share in their own words about the major turning points in their lives, what brings purpose to their days and where they find the energy to get out of bed every morning.

Here is Malin's story in her own words.

Dreams come true

Even though I joined Wärtsilä mainly for its local presence in Vaasa, I was immediately interested in developing and growing further with the company. From the beginning, it was great to see how my readiness for new challenges was rewarded with more and more responsibilities. One excellent example is when I became a team leader for the first time: I was thrown right into the deep end. As part of a change, my first duty was to build a new team and hire nine coordinators.

My first 12 years with Wärtsilä I spent in Vaasa, working in various roles mainly linked to our spare parts business. During those years, I took the opportunity to do job rotation in both Panama and Greece. After I returned from those trips, I believed I would not be moving abroad, although it had been a wish for some time. However, Wärtsilä threw in another opportunity: all local spare parts teams (parts coordination, delivery documentation and invoicing, procurement as well as warehouse operations) and spare part inventories were to be merged into a single global logistics organisation. Consequently, there was an interesting GM position open in Switzerland. I took a while to decide if I would have the courage for such a step – not only would the location, colleagues and global organisation be new to me but the project itself was new to everyone. I finally did apply after a gentle nudge from our local Services Business vice president at the time. I got the job, packed up and left Finland. 

I have always enjoyed having a bit too much on my table, as I find positive stress energising. However, my first years in Switzerland, with the challenges of building a new global team, stock moves, and the challenges and long hours that came with it felt rather intensive. It was “leadership in crisis”, as a colleague told me – even though my experience in building new teams and change management helped me a lot. One time, after over two years of working non-stop and a lot of traveling, my dad called me to ask how I was doing and I had a small meltdown right in the grocery store. The advice he gave me was to start taking care of myself or soon I would not be able to help others. With his advice in the back of my mind, I started implementing some small changes in my life: I delegated work more efficiently and instead of answering emails, I read a book in the evenings. I also started to take some weekends for myself for traveling. Since then, I have passed on this advice to team members, colleagues, friends – anyone who I think would benefit from hearing it.

All in all, I truly treasure my time in the Wärtsilä Global Logistics Services (WGLS) team: I learned about different cultures, met new people and became familiar with different ways of working worldwide. During my work trips, I got to see new locations, such as Singapore, Japan and Colombia, and all these experiences were naturally significant for me personally as well.

The centralisation of spare part operations was just the beginning. Changes are constant, and sometimes it is difficult for many to believe in those changes. However, during my career, I have learned that there is at least one good aspect in every change, and I’m always trying to focus on the positive. For me, living with change becomes easier once I have taken an active role; I influence the change where I can, I initiate and drive change where I see it needed, and I do my best to solve concerns that other people see in the change.

One major change that Wärtsilä has implemented was an idea that came to me when I was sleeping. The next day, I told a senior manager about my dream – which was how we should merge the various parts coordination teams we had (the central one and the ones in the service units) to build a spare parts coordination end-to-end organisation and way of working. The response was, “Perhaps there is something there” and he asked me to make a business case and start planning the project. I brought in a colleague I know can think outside the box, and we started brainstorming.

I literally saw my dream coming true in the form of the parts end-to-end program, but after seven years in WGLS, I decided to let someone else finish the journey I started. It was not an easy decision for me to leave the project and my team, but I knew there would never be a perfect moment to go.

 

 

Towards the new with a thrill of excitement 

I guess I enjoy the thrill of new challenges, and sometimes you can achieve this feeling simply when presenting. I always feel nervous before giving a presentation – whether it is to our organisation, Wärtsilä’s Board of Management or Board of Directors, the Finnish ambassador in Brazil or Wärtsilä’s customers. However, knowing I will feel great afterwards helps me through that excitement. In addition, I prepare carefully, learning as much as I can about the topic beforehand and ensuring I believe in it myself – and making sure I have something to do with my hands during the presentation.

When still in Switzerland, the new work opportunity that caught my eye was to take me farther from my comfort zone both professionally and personally. I had long wanted to try something new and work closer to the customers, but never had I dreamed about moving to Brazil. But a GM, Services Sales position was opened in Rio de Janeiro. So, there I was, taking yet another leap of faith by applying.

When I made a pre-visit to Rio de Janeiro before signing the contract and starting the move, the local team happened to have a safety briefing. For a potential new inhabitant, that briefing was like a stand-up evening with lots of dark humour; colleagues were telling stories about how they had been robbed – some at gunpoint – and I also learned that my superior-to-be was driving an armoured car. With my background in Switzerland and Finland, all this sounded absurd, and I joked that perhaps they are just trying to scare me off. If that was their intention, they did not succeed.

When I moved to Brazil in April 2017, I experienced a normal amount of cultural shock at first. Luckily, two old colleagues were also working there, and the local colleagues were very open and supportive, so they all helped me adjust. Sitting home feeling scared was never an option for me – instead, I believed I could live rather normally if I just used common sense and e.g. left the bling-bling at home when going for a walk. However, I did move once as the neighbourhood became more dangerous, and it was safer to have an apartment where a guard was present 24/7.

In Brazil, I learned quickly that my colleagues were passionate, kind and hard-working. Even though at first, due to my background, people saw me mainly as a spare parts expert. Still, I kept learning about the customers, the business in South America and getting to know the people, as well as focusing on what I was hired to do: building a sales team with the right setup. What started as a GM of Sales in our service unit in Brazil turned into a more extensive responsibility after a few months when I became GM of Sales in the new service unit Latin America South, covering Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Leading development – whether it relates to people, organisation or the way we do things – is what I enjoy and where I have experience. I am also strong when it comes to change management and building new teams, and I lead by involving others: I believe the end-result is better when people co-create it together. Therefore, it was great how my team in Latin America South had somewhat free hands as we developed the structure and the way we did things in order to improve the customer experience as well as the results for the team and for Wärtsilä.

When my work in South America came to an end suddenly due to organisational changes, I applied to my current role and returned to work with Wärtsilä in Switzerland. However, my experiences in South America and the friends I made there will stay close to my heart forever. I think the challenges that I overcame while in Brazil will also benefit my life in the future. For example, if I was crazy enough to drive a car in Rio de Janeiro – I can handle traffic in most cities.

Only the sky is the limit – or is it?

For me, job titles are secondary. Although I am always open to new opportunities and I would not mind leading a bigger team again, it is more important to have a fulfilling job where I feel I can contribute and have an impact. I enjoy finding solutions and helping other people, whether they are customers, teammates, or other colleagues. I get energy from people, even if intensive collaboration can also be very exhausting at times. I want to ensure that everyone is doing well and have the tools to succeed. When my team members succeed, I succeed. 

Besides people, I care a lot about animals. While in Brazil, I adopted two cats, Sophie and Samba. They were found in a garage when they were kittens and hence, I call them my Brazilian garage cats when someone asks what breed they are. The cats moved with me when I returned to Switzerland, and that process and trip was an interesting project in itself.

 

Now my biggest wish is to see the world recover from the pandemic. I miss my closest ones and I would definitely like to see my partner again in person. We have been together more than 10 years, always living in different countries and are used to travelling around to see each other. But now, it has been a year since the last time we met. Being on the same continent would help, and of course, if I could choose, he (and his two cats) would be coming to Switzerland next – and then, a dog would soon be added. After that, we might also need to get ourselves a farmhouse.

Although I would love to spend more time with my parents, my sister and my nieces in Finland, as well as at my cottage in the Vaasa archipelago, Switzerland feels like home to me for now. I have friends here, the nature is amazingly beautiful, it is much easier to travel when living in Central Europe, and Sophie and Samba have received their Swiss passports. Traveling (both for work and pleasure) is another of my passions that I would love to start again; I have multiple customers and colleagues who I would like to meet, and multiple destinations, such as the Maldives, Scotland, and New Zealand, on my bucket list. 

Malin’s story continues, of course, but this is where we leave her.

As for Malin’s football hobby, after joining Wärtsilä, she played two seasons before suffering a knee injury. Since then, training was never the same, but (after some convincing) Malin continued as the team’s backup goalkeeper. When the first goalkeeper quit suddenly right before the next season started, Malin stepped in – yet another example of her courage in front of new challenges. And as the season ended, she was actually rewarded as the team’s most valuable player. After that victorious season, Malin chose to quit while on top and hang up her football cleats for good.  

 

Malin's life in Finland and Switzerland.

Malin's life in Brazil and some travels in South America.