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Story | 08/31/2021 06:26:17

Humans of Pulp: Topi Rantamäki discovered the process industry – and found his future career

As part of our Humans of Pulp series, we profile summer worker Topi Rantamäki, a shift engineer at UPM Kymi mill. The job has taught him important supervisory skills, and that difficult situations are best resolved with together.

After primary school, Topi Rantamäki drifted towards the process industry by happy coincidence. The field proved to be so interesting that after completing a degree at a trade school, he decided to continue his studies at the Tampere University of Applied Sciences, from where he graduated as an engineer in 2020.

In April 2021 Rantamäki was offered an opportunity to put his skills into practice substituting for a shift engineer at the UPM Kymi pulp mill, so he packed his bags and moved from Tampere to Kouvola.

Rantamäki applied for the summer job around the turn of the new year, and he believes that his previous knowledge of the pulp industry may have been landed him the position. However, he adds that motivation and dedication can be worth even more than experience.

”Forestry, physics, and chemistry interest me, and I think it was evident in the job interview that I’m motivated to learn new skills. In general I believe that self-motivation can be decisive even if the level of experience or education isn’t precisely what is required,” Rantamäki says.

Night shifts were a positive surprise

In his current role, Rantamäki looks after the entire production process, from receiving the raw materials to handing over the end result, pulp. It is the first time in his career that 25-year-old Rantamäki has held a supervisory position. He manages a team of around 25 people and makes sure that everyone is doing well, and that there are enough competent people on each shift.

There are often some production issues, and Rantamäki’s phone usually rings at least dozen times during each shift. At its simplest, a problem can be solved by checking the work shift list, but sometimes an equipment failure or a more complex problem requires a more thorough approach.

There have even been times when Rantamäki hasn’t been able to solve the issue on his own, in which case he has turned to a more experienced shift engineer for assistance.

”The employees know everything that relates to the process so much better than me because they have worked here for a long time. I need to be able to ask the right questions, and to look for information in the right places to find a solution. For instance, electrical installations cannot be performed without sufficient training, and an electrician is required,” Rantamäki explains.

The pulp mill operates around the clock in five shifts. Rantamäki works six days in a row – two morning, two evening, and two night shifts – followed by four days off.

Each shift has its benefits but the night shifts seem to fit Rantamäki’s natural rhythm surprisingly well. In the morning he sleeps well and long, and during the afternoon he spends time with his girlfriend, exercises or plays video games.

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Trust forms a basis for everything

Rantamäki started his five-month summer job in mid April, and has already learned a lot about the pulp manufacturing process. The best part is working with other people, and the most important insights relate to leadership skills.

”A good supervisor listens to and respects the employees and stands by his word – if you say you are going to do something, it’s important to do so. Honesty is also very important because trust should be maintained throughout the term of employment,” Rantamäki says.

Despite his young age, Rantamäki feels that his colleagues have made him feel welcome, and he hasn’t had to prove himself – quite the opposite. Everything has gone more smoothly than Rantamäki thought it would, even if there have been far fewer face to face meetings because of the ongoing pandemic.

”I thought it would be more difficult for a supervisor to have his say but communicating with the employees has been a lot easier than I thought it would be. I haven’t noticed any kind of confrontation. I get to work with many types of people and the work community is very friendly.”

One of Rantamäki’s main future goals is to get a permanent position in his field. He would be happy to continue in his current job even after the summer.

”I have enjoyed it so much that I could see myself working here in the future. Getting a permanent job would make it easier to build other parts of life too,” he concludes.

 

Text: Laura Iisalo