Soile Kankaanpää blogs about her road to Member of the Board at Betolar, a Voima Ventures portfolio company.
First, thanks to Voima Ventures and Inka Mero for requesting this blog about such an important topic AND for bringing this topic to open air and working tirelessly to bring progress to the situation. Women in business leadership positions, including boards, is a topic close to my heart. We have made some progress over the past years, but a lot remains to be done.
I’d like to start this blog by telling you a little bit about myself. My name is Soile Kankaanpää. As my ”day job” I work as a Chief Commercial Officer for ISS Services in Finland. ISS is a worldwide group providing facility management and food services in ca. 30 countries. In Finland we are one of the largest in this field and have about 8000 employees and a turnover well over 400M€. In addition, I sit on the Board of Directors for one of Voima Ventures’ portfolio companies, Betolar. Until March this year and until the acquisition, I also sat in the board of Destia, Finland’s largest infrastructure building company. (Destia was acquired by a French Group, therefore ending the board work.)
My journey to board membership has been an exciting one. I started my career as a business controller and realised early on that my strength lies in ”doing the business rather than counting the beans afterward” (sorry for the expression). I followed my passion to Nokia Networks, where I spent close to 15 years in several different business roles. Out of the 15 years I spent 10 years working and living abroad. I moved from pricing management to customer interfacing roles in key account management and sales management. During my years abroad I lived in Romania, UK, Sweden, China, and Singapore tackling any challenges that needed solving to grow the Nokia Networks’ business. Since I left Nokia, I spent 10 years in Finnish technology companies, in ramping up customer centricity via key account management and leading international businesses, until joining ISS four years ago.
A year ago, I was contacted by Voima Ventures about whether I would be interested in joining the Board of Betolar. Betolar is a start-up creating technology for ”green concrete” – so, in other words – concrete without cement. My interest was piqued immediately. It was a dream come true: An interesting sustainable business in a field that I was knowledgeable in, thanks to my previous board position at Destia.
Since I also had a board membership in an established business, I have been able to compare how board membership differs in a startup. I have to start off by saying that both provide truly rewarding and exciting work. Whereas, in a well-established business, the challenge might be the ability to implement change, startups are all about building something new… in every area! The work is more operationally focused – and yet, honing the strategy is crucial for later success. The ability to really help and bring benefit to the company from your own experiences is on a truly different level, compared to the board work in bigger businesses. Personally, I find this to be extremely gratifying. Applying your skills in a different context than your daily work also helps you to ”productise” your strengths and makes you develop them further.
I’m happy to see that Voima Ventures continues the work to increase the number of female board members in startups. For the second year in a row, they’re facilitating a networking event between their portfolio companies and distinguished female business leaders. This year the event takes place on the 10th of June. I am very much looking forward to joining this event again, and I hope to network with all of you there!
Soile Kankaanpää, Member of the Board at Betolar
PS. Pre-register for Women to Boards 2022 here!