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FutuStories – Emma-Leena Heikkinen’s story

Human connections, honesty and trust are important for Emma-Leena. As a leader she’s always ready to get stuck in and learns best by getting her hands dirty, but she understands when to step back and support others to take action too.

What does your role involve?

I’m a client lead at Futurice and currently my role is divided pretty much 50/50 into two main responsibilities. Firstly, I’m a client lead, and within that I’m supporting a client in ramping up a new organisation, helping to develop their ways of working and how the organisation functions to make sure they have the right setup to reach their goals. The other half of my work involves building some strategic partnerships for Futurice.

What sort of leader are you?

I’m quite action-oriented; I’m very much into helping people to be brave and take action. I quite often say to my peers that although I can steer and help them, I’m not going to do the work for them – instead I’ll help them to make an impact themselves.

My role as a leader is to balance time, energy and priorities and provide the right environment for people to act effectively. If you don’t have that perfect triangle in place you might need to make compromises, but it’s important to be kind to yourself and other people – it’s okay if we don’t deliver diamonds every day.

Business decisions aren’t always clear cut; they’re messy because we’re human – life happens and at Futurice people are the most important thing.

Who do you look for when building a team?

Primarily I look for people who can communicate well. In our company we have a high degree of trust, but to have this we need to be very transparent. I need people who can say honestly what they can and can’t do rather than surprise me later on. I want to work with people who can trust others easily; it’s hard to work with cynical people who are suspicious of others, and there’s not always time to spend building trust. When I meet people I look for them leaning in – it shows we’re interested in each other, which makes it easy to work together.

You’ve worked for Futurice in both Helsinki and Stockholm. How did they differ?

Futurice is in a different phase in Sweden than in Finland: it’s much smaller and feels more like a start-up environment. The working culture is different, with an even stronger people focus than we have in Finland – it’s very important that everyone is aligned and feels they have a secure space in the organisation.

That really shines through in how people treat each other and in what is discussed in meetings. Because of the small size you know all your colleagues’ names, and even the names of all their pets! There are lots of similarities too; in both countries we’re quite action-oriented and there’s lots happening – as a company we’re quick to try new ideas and get things started.

Futustory: Meet Emma-Leena

Is there much going on at the office besides work?

Loads! For instance, I’ve started a knitting club in Helsinki, which also has people joining from other offices. Futurice is a really good place for finding like-minded people to get together with, and it can lead to greater collaboration in a work context too.

For example, we had our knitting club meetings online during the pandemic and while talking we realised that we had many different competencies present. We started talking about our clients and projects, sharing how we’re doing and finding a lot of similarities across client organisations. Without shared interest groups it’s easy to stay in project or competency bubbles – my knitting group gave me the opportunity to network across the company and connect to people outside of my immediate team.

What are your tips for bringing people together?

It’s important to be yourself – share something about yourself and be open about what kind of person you are so that people feel like they know you. In any group you need active community builders who can spot what people need and then find someone who can fulfil this need or has the same requirement so they can solve it together. When you have people like that, they build up connections for everyone.

What makes Futurice different from other companies?

I would say it’s the human touch – we really care about the people we work with, both our clients and our colleagues. We are interested in how people are doing and we check in regularly to make sure everyone’s okay. Our work is human-centric too – whatever we do it’s always about solving a problem faced by a person. We don’t just do what we’re asked, we make sure that what we’re doing actually helps – and our sense of responsibility is very high.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Knitting, but I also do that at work! Another passion of mine is choreography for adult dance groups, so I spend a lot of time on that when I’m not in the office. I’m happiest when I’m interacting with people – making connections with others is the best.

What is something about you that you think will surprise people?

When I was a kid my dream job was to be a traffic warden, ticketing people that park badly. The thought of spending every day outside and writing little notes to put on cars seemed very appealing – of course I had no idea what the job was really about and how unpopular I would have been!


  • Portrait of Pia Hämäri
    Pia Hämäri
    Head of Marketing, Finland