Story | 04/05/2023 11:28:53 | 5 min Read time

Making it happen at UPM Biofuels: Ville Vauhkonen enjoys making history – and the future

Saara Töyssy

Editor, Tulus

Ville Vauhkonen began work at UPM Biofuels 12 years ago. Earlier in his career he worked at the University of Vaasa as a lecturer of physics and as a researcher in a biofuels research project. At UPM Biofuels Vauhkonen has a versatile set of tasks and the title of Senior Product Specialist. Vauhkonen works with sales and marketing and growth projects. A lot of his time is spent communicating with customers and potential customers and with topics such as analysis’, user safety information and standardization. All this is done while keeping positive vibes a part of every working day. Let’s discover his secrets!

How is it like to work in the biofuels industry?

Topical. I started working in the field of biofuels in the research sector in 2007. Back then biofuels’ were not on everyone's lips like they are today. We had only begun researching these fuels of the future and their possibilities. Now I live in that very future myself – and the work continues.

Our work has two sides: the other side is running our daily business operations – but the other side is making a difference to the lives of future generations. The biggest goal after all is to mitigate climate change and enable traffic and transport at the same time.

I myself have three children and I do part of my work purely to ensure that they and their children can have the same opportunities in life that my generation has had.

What is motivating or inspiring about your work?

Firstly: meaning. We get to do work that is truly meaningful in terms of the world and the future. Already at this point I have accomplished things I can proudly look back on in a rocking chair and say "I was a part of that".

Secondly: solving problems. I am by nature a problem solver and that’s the way I look at things. A bit like puzzles that need to be solved, as efficiently as possible.

And thirdly: being a part of history. I have been able to do things over the course of 12 years that could only be done once in history. I was the first to drive a car that uses 100% UPM Bioverno diesel, and before that I also started the first vehicle in the laboratory with only UPM BioVerno diesel in the tank. It fulfilled my childhood dreams of doing something first in the world.

What kind of working atmosphere does UPM Biofuels have?

It has always been fun. Adventurer Pata Degerman gave us a speech at UPM Biofuels emphasising this. He said that work, as life itself, should be fun. If not, then you need to make changes.

We have wonderful people all over the business and I have been able to laugh together with the operators, laboratory technicians, foremen and then the members of the management team. As long as there are smiles and laughter at work, everything is fine. If the fun stops, something is wrong.

What are your coworkers like?

The team I have been able to work with and the current manager, and the previous ones, are the best possible. Always supportive and offering opportunities to develop both as an employee and as a person. Marko Snellman has been on the same journey with me for 12 years – a big thank you to him. Also, a big thank you to Anneli Kunnas from outside my team. Without Anneli, I would not be where I am today. Anneli has made me braver by pushing me outside my comfort zone. Anneli is a friend you can always rely on.

How do you take care of your well-being?

For me, sleep is a big deal. I am not ready to compromise on sleep. The importance of sleep is underestimated and, for example, people who sleep too little are unjustifiably put on a pedestal. Sleep is the basis of health. I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea two years ago, the discovery of which in occupational health pretty much saved me.

In addition to sleep, I invest my time in exercise and after a 15-year break, I have started swimming twice or three times a week: this year I have already covered 40 kilometers despite a couple of flus. Breathing exercises and exposure to cold have improved my stress management. One big change has been to stop drinking coffee: the positive effect on health has been significant.

In addition, our French water dog Hiro brings a lot of joy to life. In a nutshell: I invest in things that make me happy and through which I can recharge with positive energy.

What do you think is important to highlight about working life otherwise?

A podcast I listened to recently discussed what remains of us after we disappear from the face of the earth. In a short time things begin to disappear. Even the closest people start losing memories and only the most important ones remain. When they are gone, significantly less is left behind.

In a well known Finnish song, Grandpa's Straw Hat, all that is left of a beautiful love story is a straw hat at the attic. The song stuck in my mind when I was young to remind me of the transience of everything and has motivated me to do things that would leave something like a straw hat behind.

Work is a part of life, a part of life but not life itself. Each of us has the opportunity to live this life in this world and the experiences it brings. Never break yourself for the sake of work, neither mentally nor physically.

In my current job, when I learned to remove the extra burdens around me, I became stronger as an employee and especially as a person than I have ever been in my life before.


Learn more about working at UPM Biofuels on our career page

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