A development engineer in a melting pot by Lake Saimaa

UPM Biofuels has brought together an interesting mix of people from different branches of industry and business cultures to make advances towards more sustainable transportation. For development engineer Jussi Södervik, 36, this colourful group of colleagues is one of the biggest resources in his job.

“We have people who have come from petrochemistry, the pulp and paper industry, consulting, equipment suppliers and universities. It’s certainly an advantage when everyone has slightly different approaches to the same issue. There’s a real possibility of creating something truly new,” explains this development engineer who works at the first biorefinery manufacturing renewable wood-based diesel.

Jussi himself comes from a project-based consulting background. Clearly defined goals and variety at work are important for him. Sometimes his tasks include designing a single small component and organising work related to it while, at other times, he outlines processes that cover the whole plant.

By lunchtime Jussi’s working day has already involved a project closing meeting, replying to emails and discussions with contractors in the field. His job involves the whole spectrum of projects for their entire lifespan, from the design phase to final documentation. As such, his job description is broad: it can vary from choosing mechanical suppliers to designing pumps, pipes and steel structures, and to providing guidelines for engineering offices. But what kind of characteristics does that require?

“First of all, you have to be cooperative - take others into account and also spur your colleagues on to do their best by setting a good example. You also need to be patient, motivated and able to make decisions. I am a team player to the fullest and I trust my team 100%.”

"This is not a sunset industry"

Jussi’s interest in the Finnish forest industry was sparked when he was just a child and his parents, both with 30-year careers at the UPM Kymi mill, told him stories about their days at work. He lived next to the mill and as a teenager spent his summers as a trainee at the UPM Kymi and Kaukas pulp mills.

He was already familiar with crude tall oil as a raw material through his dissertation from when he studied chemistry and energy technology. After graduating, Jussi got a job at a forest industry consulting company, after which he found himself delving deeper into the world of biofuel production.

“Back then I wondered whether it was a smart choice or not, as the subject matter was rather limited,” he says, thinking back to choosing topics for his diploma.

“It didn’t turn out too badly, let’s put it that way. We are doing a kind of pioneering work here, manufacturing renewable fuel from a truly unique raw material,” Jussi continues as he describes his current job with a shy but proud smile on his face.

The company’s ability to reinvent itself is what he values most about UPM. It has provided him with exciting opportunities to challenge himself professionally.

“This company has proved to me that the forest industry is not a sunset industry - quite the opposite. There’s always something new to learn here and that is truly motivating. When you overcome a challenge really successfully, you feel really good about it and that keeps you going.”

Author: Elina Räihä
Photo: Ville Vauhkonen