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Fennovoiman suunnittelu- ja kehittämispäällikkö Peter Härkönen

Photo by Junnu Lusa

Hanhikivi 1: multicultural megaproject

In his work, Petter Härkönen, Fennovoima’s Senior Program Development Manager, is pleading the case of Finland and the environment.

Petter Härkönen, Senior Program Development Manager, describes Fennovoima’s Hanhikivi 1 project as a Megaproject with a capital “M”.

Petter has a M. Sc. degree in Civil Engineering, and has worked in Fennovoima since 2012.  He started as the head of the Project Management Office, and later moved to focus on strategic development of the company and the program.

He leads now a six-person program development team, whose members have strong background in projects as well as experience of management systems.  They support company management in long-term program planning, and annual planning based on that, as well as in development of Fennovoima’s organization and management system. 

“In an unpredictable world, planning is a way to steer the future and to enable management and decision making even if something unexpected happens.”

Petter thinks that Fennovoima is developing continuously to the intended direction.

“We have a vision which tells us where we are going, a mission which tells us what we must do, and several strategic goals. The strategy is developed within a specific framework.”

More energy and a reduced carbon footprint

Petter says that he is a proud “construction guy”. During his career, he has been working in various Finnish companies’ construction and project management projects all around the world.

“I’ve been doing project management work for more than thirty years now. I spent the first ten years with paper mill projects, and after that I’ve been involved in a variety of industrial and mobile network projects, until ending up in the nuclear industry.”

Petter has been resident in England, France, Russia, Hungary, and Brazil because of his work assignments. In addition, based in Finland, he spent several years commuting continuously on business in the Nordic countries and Ukraine, among other locations.

“When set in proportion to the project duration, large industrial investment projects, such as forest industry projects, are of the same magnitude as this nuclear power plant project – hundreds of millions of euros in a year.”

Fennovoima and the Hanhikivi 1 project is Petter’s first time working in the nuclear industry. Differences compared to his previous experiences have come up.

“In this field the experts want much more facts and analysis before they take their stand, while a project manager first defines the goals and the steps to get there despite of insufficient information and an unclear view of the future. When these two approaches are combined in managing, there’s a good chance to succeed.”

He feels that in his current position, he is working for Finland, which needs both more energy and a reduced carbon footprint.

Respectful behavior helps when dealing with people

Fennovoima is continuously recruiting people, and they come from a variety of backgrounds and company cultures. Working in an organization with people from dozens of nationalities isn’t new to Petter. Nevertheless, multiculturalism can make project management more challenging.

On the other hand, Petter has been living a multicultural life both at work and at home throughout his career.

“My spouse is French, which means that our children are half French and attended French schools in many countries during our travelling years. Our younger son has just graduated from Aalto University and the older one is a postgraduate studying to get a PhD in the United States.”

Petter describes himself as an easily accessible person and he likes to discuss openly all kinds of topics with people at the office.

“Normal, polite and respectful behavior helps when meeting people.”

Petter says that people in Finland are used to giving experts the opportunity to make decisions independently and take on responsibility.

“But there are cultures where employer is expected to give more direction. You must also be able to understand and manage people who are used to a different kind of hierarchy and communicating.”

Gardening  dreams are counterbalance to work

Petter’s family always moved with him from one country to the next, depending on project assignments, before settling down in Finland 18 years ago.

“For a long time, my work included weekly travel to several European countries. Sometimes I really miss that, because in my current job I don’t get to travel that much. 

His children’s studies give Petter a good excuse to travel on leisure, though. In the past few years, he has visited Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and most recently United States.

Of course, due to the situation caused by covid-19, all traveling has been on hold for a while. This is why Petter, living in Kerava in a detached house, has been able focus on his second favorite hobby, gardening.

“It’s a great counterbalance to work and quite relaxing as long as you keep the projects small enough. Always this doesn’t happen; an open-air pool I built last year still needs some finishing touches."

Article updated 9.8.2021 (originally published 14.2.2019).