Enni Pekkalin started her career at Vapo as a seasonal worker, an environmental inspector in the Eastern region, in 2010. Studying to become an environmental technology engineer, Enni was so impressed by peat production as a working environment that, after graduation, a position as a Planning Specialist in Eastern Finland seemed like the natural next step.
“My strengths have always been in mathematics and natural sciences, so environmental technology is a very rewarding field for me. As a person, I’m an enthusiastic nature explorer so bogs are a natural working environment for me. Domestic energy production seemed highly significant for the entire society and my role in minimising its negative impact on the environment felt like an enormously important task to me. At Vapo, I had the chance to take care of extensive areas of responsibility already at the beginning of my career and to develop both operations and technical solutions in a more environmentally friendly direction. This is what still keeps my motivation at a high level.”
A Planning Specialist is tasked with creating an overall plan that encompasses three important aspects: environmental protection, financial and technical execution, and production. The crucial difference between a natural environment and an industrial environment is that there are an enormous number of variables in nature. Nature is a heterogeneous environment for building and conducting business and attention must be paid to a wide range of site-related factors.
A tiger’s leap forward
The year 2012 was a year of major changes at Vapo. The company decided that all peat production sites would be included in BAT-level water protection. This promise was part of the Tiikerinloikka (Tiger’s Leap) project. For a newly recruited Planning Specialist, this meant huge efforts in planning and implementing water protection structures. At the same time, activities related to environmental permits were at a high level and the planning of new sites was a significant part of the job description. During these busy years, dozens of overflow fields and wetlands were created and, in a couple of years, Vapo’s decision was realised successfully in the Eastern region.
The tasks of a Planning Specialist have changed over 10 years. The planning of new sites is now marginal compared to what it used to be and the after-care planning of sites to be closed has increased. Enni also acts as the administrator of Vapo’s planning software. As the administrator, she customises the software so that it meets the changing needs of the peat production business as extensively as possible. Planning support tools have evolved with giant leaps in the past few years. For instance, aerial photography and satellite services are now part of everyday work and the use of drones in taking photographs and videos of sites generates a lot of data concerning a large area in a short period of time.
Quality does matter
“When I came to Vapo, peat was just peat. Today, peat quality plays an increasingly important role and is a cornerstone for business continuity. To freely quote CEO Vesa Tempakka: peat is such a good raw material, should we even burn it at all? More and more information will be generated about peat quality and now I am looking into the adaptation of software to quality data management and refinement, for instance.” The CARBONS activated carbon facility being planned in Ilomantsi sets a clear framework for peat quality monitoring. “Now we want to test the fulfilment and interpretation of quality criteria at the site level. In the future, all the different characteristics of peat will be centre stage in business so we must have platforms ready for quality data management.”
As new activated carbon business is being created in Ilomantsi, several sites will be closed as the use of energy peat decreases. As part of environmentally responsible operations, the subsequent use of peat production sites is being planned. In this, a Planning Specialist plays an important role.
“A closed peat production site can be used in many ways: as a field, land for forestry or even wetlands. Land use is planned according to the existing conditions and the potential next land owner, fairly soon after production has ended. Next year, I will be busy with this work.”
Alongside her work, Enni studies technology competence management. In her studies, she focuses on technology-focused business expertise, project management and teamwork and supervisory skills. Learning supervisory skills has given Enni insight into good employee skills.
“Today, self-leadership skills are the key to success and coping with workload. Everyone should think about their role as an employee, a colleague or a supervisor. It is important to know yourself and the limits of your resources, find drivers of motivation and change boldly. My own goal is simply to be as valuable and empowering a part of my team as possible.”
Environmental technology engineer, who lives in Paukarlahti near Kuopio and balances work with crossfit training and forest excursions with dogs. High-intensity training and hiking in nature are crucial for Enni when it comes to coping with the demands of everyday life. “A strong body and a rested mind take you a long.”
Things learned through experience
1. Be the one to improve the work atmosphere.
2. Dare to take care of yourself.
3. Everyone is responsible for their own work and skills. Be the best leader for yourself.