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When Prysmian met Salli

Prysmian Group first female CEO Salli Hara-Haikkala, now in Sweden, explains that listening to people is the key.

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JULY 2017

Recruiter by formation, sales manager by vocation, Country Manager by self-realization and now CEO by merit: the route taken up by Salli Hara inside Prysmian Group shows quite well her personal and professional skills but it is also an excellent example of the opportunities and the possible evolution of a career in the world leader in the energy and telecom cables and systems industry.

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“ I have made this choice because I strongly believed in this new direction but I also found a great support from other people, who shared my vision, who could look beyond.”

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As a matter of fact, her career began far from the manufacturing industry: “I was born in the Eastern part of Finland, a rural area, and moved to Helsinki to study at Helsinki University.  After a master degree in law and the training at the court, I started to work in one of the biggest bank group in Finland at its legal department just before the bank crisis. After some tough years, I moved to a law firm where later on became a partner”.

Then, a new opportunity opened up and brought her to the industrial field: “A client, a Finnish stock listed company, asked me to join them as a member of the management group responsible for legal affairs and HR. Then, I studied other master degree in Economic while working in strategy”.

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Afterwards, she took the decision to start a new professional experience in Prysmian Group: “I joined Prysmian in September 2005, straight after cable division spin off from Pirelli as HR of Prysmian Finland also responsible of legal affairs. It was a very interesting and fundamental phase:  we set the foundations to the sustainable growth of cable business in Finland”.

Actually, Prysmian was not an obvious choice for her career: this is my way of thriving. It’s a kind of a cycle: when you like what you do, opportunities come and energy never ends, becoming supportive for yourself and for the people around you”, answers Salli when asked about her life in Prysmian Group.

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Salli Hara showed to have one of the key abilities that Prysmian Group is looking for: the desire and the will of constantly seeking new challenges, looking to each position, job and tasks throughout the career as an opportunity to learn new things while leveraging the experience from the past. “For me, having the chance to develop my personal and professional skills within different areas of business and different environments has been really an asset”.

Salli underlines it was not always an easy path: “Amongst the most demanding periods I have to recall the merging of Prysmian and Draka. I remember that the main challenge was to deal with change management: so, I tried to focus on people giving them hope and advising them on the best way forward, since we are not machines. Lots of opportunities can arise even from the most difficult situations. You can learn experiences because you live them, not from books: I am very proud to work for a company that puts people in the first place and knows the importance of considering emotions”.

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The challenging phase of the merging between Prysmian and Draka turned into a new opportunity: Salli Hara was asked to become HR director of Nordic Region, an entity of Prysmian Group that was specifically created for her. It meant for her to begin an exciting journey aimed at building the organization, both in terms of structure and in terms of putting the right people to the right place. “We really started from scratch, trying to best supporting the region business needs and ensuring synergies”, always investing in people and helping them to find the right occasions to develop their potentials and grow.

Prysmian Group is a great place to work exactly for the importance it gives to human value. I have a very strong belief and responsibility about it: a key target is to share with all employees and members of the team, both women and men, the importance of this responsibility. I hope my personal career can be an inspiration for them, for everybody to see the opportunity to do great things and overcome boundaries, for women in particular, and underline to them that it is possible.”

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Because boundaries are clearly necessary but they are not always hindrances to our future. In most cases, boundaries as well as diversities are the best opportunities. “Yes, an opportunity to become better. So I would like to say to my employees: recognize and deal with them, you may discover something new about yourself as well. To women I would say: stand up, trust in yourself, accept challenges, critics and failures – sometimes we fail, very badly also, but when you stand up you become stronger. Then, develop yourself. Believe in yourself and have faith in yourself, in what you’re able, don’t be ashamed and show your talent. Take yourself seriously: we all have a little bit diversity; you are special on your side.”

To young employees she recommends: “After the years in the HR in Prysmian Group Nordic Region, I felt the need to improve myself. I had been working in very different positions over the years as well as in cross country and cross cultural business environments when I was encouraged to apply for GEMBA by my Employer”. GEMBA (Global Executive MBA) is one of the training courses offered by Prysmian Group to its employees in cooperation with SDA Bocconi school of management

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“I had already followed the ALP (Advanced Leadership Program) by SDA Bocconi, which allowed me to refresh experience and update tools and managerial skills. I have quite solid educations (legal, economics) so it has been a way to update knowledge and skills, but learning is a never-ending experience. GEMBA started this year, and it is a really exciting experience, taking something from my past and adding new things. One thing I learned is that leadership is about skills and professionalism. But skills and professionalism are meaningless without emotions and passion. Asking  people to make an extra mile: I need to touch emotions of my people, to engage them in an emotional way. We need to understand the importance of doing things for a higher reason. I gained a lot from people around me. Giving them a chance, I gain the energy from them. Great people. I take back a lot from people.”

Moving to new position as CEO of Prysmian Group Sweden represents a start for a new great adventure. Salli followed the development of the Swedish company since 2011 and she has seen its great advancement during the years. Now, she is ready for the new challenge: “I am looking forward to take the Swedish business into the next level with a team of committed, engaged and enthusiastic team people. And have a lot of fun.”

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