Olivia Kumpula

Olivia Kumpula is a wife, a mother, and the Founder and CEO of International Professionals Finland, an association aimed at providing customised support for international talents in Finland. Her mission is to change lives by Informing, Inspiring, and Empowering others to believe in themselves and in their potential, and pursue their dreams without apologies. As an expat living in Finland, she also creates content online documenting Finland facts, sharing immigrant experiences, lessons learned and tips to make transition into Finnish society and workforce easier for Internationals living in Finland. She has free online courses and also offers consultation services to those moving to Finland for study, work or family reasons. She also runs an NGO, a non profit association called ‘International Professionals Finland’ that provides customised guidance and creates collaborative opportunities for International Professionals to establish and use their skills in Finland. 

Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative. 

I grew up in Nigeria, studied and practised law for many years there, and then moved to Finland to study Masters in International Law with specialization in transcultural business law. Since I moved to Finland, I have fallen in love with the country and the lovely nature. I had no good knowledge of Finland, because at that time, there was very little to no information online, especially through the eyes of a Foreigner already living in Finland. So I lived my first few years in Finland through thick and thin moments trying to find my place in my new home (Finland). That was what motivated me to start sharing online content to provide useful information and tips to newcomers. 

I also started an interactive club on Clubhouse called ‘The Finns and Foreigners Club’ with currently over 1,200 members. Through connections made in the club, I realized that almost all international professionals in Finland encounter similar challenges which hinder them from utilizing their skills and transitioning into the Finnish workforce. Although a number of resources are available, many internationals still have trouble locating these resources and applying them to their personal situations. In the light of that, I assembled a team of professionals and the International Professionals Finland association was founded. 

Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea that made you start this brand? How did such a unique idea strike you, and what motivated you to “YES, go for it?”

Before starting this association, I asked myself the following question; 

  1. What kind of mechanisms have been put in place for international professionals in other countries. For example Canada, US, and some countries in Europe. Then I found out about International Professionals Associations in other countries. 
  2. What kind of help or services are offered to international professionals in these places.
  3. What are the problems of international professionals in Finland?
  4. What can we do as international professionals to solve these problems? It starts by coming together. Get ourselves together, form a network, and start helping new international talents to find their place in Finland and a successful career for themselves.

So I decided to start one here in Finland since we do not have such a network at the moment.

Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?

As the CEO, my role is to oversee the overall operations of the association and work together with our team to bring to light the vision of the association. Through a diverse range of programs and services, we assist international professionals qualified for a profession abroad to overcome obstacles hindering them from utilizing their skills in Finland. We provide customised support as well as mentorship and networking opportunities. We also offer one-on-one guidance as they take huge career steps toward transitioning into the Finnish workforce and advancing their skillset to contribute to the society they now call home.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

As a non profit association, getting funding is one of our current challenges, but my team and I are determined to make concrete contributions towards Life in Finland for internationals and change the narratives of many. Personally, this is the passion that has kept me going, and I am hopeful for more resources to enable us to assist more international talents in Finland.  

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level? 

Yes, the global pandemic has been a nightmare for all of us, and I am glad that the worst days are over. I think that one thing the pandemic has taught most of us, is to learn to spend time with ourselves and our loved ones, without the constant need to go out partying, for example.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention? 

Yes I have made some accomplishments in life and I see myself as being successful. I believe Success is a mindset.  Of course, I have not achieved every single goal I have set for myself (like learning how to play the guitar), but I have checked some of the major boxes in my to-do list. 

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

If given the opportunity, I will work towards ensuring availability of essential commodities and infrastructure to improve the standard of living for the less privileged. And I would like to see a world where love and togetherness would prevail over war and segregation.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life? 

Society will try to put you in a labelled box and poke you from all sides to keep you in that box. Get out and stay out. Set your own standards and don’t settle for less than your worth.

I have 2 personal mottos:

  1. Keep your eyes only on the important things in life.
  2. Put every disappointment and NO you get into positive use. Turn it into your fuel and one of your driving forces to reach your goal.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

Leadership should not be about gender or race, but about the skill to do the work, the integrity to be trusted, and the character to lead the way.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

I do have people that I look up to as I set realistic standards for myself. Map out your short and long term goals, and stay focused on them. Procrastination will never get you there. Have a calendar or time table, and use your time well. Be eager to learn from those who are already where you are aiming for.