October 2nd Thursday Meeting : An Evening with Her Excellency, Paula Parviainen Finnish Ambassador to Singapore 

Speaker: Paula Parviainen

Event review by Katherine Krummert

Most of us don’t get the chance to hobnob with diplomats very often, so hearing from a senior diplomat up close is a real treat. And that's just what we had the luxury of doing on Thursday evening, 13 October a crowd of nearly 50, mostly members, gathered to hear from Her Excellency Paula Parviainen, Finnish Ambassador to Singapore at the Singapore Cricket Club in PrimeTime's Women in Leadership Series.   She was generous and forthcoming, sharing her personal and professional story of life in the foreign service (after a first career with Finnair), with posts in Singapore, Paris, New York and Beijing and back to Singapore, a move she describes as akin to coming home.  

In a layered explanation about how the foreign service is as much lifestyle as career and that given the many moving parts of who is posted where in foreign service rotation, she highlighted flexibility, being willing to do a number of roles in various posts and places as relevant in where she's landed over her career.

Our extended Q&A session covered everything from the issue of pay equality in Finland (women: about 82 cents to a man's dollar), the country's generous maternity and paternity leave and the number of female (39) and male (35) ambassadors in Finland's foreign ministry. We talked about the famed Finnish education system--which emphasizing creativity, going from subject-based to phenomenon-based learning, developing the braveness to take risks to find new ways to connect the dots, a rising digital emphasis --and Singapore's interest in it.

What are her observations of Singapore since her first stay here 20 yrs ago? The city planning  remains very sustainable and green and she's noticed more outdoor activity, from cycling paths to outdoors cafes, plus a citizenry with higher self esteem. She commented on how much the cultural life has changed, noting a discussion earlier that day with the CEO of the National Gallery.

Her emphasis as Ambassador? With the Finnish community in Singapore numbering about 1,000, she's focusing on helping smaller innovative Finnish start-ups  set up here.  She describes her role as one of opening doors, connecting people, and knowing what’s going on here to better build bridges, especially in advance of Finland's 100th anniversary of being an independent nation in 2017.

Finally, a question about which of her competencies brought her to where she is today? Her answer brought us full circle to the warm impression we had of her at the beginning of her talk: being genuine, being what you are, liking people, and hearing people’s stories so they know you are interested in them.  She has these competencies in spades.

Paljon kiitoksia  Ambassador Parviainen!  (Thank you very much Ambassador Parviainen!)


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