Jarkko Ahlbom, 44
Category manager, global fleet, Konecranes
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I have always been a car guy and had a true passion for branding and marketing. I wanted to pursue a career in international business. Nissan was the first major car company that established a regional business unit in Finland covering seven countries in the region. I simply had to apply for a job there and got it! I worked as a product specialist for 4x4s and SUVs at Nissan Nordic Europe.
Company: Konecranes Location: Espoo, Finland
Family: Wife, Sanna; sons, Ville, 8, Joonas, 4
Born: Rauma, Finland
Languages: Finnish, English, Swedish, German
Education: Master's degree in economics and business administration, Helsinki School of Economics; bachelor's degree in international business, Marriott School of Business, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA
Your greatest achievement?
When it comes to my private life, it's my family with my two wonderful sons. Professionally, my greatest achievement is being a major part of the Nissan electric vehicle success story in Norway. I led Nissan's Nordic EV launch project from the very beginning. Back then, there were just a few EVs on the market and there was virtually no public charging infrastructure. Today, more than six years later, Norway is the leading and most advanced EV market in the world and the Nissan Leaf accounts for 1.5 percent of Norway's 2.6 million car parc. It makes me feel proud to have been a part of that successful journey.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
My biggest failure is related to the transition from being a professional athlete to wearing a corporate suit. I think it took me a little too long to accept the fact that the corporate world lives by a very different set of rules than a pro basketball team.
What is your current challenge at work?
I am responsible for the global car fleet at Konecranes, a global crane manufacturer that operates in 50 countries. My challenge is finding the right global strategy for the future. It has to be a strategy that will enable the approach of management as well as sourcing one uniform global fleet approach across all markets ideally with just a few key partners. It still has to be flexible enough to be able to have the most optimal solution for every individual market's specific needs. The challenge comes from the very diverse market development stages, the various local regulations and the fast pace of development of new technologies.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The pace that things are changing. These changes provide a natural window of opportunity to many struggling traditional car brands to reinvent themselves. It's interesting, however, to see how many companies still fail to see these changes coming.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
One of my U.S. professors in business school encouraged his students to really think about what motivated them to study business. His advice was to pursue a career doing something you are truly interested in, rather than being lured by a supposedly high-paying job. His advice was that you would eventually have a better chance of succeeding in something you felt passionate about. I still follow this advice today.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Right now, so many major changes are happening in the auto industry. They are unavoidable. Embrace the changes and capitalize on the new opportunities that things such as connectivity, electrification, autonomous driving and new customer expectations will bring. Also, be prepared to work with new partners outside the traditional car industry, such as utilities, software companies, national governments, and city planners.
2013-March 2018: Zero emissions strategy manager, Nissan Nordic Europe, Espoo, Finland
2013-2015: Electric vehicles product manager, Nissan Nordic Europe, Espoo
2011-2013: Electric vehicles project manager, Nissan Nordic Europe, Espoo
2009-2011: Product manager, Nissan Nordic Europe, Espoo
2008-2009: Accessory product manager, Nissan Nordic Europe, Espoo
2006-2008: Product specialist, Nissan Nordic Europe, Espoo
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I would like to be in a key strategic role at a car company that is preparing and reinventing itself for a successful future. The auto industry is going through a true paradigm shift and all automakers that want to be competitive and survive in the future will have to go through fundamental changes to be able to adapt to the fast-changing, more complex and more diverse market environment.
What do you do to relax?
I like to spend time with my family as well as walk or bike along Helsinki's shores. Those biking or walking tours are usually followed by a visit to my sauna at home. I really enjoying being outside in Finland's archipelago any time I can.
What is your pet peeve?
I don't like to work for an organization that doesn't have a clear direction or strategy. Having a clear strategy but no real commitment toward that strategy is also frustrating because most of the effort ends up going into solving internal issues rather than helping the company achieve its goals.
What was your first car?
I drove a 1992 red four-door Saab 900. I got to use it as my basketball club team's sponsor car.
I currently drive a white Nissan Leaf equipped with a 30kWh battery pack.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a Tesla Model S. It's an awesome car with a big idea that will ultimately change the whole industry for the better.