International Fimpec, part 2: Installation supervisor Esa Mäntykenttä, Chile

In this article series we get to know Fimpec’s international experts. In this second part, we take a look at the day-to-day life of a Finnish employee on assignment in Chile. Esa Mäntykenttä tells us about his job as an installation supervisor on an international construction site and about his passion for foreign assignments.

Esa Mäntykenttä is an installation supervisor for Fimpec and is currently on assignment in Chile. Throughout his career he has had numerous postings abroad, working as an installation supervisor in various mill projects. All in all, he has close to 15 years of international experience under his belt thanks to these foreign assignments. Esa is currently part of Fimpec’s MAPA project  (MAPA is the Spanish acronym for Modernización y Ampliación de Planta Arauco, i.e. Modernization and Expansion of the Arauco Mill), which involves the construction of a pulp mill in Chile. Esa joined Fimpec from Etteplan in 2020, specifically for this Chilean project.

“In 2006, when my boss at the time first asked me if I would be interested in going abroad, my answer was, ‘You bet!’, even before asking where I would be going. The destination was Brazil, and back then, the farthest I had travelled was Sweden, but I was still very eager to go,” recalls Esa. His first foreign assignment was a drying machine project. He says it was the appeal of trying something new and the desire to see how people work in other countries that made him want to go abroad.

It was the variety of the work, however, that made Mäntykenttä say yes to foreign assignments again and again: “When you’re on a construction site all the time, there is a different way of working. The days can be hectic, and in the morning you have no way of knowing what the day will bring. Plans can change completely without warning, and especially in this type of installation supervision work, the day’s tasks are not set in stone. It’s certainly never boring!”

Experience gained in ten countries

The list of countries that Esa has worked in is long. In addition to Finland, it includes Brazil, Australia, Sweden, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Portugal and now Chile.

Esa’s day-to-day life in Chile is mostly consumed by work, and his daily commute also eats up a lot of his time. “My morning commute takes roughly an hour, so I have to get up early,” he says. “Coming home can sometimes take as long as two hours, so I get home quite late. At the construction site, we have a meeting with the commissioning team every morning, and then we all scatter to our respective tasks. I work as an adviser, meaning I help the customer. The job involves a lot of troubleshooting, clarifying matters and trying to find information.”

For Esa, exploring nature during his leisure time is an important counterbalance to his long work days and also a means of recovery. On his previous postings abroad, he was always accompanied by his family, but due to the pandemic, his family was unable to join him this time.

“I don’t have time to do much in the evenings, but on the weekends I go for long walks. I like to explore the old forests nearby and admire the lakes. It’s a great place to think and recharge my batteries. Chile is quite a safe country, so I feel ok going for walks alone. I can’t say the same of all countries. On my previous assignments, when my family was with me, we used to visit more places and do more things,” says Esa.

Every project and country is different

Being involved in projects in ten countries has exposed Esa to a wide range of working habits. According to him, every project is different, and the customers and contractors bring their own flavour to each project.

“As an installation supervisor, my work always involves BFB/CFB boilers, so in terms of processes, the construction sites are often similar. But the customers and contractors always change, and they can be quite different depending on the country. With work cultures and methods varying from country to country, there is always an initial period of getting used to the local way of working and the customer’s standards. That doesn’t bother me, though, because I know that it is part of the job, and I learn a lot that can be useful to me in my next project. Here in Chile, for example, many things are done the same way as in Brazil,” explains Esa.

In addition to understanding different ways of working, Esa says that in his work, thorough knowledge of the machinery is key, especially during the commissioning phase, which poses its own challenges.

In many projects there can be different types of equipment, each with their own measurements. It is thus important to be familiar with the settings or, if you are not familiar with the equipment, to have good information-retrieval skills. Knowledge gained in previous projects is always helpful, and Esa enjoys learning about new equipment, because if he encounters the equipment in his next project, he will already be familiar with it.

Mäntykenttä’s solid background has also given him a certain calmness and assuredness: “There can be some hairy moments at the construction site, and emotions can get heated, but I know from experience that the best thing to do is to stay calm and not be rash. I know that working calmly leads to a good outcome, and when I know the course of things, it brings me confidence in what I’m doing.”

“It’s worth trying out, I’ve never had any regrets!”

His extensive experience working in international projects means it is likely that Esa will be asked to work abroad also in future. There are many international projects, which means work is always available. Esa will gladly accept more foreign assignments if and when the opportunity arises: “I still have so many places in the world to see, and with so many new mills being built, there is no shortage of projects.”

Mäntykenttä’s advice to anyone considering working abroad is: “Give it a go!” He encourages people to boldly take the plunge, because it is the only way to know whether working abroad is for you. For Mäntykenttä, working on a construction site and being in a foreign country trumps everything else. “I have never once regretted going abroad to work, and I will continue to do this work for as long as my family wants to join me,” Esa sums up with a laugh.

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