Introducing the foundation’s personnel: new Administrative Secretary for the Nessling Foundation

The Nessling Foundation is about to have a new Administrative Secretary. After working for the foundation for more than 28 years, Leena Pentikäinen will begin her well-deserved retirement and Paula Eriksson, 28, will become the new Administrative Secretary. Pentikäinen saw ten different research directors during her time in the foundation. Moreover, she witnessed the digital transformation of the grant process as well as the end of excessive formalities. How has environmental research changed over one generation? What inspired Pentikäinen and Eriksson to work for the Nessling Foundation?

The article has been first published in December 15th, 2017.

Leena Pentikäinen and Paula Eriksson may both be employees of the Nessling Foundation, but the similarities do not end there.  Both Pentikäinen and Eriksson hail from Pori, both of their mothers are called Eeva and they both want to learn more about environmental research through their work. We talked to Leena and Paula at the end of their stint of passing the torch of the Administrative Secretary.

Leena: I love seeing Paula’s preparedness to make the changes this foundation needs. Her IT skills, for example, are very different than mine, which is wonderful. Paula is the perfect fit for this position! 

Paula: I’m so glad we had this time together. I was immediately allowed to see the grant process up close and ask questions. I’ve had time to understand the correct approach and where to find the information I need. Working here is wonderful, everyone is very kind. People focus on the essential: working for the environment.

Leena: I had worked as a business HR secretary for a long time. The work was extremely hectic and I had a small child. There were weeks when I didn’t get to see my child at all. The position was permanent and I wasn’t actively looking for a new job. However, when I saw a job advert by Nessling, the words ‘environmental research’ were so compatible with my values that I decided to apply.

Joining the world of foundations turned my world upside down. This culture was very different, much more conservative than the business world. The board, in particular, represented old-world values at the time and demanded that I address them formally. But all in all, this has been a wonderfully flexible and open environment to work in! And, of course, the working environment has transformed considerably over these almost three decades. With the new researcher workspace Nessling Nest opened at our offices, we see many researchers here as well.

Paula: I also have a background in the business world, but it never really felt like the right fit. Now, for the first time, I feel like I’ve found a place where I can actually do what I want instead of simply gathering work experience to look good in my CV. Here, I can do things my way and impact the content of my work. The job advert for Nessling alone was so well written that I knew I wanted to work here. Of course, I’m also drawn to the foundation’s mission to protect the environment. I’ve personally been increasingly passionate about environmental protection.


Leena: The grant process. In the early days, the grant application forms were sent to applicants by post and they would then send them back. We always received hundreds of applications that were then copied. We processed the applications for two to three weeks and sent huge stacks of paper to the members of the evaluation committee. The amount of paper was enormous. The grants, in turn, were paid to the recipients by writing the payment certificates and account details on paper each month and then carrying them to the bank. Now, all this happens electronically.

Paula: I probably wouldn’t even know how to work in the way Leena describes. The procedures have changed so much in nearly thirty years that it’s hard to imagine!


Leena: These days, environmental research is much more about dialogue. Communications are also now emphasised, whereas before, the research was more limited. The field has grown and I find it wonderful to see how environmental research is now communicated to decision-makers. You learn so much in this work! Everything at the office involves an environmental viewpoint, which affects my actions. I love being able to talk to my son who is studying biology and understand what his future job might look like.

Paula: My sister has a doctorate in biology, and I’d love to be able to discuss telomeres with her, for example! I could learn so much here. You get so many ideas here and challenge your ways of thinking. Every week, Nessling Nest hosts events where researchers talk about their work. It’s amazing and I really like to attend those events. I hope that I’ll be able to spread awareness of this research in my circle of friends and family as well. 

People here discuss very different topics than the media and have reached a much more advanced level in those discussions. I’d like to see these discussions and this information reach new audiences that they aren’t currently reaching.