Khun Chumsri Sikaman told me several times over the phone:
“I don’t think it’s a good idea writing about me. It’s much better if you write about the President of the Thai Finnish Chamber of Commerce. He is doing a fantastic job for the organization.”
But I insisted. Khun Chumsri had just been appointed as the new Executive Director of Thai Finnish Chamber of Commerce. And prior to this exciting new job, she has more than 25 years of experience working with Finns and Finnish companies – that is in itself something to write home about! But not according to Khun Chumsri. No reason to write about her…
Japanese and French
Khun Chumsri Sikaman started her professional career by teaching elementary Japanese and French. At the same time she worked for the TISCO bank (now Thai Investments and Securities.) She worked in several positions at Tisco for more than seven years.
“One of my best friends at Tisco had the Swedish Embassy as her costumer. One day she told me that she had heard from the Swedish Embassy that there was a vacant job at the new Finnish Embassy in Bangkok. It was all very new, the Ambassador had just arrived a short time before.”
“They were looking for an executive secretary and assistant to the Commercial Counselor, and I got the job,” Khun Chumsri recalls with a smile.
The Finns obvious liked the hardworking single Thai lady. She was at the office when her bosses arrived in the morning and she was still working hard when they left.
“After two years I became a commercial officer”.
Finns good at staff management
The big Finnish companies started responding to the hard work of the Finnish Embassy. The Finns were happy with Khun Chumsri and she enjoyed working with the Finns.
“It didn’t take long before I realized how good the Finnish people are with staff management,” Khun Chumsri says with her voice wrapped in respect.
“Until I got the job at the Finnish Embassy I had mainly worked for Thais. This was something different. Most Finns are not aggressive, they are gentle and understanding towards their staff.”
“They look at their staff as equals. There is no class society built into the organization. And they let you do your work your way. You better be ready with your task in time but nobody will interfere all the time. They will let you handle your job as long as you take good care of it,” Chumsri explains.
A fantastic time
“The delegations from Finland kept coming and coming, and I had to handle whatever needed to make their visits successful. The delegations were always headed by the responsible minister and the business people were from the very top of the Finnish business society. Even the world famous Finnish Premier Minister Martti Ahtisaari led a delegation where I was involved. It was a fantastic time,” Khun Chumsri recalls.
And the years went on. The Thai professional never got married the traditional way. She lived with her family and she had sort of married her career.
When eventually she resigned her job at the Embassy is was as not really to leave – it was part of the restructuring of the Commercial Department at the Finnish Embassy in 2009.
Left with Finnpro
Finpro, the commercial arm of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs then decided to let a private company, Netpoint SEA, take care of Finpro.
“I went with Finpro to Netpoint as a senior consultant. My work there was OK and everything was fine. But when I realized that the position as Executive Director of Thai Finnish Chamber of Commerce was becoming vacant, I was in absolutely no doubt that this was a job for me,” Chumsri says.
Now almost three months later the new Executive Director has a more clear idea about what a huge a challenge it will be for her to push the Chamber forward.
“First of all, we need more members,” she says.
“We have 15 private members and 70 cooperate members. It’s not enough for many reasons. If we talk about events and our member’s benefits from these events and from being members, we need more participation. We also need more members to secure the economy of the Chamber,” she ads.
40 Finnish companies in Thailand
Some 40 Finnish companies have invested in Thailand. Part of the Finnish members of the Chamber come from these companies. Another part of the members are Thai business people interested in Finland.
“When Finnish people join the Chamber events they do it mostly for the social part of it. They meet other Finnish friends. They want to have a nice time. But the Thai people joins for a different reason. The join the Thai Finnish Chamber of Commerce for business,” Chumsri explains.
According to the new Executive Director ‘Field Trips’ could be one way to join the forces at the Thai Finnish Chamber of Commerce.
“At least one time per year we will try to combine the business and the pleasure”.
Another new thing could be annual business trips to Finland.
“We will try if it’s possible to take a group of our members to Finland every year. We have talked with Finnpro about that idea already”.
The humble Finns
And here almost at the end of the interview the Executive Director talks about “The Humble Finns”.
“I am so happy working for the Finns. It has, and still is a huge part of my life. But some times it’s a little frustrating that the Finns are so humble. Too humble as a matter of fact. They are fantastic people with some fantastic products to sell. And they have a fantastic market in Finland as well. There is no reason to be too humble if you are from Finland,” say Chumsri with love.