En minä silloin 70-luvulla ajatellut, että tässä on nyt eläkepaikka

In 1976, Leila Pohjolainen started working on a Univac 1108 mainframe. Photo: CSC archives

"Back in the 1970s, it didn't occur to me to think I'd be working here until I retire."

Heta Koski

In 1976, Leila Pohjolainen was in her twenties when she started working at Operating Office 2 of the Finnish State Computer Centre on a Univac 1108 mainframe. She couldn't even have imagined that she'd keep working for the same employer until her retirement. During her career, Leila has had a ringside seat to the evolution of CSC from a small unit of the State Computer Centre to one of Europe's most important IT centres for science.

"I've had nice and laidback supervisors, who gave me the freedom to work independently" Leila Pohjolainen, 40-year career at CSC

"In fact, I never even applied for work at CSC, or even Operating Unit 2," she says with a laugh. "There were two vacancies at the State Computer Centre – one for IBM maintenance, the other involving Univac. Because I'd previously worked on IBMs, I reckoned that they might give me that job. I was interviewed and completed my suitability tests. Then they let me know that I'd been hired. On my first day of work, I learned that I'd be working on the Univac!"

Leila was not fazed. The young woman wasn't afraid of a challenge. She felt that learning something new always pays off. The State Computer Centre had a reputation for being a good training ground that would help you get a leg up in your career. "I thought that I'd stay for a few years, then trade up to a better employer, position and salary. After all, I was very career-oriented! It didn't even occur to me to think that I'd stay here until retirement," she says. 

Multitalent woman worthy of trust

Operating Office 2 was staffed by young and enthusiastic people. "When I started, the average age at the office was around 24. We were all very excited about the new opportunities opened up by technological development, but we also competed quite fiercely to achieve results," says Leila.

Leila is not at all sorry that CSC turned out to be her life's career. Instead, she is curious about how this happened. She has thought about the reasons: "First of all, I've had nice and laidback supervisors, who gave me the freedom to work independently. I've always been a 'Camel Boots' person – I like to blaze my own trail and do things that we haven't done before. They've trusted me and I'm grateful for that."

It would be underestimating Leila to say that she's only had one career. During the past forty years, this hardworking woman has accomplished a great deal: she joined the company as a programmer and has also served as a designer, financial manager, helpdesk staffer, telecommunications expert, member of the Funet CERT IT security team and training organiser. She even installed a program on Finland's first supercomputer (Cray X-MP).


A model of Finland's first supercomputer (Cray X-MP) can nowadays be seen at the Finnish Data Processig Museum Association's exhibition at Jyväskylä. Photo: Heta Koski

"I'm not someone who only does one thing. I get bored quickly. When a job becomes routine for me, I want to do something else. CSC has allowed me to do just that. I've started again from scratch many times. I've always been surrounded and assisted by expert teams," says Leila.

You must hand over your 'babies'

Leila says that a long career with the same employer has been fruitful in many ways. "It's easy to work when you are very familiar with the company's structures and above all its customers. However, I firmly believe that you shouldn't do the same job for longer than seven years! It's vital to seek variety, even if it is in house."

Learning new work tasks has always meant giving up old duties. "Tasks that have become too familiar are easy to hand over to someone else. However, sometimes it's harder to let go of those that you enjoy. I hope that I've managed to hand over 'my babies' to younger employees without hovering over them with too much advice and stifling their growth," she says.

Leila has been on part-time retirement for four years. Her last job tasks involved training, organising courses for the information security experts of higher education institutions, and operations centre tasks for the Funet CERT team. "The workload in maintaining information security keeps growing. It's a running battle against the bad guys," she says.

The way we work changes, good spirit remains

The small mainframe operations office where she started out has grown into an international pioneer with several hundred employees.

"The way we work has changed tremendously over the years. In the early days, we even wrote machine instructions by hand. The secretaries then typed them up, and we made corrections by hand. We got a lot of letters. I still have some of my correspondence with customers from that period. Nowadays, more and more assignments that once had to be done manually have been automated, such as searching for malware," says Leila.

When he started working at CSC, current Managing Director Kimmo Koski shared an office with Leila. Photo: Heta Koski

Does today's CSC have anything in common with the 1970s Operating Office 2? "Yes, I'd say that there's something similar about the workplace spirit. The employees like to spend time with each other, even away from the office.  People can perform their tasks in many different ways, depending on their personality, but no one can hack it alone. Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts," says Leila.

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