Meet the InnoLabbers: Heli Siirilä


Image: Sustainable transport requires different means in different areas. To achieve something in your work you need be a bit fearless, not-too-modest and have some fun!

This series introduces the members of University of Vaasa’s InnoLab research platform. Today we’re meeting Heli Siirilä.

What are you?

My Twitter account says that I ponder life and I’m enthusiastic about rural transport issues. That description is correct!

Your title at InnoLab is project manager, but what exactly do you do?

I’ve been working at the uni for over ten years. My projects have been on rural services and rural politics at the national level. For the past years, I’ve concentrated on rural transport issues. As a project manager, I apply for funding from different sources and then do what was planned in the project plan. That means writing blogs, talking in different events and spreading information through different channels to different stakeholders.

Sounds like a lot of work. Why bother?

For many reasons. First of all: I love to do this (= develop transportation in different regions). Second: There is a huge need for someone to do this in Finland. Luckily, I’ve managed to grow in this topic AND to get the funding to do it, so I’m more than happy to run this project. And there are so many super nice people working with this topic (officials at the national, regional and municipal level; researchers, project managers, entrepreneurs, developers in villages) so I get positive energy and ideas from them.

Imagine your phone rings. It’s the call you’ve been hoping for – what is it about?

It’s a call that tells me “Hey, people are buying electric bikes, walking short distances and using more and more public transport! The number of car rides is decreasing rapidly! Our dreams have come true! What do we do next, Heli?”

Just kidding, it’s actually a journalist. They’re finally doing a story on that one topic you’ve always wanted to give an interview on! What do you say?

I’d love to give a long interview on how different municipalities, workplaces, associations and communities can approach transport change from their own starting point.

Good job. Too bad you can’t be the resident expert on every topic. What would you like to learn more about?

Human psychology. Especially what makes people change their habits. And dancing! It combines perfectly music and movement.

Eclectic. What’s so important in that stuff?

The question “what makes people change their habits” should interest researchers and developers almost in every field. We so often want change without genuinely clarifying the root cause of the problem.

Okay. Now recommend me something – anything!

I would have recommend this even without the coronavirus: instead of travelling to Berlin, Thailand etc., travel in Finland. We have many cool places all over Finland to see and experience!

Any last advice for being both effective and a happy office worker?

Don’t hesitate to say out loud things that you yourself consider to be self-evident in your own topic. Sometimes it opens new, big worlds to your listener or makes thoughts click into their right places.

From the perspective of Heli’s colleagues: What makes you value Heli?

“Heli is enthusiastic about her work and brave to take a stand for issues that are important to her. She is also a kind and reliable colleague – and a master of solving everyday practical problems. Lastly, she has a great sense of humor!”

“She is knowledgeable, down-to-earth and humble.”

“Heli is all about promoting understanding of the countryside, developing it’s livelihood and connectedness. Countryside has a great friend in her, as she’s a very forward-looking, well connected, solution-oriented and positive expert!”

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