News & Views

Get to Know Us | Iiris Ikkelä, Private M&A, Stockholm

17 April 2020

When did you start working at Hannes Snellman?

I first joined Hannes Snellman as an associate trainee in September 2016. Straight after my traineeship, I moved to South Africa to pursue my exchange studies at Stellenbosch University for six months. Once I moved back to Finland, I joined Hannes Snellman Helsinki’s M&A group as an associate.

You recently moved from our Helsinki office to our Stockholm office. Please tell us a bit about that.

I first moved to Stockholm to do a secondment here in September 2019. The initial plan was to stay for three months but I enjoyed my time in Stockholm so much that I asked if my secondment could be extended for another three months. However, with time I started to feel more and more at home in Sweden. Becoming increasingly fluent in Swedish also helped, as I am not a Swedish-speaking Finn. As I have said quite a few times to my Swedish colleagues: “Det kändes inte som att jag var här på besök” – It did not feel like I was here on a visit.

Interestingly, my move to the Stockholm office was first discussed during the Christmas Party afterparty in December 2019. Since 1 March 2020, I have been permanently part of Hannes Snellman’s Private M&A and Private Equity Practice in Stockholm. To be honest, I never believed it would be possible to move permanently to the Stockholm office. I am a Finnish lawyer and have not studied law in Sweden. Luckily, the Finnish and Swedish legal systems are very alike, and especially in our M&A/corporate group it has never been a problem. On the contrary, I am often able to use our Finnish templates as a basis for the legal documents that I prepare here in Stockholm. I have also learned quite a lot about Swedish corporate law, and I am able to spot more and more differences.

What do you see as the biggest differences in the work culture between Finland and Sweden?

This is something that I am often asked! Finns in general (not necessarily myself) tend to be a bit more quiet and work-oriented, whereas Swedes are more open and see the workplace not only as a place where you work but also as a place where you socialise with your colleagues. Swedes also like to discuss things much longer before making decisions, while Finns are more straightforward in their decision-making. In addition, Swedes prefer to make unanimous decisions, while in Finland majority decisions are more common. In my work, I have noticed that I really need to have the time to first think about things alone and ideally to prepare a first draft of the document before I can participate in discussions with others (instead of discussing along the way in the Swedish way), so I would say that this is perhaps where my Finnish background can be seen most clearly.

We have heard that you speak various foreign languages. Could you please tell us more about your passion for languages?

Foreign languages are my all-time passion. As far as I can remember I have always wanted to learn a new language, even at a very young age. In total, I have studied 18 different languages and I am fluent in nine of them. Interestingly, I have chosen the languages based on how beautiful they sound, the words should ideally sound like music. I also have a favourite word in every language. I want to mention one funny example: my favourite word in Portuguese is arco-íris and in Spanish arcoíris, both meaning a rainbow. In Greek mythology, Iris is the goddess of the rainbow.

Every language that I have either studied or I am fluent in has a special meaning to me – for example Afrikaans reminds me of my unforgettable time on the other side of the world while German reminds me of my relatives and friends in Germany. In my opinion, each language is unique and has a personality with fascinating nuances. The same actually applies to agreements. In my work, I focus on drafting various agreements, and I really enjoy thinking about all the details and how adding or deleting a word may change the meaning of a sentence and the outcome of a contractual provision. In this respect, my passion and work have a lot in common.

I am often asked whether speaking so many languages has been of help to me during my career. Unfortunately, most of the work is done in English. In fact, I was recently asked here in Stockholm whether certain clauses in an English language agreement would typically be translated into Finnish in a Finnish language agreement. I realised that I have never written an agreement in Finnish. While I understand that many see studying languages other than English unnecessary, I have always wanted to do things a bit differently in life, also in this regard. Besides, my dream is to move back to South Africa when I retire and live on a wine farm near Cape Town, so I am actively practising my Afrikaans.

What would you like to say to those who would also like to work abroad?

I would say that people should be fearless and make the most of any opportunity they are given. I like to make decisions by identifying the scenario in which one would lose the most and then choose the opposite alternative. It is often not the case that you are offered work abroad so such an opportunity should be used. It is also good to remember that you can (almost) always return if you no longer want to live abroad. In that respect, I do not see any major risks in choosing to move abroad.

As we all have been working remotely for some time now, please share your top three  tips for effective, yet pleasant, remote work?

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed my way of working. I have been working from home for a little over two weeks now. I am a very social person, so for me not seeing my colleagues every day is the worst part of it. To make remote work more enjoyable, I would recommend making daily calls and/or messages (both work--related and otherwise) with colleagues, trying to have a timetable/structured plan for each day, and also going outside every now and then. I try to go on walks to different parts of the city and to enjoy the beauty that Stockholm has to offer despite the corona situation.


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