Career stories

Philipp Schmidt-Thomé, Head of International Cooperation

I came to the Geological Survey of Finland in 1998, educated as a geographer in Germany (MSc. with minor subjects in geology and soil science) and a postgraduate in hydrogeology and engineering geology. My career in the GTK started out of a coincidence. After completing my postgraduate I was offered an on-the-job training here. Despite having only short work experience I was soon offered a position as a project manager. This is probably one of the differences to other working environments I have observed: It may well happen that somebody is chosen for a job not because of his or her current position or title but because of the skills needed for a particular project. In GTK also younger scientists get the chance to take over responsibilities and thus gain experience in demanding tasks at an early stage of their career.

After my first task as a project manager I started to focus on external project funding opportunities, e.g. EU projects, the World Bank, etc. The results of these projects were published and disseminated from early stage and have contributed to EU documents and decision-making on regional and local level. The combination of published project results and the endorsement of GTK directors paved the way to my PhD thesis in 2007. All above combined have led to continued expert invitations, e.g. act as an expert at EU level and in other international organizations. Cooperation with universities led to being granted adjunct professorships in three universities. These external activities are supported by GTK directors because it is understood that in this way GTK’s expertise is disseminated further and our international network is broadened.

The Finnish language is a real challenge. Luckily it is not a must to speak the language as most of the project work is handled in English anyway. But it certainly helps to learn the language because only then it is possible to participate in all discussions on all levels. It took me four years to start using Finnish as a work language and still there is lots left to learn. Luckily my colleagues are both very patient and supportive.

In general I must say that GTK is a very good employer and that I really enjoy working here.

Philipp Schmidt-Thomé 
Head of International Cooperation GTK Espoo