Thousands of Nokia’s former employees have been forced to rethink their futures as the company sheds jobs. In Finland many of them hope to start their own business.
Petra Söderling spent 12 years working for Nokia, and she was sorry to leave her job as Open Source Director for Symbian recently - the mobile operative system which is now being axed. But she is also realistic. Nokia’s progress has been fantastic, but when the company cuts jobs new opportunities arise.
“Nokia was the best thing to happen to Finland. The next best thing was that Nokia went down,” says Söderling, who now wants to build her own company.
There is a massive exodus underway - more than 10,000 jobs have already gone or are going in Finland alone, 30,000 globally. At the same time she has noticed how people who have left Nokia no longer want to work for large organisations. They want to start companies, they have the experience and they have the money.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity.”
According to Petra Söderling, Nokia has proven to be very responsible. For a while still, people who have been made redundant will continue to be paid according to how long they worked for the company. There is also a €25,000 contribution for people who want to start their own company and Nokia will provide security for bank loans up to the double of that sum.
Since 2009 Söderling has been running her company Mobile Brain Bank as a hobby while working for Nokia, but now it has become serious. The service helps companies which need to develop mobile apps get in touch with and offer jobs to programmers.
“We look at all offers and analyse those offering a service before advising our customer.”
The company charges 10 percent of a contract’s worth as a fee. The main idea is to help unemployed engineers set up their own company.
Some 2,000 engineers are now part of the network and so far 25 projects have been put out there. But this is only the beginning. Petra Söderling has also established a company in the US and believes her network of people within the trade will prove to be very useful. She hopes to find work for around a thousand engineers as a result of Mobile Brain Bank.
Petra Söderling, who has become a bit of an unofficial spokesperson for those who are leaving Nokia, is also worried that valuable skills will disappear. A former colleague wanted to become a farmer, another started water colour painting.
So far Nokia has supported around 100 business ideas, but perhaps as many have been turned down.
For highly educated people with money in the bank the lay-offs might not represent the same catastrophe as for people at the mobile telephone factory in Salo - 1,000 of whom lost their jobs as production moved to Asia. The Finnish government has applied for support from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to help all those who have lost their jobs to retrain and find new work.
In a town where unemployment has already reached more than eleven percent that is not an easy task. Although Nokia’s rise and fall means the release of resources which can benefit other sectors, it is clear to many that what is happening is a personal catastrophe, even if Nokia also here helps those who have lost their jobs to move on.
Nokia created the smartphone, but when the mobile world went constantly online the Finnish mobile giant lots its grip. Nokia, which only a few years ago dominated the global market, has lost market shares to competitors like Samsung, HTC and Apple at breakneck speed. Many say the main problem is the Symbian operative system, which is considered to be out of date. That’s why the company and its new CEO Stephen Elop - Nokia’s first non-Finnish head - decided to start cooperating with Microsoft to make telephones with a Windows operative system instead. Now the whole of Finland is holding their breath, waiting to see whether this change of direction will pay off. Right now it is not looking too good and the Nokia stock keeps falling.