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Tarja Rapala-Virtanen discusses her role as the newly appointed technical director of EIPC, Michael Weinhold’s retirement and impact on her career, and the draw and success of EIPC conferences.
Pete Starkey: Tarja, this is wonderful to have this opportunity to talk, and congratulations on your appointment. I can't think of a better person to take this position. Having worked closely with Michael Weinhold over many years, if I were asked to nominate the proper successor to Michael, there is only one name that would come to mind, which would be yours. Is this the sort of position that you looked forward to being in? Is this a natural progression for you?
Tarja Rapala-Virtanen: Thank you for your nice words, Pete. And yes, it has been my pleasure to work closely with Michael Weinhold. I have cooperated with Michael since I started to work for the PCB industry, which was at Nokia in 1987. I have always appreciated the work he has done for the industry. It was also my dream to be like another Michael for the industry. When Michael called me, I was so excited, and of course, I was very interested. You should have seen my face; it was more excitement than I usually give out.
Starkey: We were all surprised when Michael announced his intention to retire; we thought he would stay forever! But he chose the right time, and I think he nominated the right person to become his successor. You've had a lot of your experiences in parallel with Michael.
Rapala-Virtanen: Yes, I think it’s always a surprise when something like that happens. And you are right; we have such a long history of cooperating together, it was easier for him to make the decision. I hope he will continue to support in the background and be available for feedback and comments when needed. That will ensure a smooth transfer of responsibilities between us.
Starkey: Some of your experiences—in particular, more recent experiences—have been to work directly in the manufacturing of PCBs. It's been some time since Michael has been hands-on involved.
Rapala-Virtanen: You are right that from my side, I have experience from direct manufacturing, as Michael has more expertise on the material technology and standard development work, for example.
Starkey: And you've had all of this experience while working in Asia. I'm sure that gives the members of EIPC an opportunity to learn from some of your inside knowledge of that working area.
Rapala-Virtanen: That was also one of my ideas in my discussions with Michael, that I can share the experience I have. I also want to provide better networking opportunities for the European supply chain in communication with the Asian counterparty. During the last 10 years in China, I created a wide network globally that includes colleagues as well as business partners from the whole PCB supply chain. One of my goals in this new position is to promote networking and cooperation for the whole supply chain, which enables the partners to have optimized technology solutions for future products on the market according to the demand and being on time. Simultaneously, after working for such a long time outside of Finland and Europe, I ought to share my experience as a return. Being an EIPC member gives me this opportunity to discuss this with people and link the right people together.
Starkey: Of course. You're certainly a great asset to the organization. I can't think of anyone else in the world who has the breadth of experience, depth of knowledge, network of contacts, or who commands the same level of respect as you do yourself.
Rapala-Virtanen: It was easy for me to follow the road after Michael Weinhold because I know that he will still be available for supporting me when needed due to our long history. The other key members and partners of EPIC are also familiar to me.
Starkey: It was really good yesterday to see Michael visiting the exhibition; it was like he'd never been gone!
Rapala-Virtanen: That's right. I'm very happy to have him beside me. I think he's happy because then he can still give valuable input and advice when needed. That is valuable for me due to my long absence from Europe; I need the update on the European industry status and key technology challenges. It’s also important that he is available to transfer the latest updates and projects that he has worked with that will make my learning curve fast for EIPC activity. It’s also essential to have Michael Weinhold still on my radar to ask questions, hear his opinions, and have somebody who can give feedback, etc. I’m no longer working in a company with colleagues around me, so it’s crucial for me to have the EIPC family to communicate with and enable good progress and a correct approach for EIPC.
Starkey: You said family; I think that EIPC is very much a family.
Rapala-Virtanen: It is.
Starkey: And it's a group of really nice people who will work together and support and guide each other. I've been a sort of distant cousin of this family for many, many years. I've never had an official position in EIPC other than being a technical consultant on some of the project work in the past. But there’s always this warm feeling within the organization; it’s not cold and faceless, but an organization of people.
Rapala-Virtanen: Yes, it is, and my goal is to keep it like that from my side.
Starkey: People helping people and sharing with one another.
Rapala-Virtanen: Sharing ideas and information. It was always like that for me when I came from Asia for events organized by EIPC; it was so easy and nice to come because you really felt that you were a member of the group.
Starkey: I've attended and reported EIPC conferences for more years than I can remember, and the content of the conferences is always good. It's been very well-chosen, and there have been times when I've made certain suggestions about the content. Again, to give credit to Michael, he has been the true moderator of the conference program.
Rapala-Virtanen: Yes, and it’s important that we continue to keep the program interesting for members, and everyone is free to give suggestions for the topics based on their interest. That guarantees that the conferences will have excited attendees and interesting networking discussions.