Tarja Rapala-Virtanen Discusses Appointment as EIPC Technical Director
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.
Starkey: I'm sure that more and more of the conference content will be inspired by your input and ideas.
Rapala-Virtanen: I will create the program proposals and give ideas for the topics, but I would still appreciate Michael’s comments to ensure that the focus of the content is correct and we don’t repeat earlier conferences; every conference should have some new topics. That way, there will be no gap in technical conference content, and we will continue the chain of interesting topics.
Starkey: EIPC conferences have always been great learning experiences, and I think the whole atmosphere is very comfortable and positive.
Rapala-Virtanen: You are right, the atmosphere is important, and by offering interesting technical papers, we can continue to keep that.
Starkey: It's very relaxed, but there is an intense concentration on up-to-date technical information and the vision of future trends. Everything comes out in the EIPC conferences, and they're becoming more popular; attendance is increasing.
Rapala-Virtanen: It's a good sign when attendance increases. At the same time, it puts pressure on us to find new interesting technologies and topics for the coming conferences. Maybe that has also differentiated it from the other conferences around the world. One point that I see—having also attended other conferences around the world—is that although the conferences from EIPC have very good presentations, there is also an opportunity for networking and having some extra kind of bonus program and this has been a good asset.
Starkey: They bring the industry together.
Rapala-Virtanen: Absolutely, and that makes it easier for all of the conference attendees to get in contact with each other for deeper discussions and sharing opinions.
Starkey: That's true, and can be as valuable as the technical presentations.
Rapala-Virtanen: Yes, and also so that you can talk to those who given the presentations because we know people are different. Some people want to ask the questions during or after the presentation, whereas others want a quiet face-to-face discussion and ask about confidential background information. EIPC conference has made it possible to have these discussions and exchange ideas. I think that has been one of the advantages of the EIPC conference. Many times, the conference venue and location have also been chosen well.
Starkey: Yes, Kirsten [Smit-Westenberg, Executive Director of EIPC] chooses very good locations, and she makes sure that she moves the location around Europe so that everybody gets an opportunity to travel to somewhere interesting as well as hear good presentations and to have the benefit of the big industry network that goes along with it.
Rapala-Virtanen: The whole atmosphere is created so that it makes networking easy. That may be something that attendees don't realize, but it has always been there. It does not come by itself; it contains a lot of work that’s not always obvious to the participants.
Starkey: It's taken a lot of intelligent work over many years to establish this sort of format and framework.
Rapala-Virtanen: Yes, and like you said, Kirsten is one of the key people in keeping the continuity of the EIPC conference and giving the possibility for the whole big family to get together.
Starkey: There is stability in that family. Kirsten has been the mother of the family for a long time.
Rapala-Virtanen: That is correct.
Starkey: And I think Alun Morgan has become the father of the family. With no disrespect to Mr. Weinhold, Michael has been the grandfather.
Rapala-Virtanen: That's right, and now I take the responsibility of the enthusiastic daughter.
Starkey: Tarja, we could carry on this conversation for a long time, but I think that we're going to see really good things in the future. Congratulations again on your appointment. Thank you for taking your time to talk with me; I appreciate it.
Rapala-Virtanen: Thank you, Pete. My goal is to leverage my knowledge and expertise and use it for the EIPC and industry. I'm glad to be a member of EIPC.