Maturin Tchoumi, General Manager for the pharmaceutical giant Roche in Finland, is on a journey. It has taken him from his family farm in Cameroon to Tours, France for a Doctorate in Pharmaceutical Sciences; Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire; Johannesburg, South Africa; San Francisco Bay Area, USA; and most recently Mumbai, India.

He arrived in Finland eight weeks ago to fine-tune his leadership skills in a European context through another senior leadership position.

One thing becomes clear when speaking with Maturin, as we recently did at the Roche offices in Espoo: leadership may take a certain personality, but it is also a skill that can be honed, practiced and developed through actively seeking out new opportunities to learn and expand one’s experiences.

“My one piece of advice for people working in their mid-20s: get a position in Basel, Singapore, San Paolo. Embrace the differences in the world and push yourself,” he says.

Soft-spoken and contemplative, words are clearly important for Maturin, and he weighs his carefully. He also listens with an openness that makes you strive to say something meaningful.

So, why Finland?

“Finland is an advanced market in regional Europe,” he says, “with a particular approach to access to medical care. The SOTE process [Health and Welfare Reform] puts Finland at a tipping point, and it requires experienced leadership to navigate through the changes. I wanted to seize the opportunity to shape change here, to make sure innovation continues and that we leverage our organization’s platform with these new opportunities.”

Roche’s strategy is to deliver value to society through its transformative medicines and diagnostic solutions, cooperate with the research community, government and other healthcare companies to enable innovations. Has Maturin so far devised a way of making his voice heard at the noisy intersection of academia, politics and business?

“You have to make the case for change clear. If you can show the government, for example, that what you propose will bring about good value for Finland, they will embrace it. You must bring facts.”

A good example is diversity, says Maturin. It can be unduly abstract, but you can point out that the employees at the European Medical Agency (EMA) voted to move their HQ to Amsterdam over Helsinki. Why?

“Perhaps because Amsterdam has more diversity, and people want that. This is a tangible result of the lack of diversity beyond the skills, ideas and solutions that diversity brings to a company,” says Maturin.

There is a lot to be positive about in Finland, but people tend to concentrate on the negative. “I heard about the Karolinska Institute in Sweden in 2006 in South Africa; in Finland, there is the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only one in the Nordics with OECI accreditation, a leader in its field, and I heard about it a couple of weeks ago here in Finland,” Maturin points out.

“To those workers in their mid-20s,” concludes Maturin, “I’d say, to get a clearer picture of Finland, your home, which includes seeing the positive sides, you must first experience the world.”