Sarah Don, Fennovoiman käytönsuunnitteluinsinööri

To Fennovoima from the best university in the world

Operations planning engineer, Sarah Don, joined Fennovoima at the turn of the year and is pleased with her choice. “Fennovoima is an excellent workplace. I have felt welcome from the beginning.”

Sarah Don is a new face on Fennovoima's operations team. Starting six months ago as an operations planning engineer at Fennovoima, the Australian joined the company from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, a university that has been ranked the best in the world numerous times.

Sarah worked at the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory as the operations manager, responsible for the operation of the research reactor. Earlier, while working part time as a reactor operator, she completed two degrees in nuclear science and engineering at MIT and a second master’s degree in medical applications of nuclear science at UMass Lowell.

– I really enjoyed my work at MIT's research reactor and ended up working there for eleven years. Before joining Fennovoima, I was the operations manager for five and a half years. We worked there at the forefront of nuclear materials research and operational excellence, which was exciting, Sarah says of her previous work.

Fennovoima seemed like the perfect opportunity

Sarah did not end up in Fennovoima by chance; the construction of a new nuclear power plant and the opportunity to live in Finland attracted her and got her to apply for Fennovoima. Sarah had visited Finland in 2019 and fell in love with the country.

– I had long wanted to work on a large-scale nuclear power plant project, and the Hanhikivi 1 project seemed like a perfect opportunity.

Sarah is satisfied with her decision and enjoys both working at Fennovoima and living in Finland.

– Fennovoima is a great company to work for, and I have felt welcome from the beginning. It is easy to work with the people here, and all employees have a high level of motivation to work on the Hanhikivi 1 project while keeping a healthy work-life balance. Both my husband and I are really enjoying life in Finland so far. The country has received us well and it feels like a comfortable place to live, the engineer says with a smile.

Training and responsible assignments from the beginning

Fennovoima's operations unit currently employs eight experts, but the team will grow rapidly in the coming years. Already before the plant is commissioned, the unit will be the largest in Fennovoima's organization.

Sarah Don’s first months at Fennovoima have included a lot of training and learning new things but also responsible work assignments. As an operations planning engineer, Sarah is responsible for acceptance of the operating procedures for the Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant, but has also had time to participate in the review of the basic design of the Hanhikivi 1 plant. At the same time, new co-workers have become familiar.

– I have enjoyed working with everyone in the team. We’re all looking ahead to the future plant and sharing our experiences while discussing how we’re going to operate it, Sarah smiles.

A pleasant work environment

The nuclear industry is tightly regulated, and working in the sector may therefore seem challenging, but Sarah also sees the other side. According to her, a safety culture that firmly guides the operations makes the work comfortable.

– At Fennovoima, as in the nuclear power industry in general, safety culture guides our way of working. Safety culture contributes to teams working well together, as everyone has aligned values and a shared understanding of key goals. Safety culture is not just about designing a safe facility, it’s also about the ways we hold meetings, question ideas, look out for each other, are open to feedback and strive for continuous improvement. Because of this, safety culture makes the nuclear industry a pleasant working environment.

According to Sarah, the values emphasized in Fennovoima's work culture supports safety and also reflects her own values.

– Trustworthiness, cooperation, integrity, honesty and compassion are clearly really important values at Fennovoima and they are also important values for me personally. I feel that I fit well in Fennovoima.

Bicycle excursion to Pyhäjoki

Fennovoima's personnel will gradually move to work at the plant site on Hanhikivi headland. However, for the time being, the majority of the operations unit's employees still work at Fennovoima's Helsinki office. Helsinki has charmed Sarah, who’s a passionate bicycle commuter, with its ease of moving around and its beauty. The nuclear engineer who loves drawing and painting makes weekend trips around the city and captures what she sees on paper.

On her first holiday, Sarah plans to ride her bicycle from Helsinki to Pyhäjoki, where she wants to get to know the Hanhikivi 1 plant site, Pyhäjoki, and her co-workers.

– By bike from Helsinki to Pyhäjoki. I’ve never biked so far at one time, but Finland seems like a great place to do bicycle touring, Sarah says enthusiastically.

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