x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Ringing endorsement to climb every mountain

The Life: Atte Miettinen worked in telecoms for 13 years before he decided to take a break to climb the highest mountains on each of the seven continents.

The result of bad decisions in mountaineering is
The result of bad decisions in mountaineering is "much, much worse than it is in a MBA programme", says Atte Miettinen.Jeff Topping / The National

Atte Miettinen worked in telecommunications for 13 years before he decided to take a break to climb the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Here, he talks about why he took the sabbatical and how some of the lessons he learnt are also applicable to business.

What did you do before taking your sabbatical to do the Seven Summits Challenge?

Until about last August I was developing a pan-African wireless broadband business for the Reliance Group.

And why did you leave?

I decided to take a sabbatical and climb mountains almost full-time. I had worked in the high-tech sector for about 13 years and I had been involved in a lot of start-up businesses. In my experience they almost take over your life because you lose sight of weekdays and weekends as everything merges into one. I decided it was a good idea to take some time off, pursue a personal goal, recharge my batteries in many ways at the same time and then get back and act like the way you did when you first got a job.

So you decided to climb the seven highest mountains on each of the continents. Had you ever climbed a mountain before?

Yes, I had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro a couple of times, which was one of the seven summits and it is a 6km mountain but compared to the other seven summits that was the easiest one.

Did you learn any lessons you can apply to the business world?

You realise even if a challenge is big, when you break it into small components, one mountain at a time, one day at a time, you actually realise that this huge mountain of a challenge is achievable. And once you get to the mountain you very quickly realise that you have to get your own self to the summit, this is actually a team activity. You have to look out for the other people in your team because whatever problem one person might have impacts the whole team and might cause the team to abandon their summit push, for example.

You also completed an MBA last year.

Yes, that's right. I did an executive MBA at London Business School.

What was harder - the MBA or the seven summits challenge?

When it comes to mountaineering and mountain climbing, the result of bad decisions is much, much worse than it is in a MBA programme. So I guess in that sense I would say climbing Everest was more demanding, for example, but I think you get a lot out of both and both pose you with very, very different challenges, which is very interesting for me personally.

Are you working again yet?

Hopefully we will get a couple of other nice things out of the project here before I sink my teeth into something. But I feel that I'm full of energy and ready to sink my teeth into something that is professionally exciting and my battery is fully charged. I'm sure I'll surprise a few people with the enthusiasm and energy I will get going with.