My Story

My name is Kamilla Sultanova.

I grew up in Uzbekistan, and I have lived, studied and worked in the Nordic countries since 2002.

I regard myself as a highly-networked, diversely-skilled businesswoman with a global mindset and a strong local presence, someone who can navigate easily through cultures, industries and change. I am a person of action and often work as a catalyst for change. Aside from my commitment to cultivating business, I also have a penchant for social justice and empowerment.

My story

I was born in a small village outside the city of Qarshi in the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan, a country with a population of over 31 million people. Once Uzbekistan became an independent republic, I gained the opportunity to fulfil my dream of studying abroad. At the age of 15, I pursued the rare chance of participating in a student exchange programme, which led me to San Antonio, Texas. This was a life-changing experience. I had to make my own decisions and pursue my own hobbies and ambitions, and I surely made mistakes. My experience in the US further nurtured my desire to live and work abroad, so once I turned 18, I resolved to depart from my predetermined path of love, marriage, and babies and become a business woman who would fly on airplanes and wear a suit. I wanted to become somebody and be independent. I then left for Denmark with a hundred US dollars in my pocket, so I could receive a European-quality education that would enable me to pursue my dreams. Moving to Denmark was no walk in a park, however. I experienced a cultural shock in this new country with its cold weather and strange language. Despite it all, though, Denmark gave me a unique sense of freedom and provided the opportunities to establish myself, start a career, make friends, and prove that my gender and ethnicity were not obstacles to living a fulfilling life.

Today, I live in Finland with my Finnish husband and soulmate, Osmo, whom I married in 2017 at a huge wedding in Uzbekistan that included loving friends and family from over 20 nations.

My passions

I am passionate about creating connections and progress among people as individuals and companies reach across nations and borders. Despite some limitations in my background in terms of my upbringing and cultural sphere, I experienced a personal transformation, and this in turn provided the aspiration and perseverance for me to try all things new, whether it be food, employment, living in new countries, or supporting causes close to my heart. My past challenges have gifted me with the ability to foresee where growth and innovation can flourish: between the very dynamics of peoples and cultures. I was therefore never shy to take on the challenges of moving to new countries or jumping into a different industry. I bridged them all with tireless optimism, a genuine interest in people, and the courage to go and do. Living in so many countries has reinforced my passion for equality and inclusion, because it was school that gave me real opportunities, but for many, this is sadly not true. In childhood, I was fond of the teachers who saw the spark in me. My passion is to help Finnish/Nordic innovations in education, technology and sustainability to translate into long-lasting collaborations in other markets.

My experience

I received an MA in corporate communications from Aarhus University in Denmark. Professionally, I have worked as a trader and purchaser in start-up and corporate settings, such as at Maersk Line and Nordic Tankers, all of which involved dealing with customers and suppliers across countries like Russia, Scandinavia, the Middle East and the Benelux countries. I have carried out key account management and been responsible for new sales, marketing, and overall representation towards varying interest groups in 20+ countries. I have performed at my best in situations where traditional thinking was not enough.

Over the last 10 years, I have taken the lead on a wide range of initiatives in Denmark, Finland and other EU countries with a focus on gender equality with the European Women Lobby, such as inclusion and access to job markets, and Danish SMEs. I have debated these issues in the Danish parliament, given interviews to Berlingske and Børsen (Denmark’s largest newspapers), and appeared on Danish news channel TV2. Today, I belong to networks that gather the brightest minds from across Europe and America. The various conferences and forums have led to meetings with presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, and other politicians, include President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal, Marti Ahtisaari and Tarja Halonen (Presidents of Finland) former Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy, and Prime Minister Juri Ratas of Estonia. I feel honoured and humbled to have experienced all of this in my life—it’s more than I could have dreamed of. It has also been a precious gift to know the people I have met and worked with, people who inspired me and nudged me to become better.

My business achievements

In just under three years at Maersk Line, I delivered 22.3 million USD in annual revenue from container sales across Russia, Scandinavia, the Middle East. In summer 2015 I was recognized as a top performer in my team

I introduced a new way for high-volume sales that brought an additional 13 million USD in annual revenue across nine locations for one key customer.

I built a company intranet at Nordic Tankers and have hosted workshops on intercultural communication and export careers.

I won an award for my work and enthusiasm at Nordic Tankers.

My social engagements

European Young Leaders “40 under 40”, alumni 2015-2016

German Marshall Fund Inclusion Leaders Network, alumni 2012

I co-founded the Global Dignity Girls & Boys movement along with Tanja Lankia, Jenni Pääskysaari and Ronja Salmi in Helsinki. We have since delivered over seven events in three years and reached 3,000 teenage students with high-level speaker events on how to dream big and have faith in yourself, something that I always wanted to hear myself as a teenager. Global Dignity was co-founded by HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and includes successful people like American businessman John Hope Bryant, Finnish philosopher Pekka Himanen,  and Soulaima Gourani of Denmark.

I encourage everyone I meet to take the path less travelled and spread courage. I look forward to working with you and hope you will find my page useful and inspiring.

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