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Celebrating what makes us unique

With over two decades of experience from industrial to digital design, Hesam Pakbeen shares his inspiring journey and personal insights on inclusive leadership, celebrating our differences, and making a real impact on equality in the workplace and beyond.

Hesam Pakbeen

As we celebrate Pride, we’re thrilled to share the insights of various remarkable people that make Visma what it is today. Hesam Pakbeen is one of our seasoned Design Managers whose career spans over two decades, transitioning from industrial to digital design. His creativity, adaptability, and passion for diversity and inclusion characterises his journey in the tech industry. Hesam’s story does not only reflect the importance of creating inclusive work environments, but also the need to combat stigma and fear of differences in society as a whole.

What inspired you to pursue a career in design within the tech industry?

I’ve been in the design field since the late ‘90s when UX and UI were barely even mentioned. My background is in industrial design, which demands creativity and a holistic understanding of how products are built and sold. In many ways, I’m still doing what I did 20 years ago – just with digital and interactive products instead of physical ones.

Lately, I’ve been inspired by the current wave of change within design, especially after the AI shake-up. I want to not only envision the future, but be a part of the changes that are happening. I believe there are extraordinary opportunities to impact what’s to come, and it would be a personal loss to not take an active role in the new era. 

As a team manager, how would you describe your leadership style?

I haven’t really defined a specific leadership style – it’s a constant learning process and my role keeps evolving. However, there are a few principles that I follow. For instance, I always do my best to hear out everyone involved so that I can make an informed decision with all perspectives considered. I think that’s how we can find the best solution possible. Sometimes, what seems like the obvious answer isn’t necessarily the best option. 

I also try to be direct and straightforward in my communication, including when I give or ask for feedback. It’s not always easy, but I have found this to be the most efficient form of communication. We all have our individual feelings, experiences, and perceptions, so of course we’ll be polite and respectful of one another. But that doesn’t have to clash with clear and direct communication. 

I try my best to encourage open and straightforward communication. Working in Finland, I’ve noticed that many people tend to stay silent in meetings to avoid conflict, even if they don’t agree with what’s being said. In those situations, I intentionally cut straight to the point and encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ask questions to clear up potential misunderstandings. We don’t always succeed at reaching an agreement, and that’s absolutely fine.

It’s a constant learning process. The most important thing is to be open to different perspectives and carefully consider them.

What do you think is important to ensure an inclusive work environment?

Openness and willingness to accept people who are different from yourself and your circle is crucial. Make sure that every team member is heard, seen, and treated equally, but recognise that it’s not always easy. Our biases tend to steer us toward favouring those with similar views to our own, so make sure that you’re aware and conscious of your biases.

Don’t just tolerate people’s differences; learn to respect and appreciate them. Diverse experiences, skills, and opinions open up for creativity and innovation. Achieving this is usually easier in smaller teams, while it requires support from leaders and directors at an organisational level. If you’re in a leadership position, you need to recognise your responsibility in promoting an inclusive work environment.

What drives your commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I)?

I’ve always cared deeply about equality and human rights. I myself know the pain that discrimination, racism, and homophobia causes very well, and I know what it’s like to be bullied or harassed simply because of background or identity. Sometimes I think we seclude ourselves in our own comfortable bubbles while all these problems exist in the world. This numbs people’s understanding of the severe harm that inequality causes.

Talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion is great, but the fact of the matter is that many of us do not, and cannot, fathom the pain caused by being treated inappropriately due to ethnicity, gender identity, skin colour, sexuality, and so on. I want the world to be a better place not just for one specific group but for everyone.

What was it like to relocate to Finland and work as a foreigner in a new country?

Immigration has been one of the most difficult experiences of my life. In 2011, I decided to pursue an education and career somewhere where my skills and ideas would be more valuable. So, I moved to Finland, and the Finnish society as well as the university I studied at could not have been more helpful and welcoming. 

Then, around 2015, we unfortunately experienced the so-called “immigration crisis”, which changed a lot for me and many others. Without going into the specifics of what that time was like, and the repercussions of it, the point I’m trying to make is that unexpected events can cause huge divides in society. Suddenly it’s “us versus them”. 

Finland is a small and relatively young nation historically, with limited immigration history as well. Other factors such as the country’s location, what other countries it borders, and the cold climate don’t exactly boost diversity either. I think the changes we saw in our society during that crisis were very eye-opening for me and other non-European immigrants.

What do you believe is needed to ensure a smooth cultural adaptation for people relocating to new countries?

While identifying similarities and connections between people is valuable, I strongly believe in highlighting our differences and the benefits they bring to the mix. We’re all human, and we’re all different in terms of our upbringing, background, cultural values, the way we look, how we see things, and so on. I believe that highlighting the differences that make us unique can help people understand and appreciate the beauty of individuality. In my opinion, that’s what we need more of.

Having a genuine interest in understanding others will only broaden our own perspectives and help us grow.

How do you perceive Visma’s commitment to working with diversity and inclusion?

I’m happy to be part of a company that shows commitment to working with diversity, equity, and inclusion, but there’s always room for improvement. Generally speaking, the D&I discipline should not be seen as an add-on. It’s not a hobby or an extra extracurricular activity – it’s integral to people’s lives, well-being, happiness, and sense of safety. Getting to work with D&I is an opportunity to impact society as a whole. 

I think Visma does a great job of promoting diversity and inclusion, but it could still be more incorporated into everyone’s daily work. I’m not saying that I have the solution for that, but Visma is fortunate to have a large pool of incredibly smart people who can brainstorm ideas and come up with action points. Getting the conversation flowing internally is crucial for any organisation. 

As an ally of the LGBTQIA+ movement, what does Pride mean to you?

Pride is a riot in the form of a celebration. It’s a tribute to those who have lost their lives, those who risk losing it, and those who experience discrimination simply because of who they are. My greatest wish for the community and its allies is that they get to educate more people about the history of the LGBTQIA+ movement and what it’s really about. No one should be mistreated because of a lack of freedom, respect, or understanding in society.

In the future, I hope more people will become allies and join the movement for the sake of humanity. We should appreciate our differences and uniqueness rather than fearing them. Every human being is extraordinary, and the more people you meet, work with, and learn from, the richer your life will be.

Learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion at Visma