Nokia chief quits to help deprived children

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Europe's most influential businesswoman is stepping off the corporate treadmill to work with children and learn Italian.

Sari Baldauf, 49, head of Nokia Networks, the infrastructure division of the world's largest supplier of mobile phones, on Friday announced she was leaving the company she had helped transform from an industrial conglomerate into one of Europe's leading technology groups.

She will devote more of her time to the International Youth Foundation, an educational group for disadvantaged children, to studying and, in the future, what she describes as entrepreneurial activities.

Her departure, after 21 years at Nokia, coincides with the resignation of Jukka Bergqvist, head of global business units at the networks division, and follows the decision last month by Matti Alahuhta, chief strategy officer, to leave.

“The way I think about life is it's a journey. And work, for me, is a series of challenges,” Ms Baldauf, who is single and has no children, said. “I am going to do something completely different, if I wanted to stay in corporate life I would stay at Nokia.”

Although she will retain some board memberships outside Nokia these will be limited. “When you run a global business, a 24 hours a day, seven days a week [business]...then there are not many time slots for other things.”

This is not the first time her personal choices have surprised the corporate world.

In 1996 she was one of the first managers in Finland ever to take a sabbatical.

Ms Baldauf spent six months reading, studying Asian history and indulging her passion for downhill skiing.

Ms Baldauf, from the working class city of Kotka, 50km from the Russian border, was this year selected as Europe's top businesswoman by the Financial Times and its sister paper FT Deutschland.

But even then she made clear there was a life outside business.

“I am Sari and then I work at Nokia. I have this role, and I have responsibilities and tasks that relate to that.

“But as a human being, I don't identify myself with that role. As a human being I identify myself as Sari.”

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