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From tinkling wine glasses to the top of the world ā€“ the story of Suvi Minkkinen

Suvi Minkkinen is a waitress who won gold in Taitaja2017 in Helsinki and earned Medallions for Excellence in EuroSkills Budapest 2018 and in WorldSkills Kazan 2019. Read Suvi's story about how she grew into a rock solid professional through Skills competitions.

I remember my first time practicing for the semi-final at the Finnish National Skills Competition Taitaja. I started with very basic things – setting tables, learning terms and serving sandwiches.

I was so nervous during the semi-final, my hands were shaking, and I was afraid I would end up dropping all the glasses. But the feeling after the competition was simply amazing! That’s when I realized that I love competing and that I wanted my journey to continue.

After qualifying for the Taitaja final, I started working harder and harder. The months before the final were extremely busy since I was both studying and training at the same time. For the competition I had to learn and practice many new tasks as well as focus on mental training to get used to the audience and the judges.

“I finally started believing in myself and having faith in that I am good at what I do.”

All my hard work paid off. At Taitaja2017, I finished first and won gold in Restaurant Service. I finally started believing in myself and having faith in that I am good at what I do. After Taitaja my appetite for competing only grew further. I wanted to challenge myself more and see how far I could get. I decided to apply for the Finnish National team for EuroSkills Budapest 2018.

I am so grateful for my school, Gradia, that they wanted to support me in achieving my dream. After the trial competition, I got the spot in the National Team and began training for EuroSkills. Taking the step from national competitions to the international stage is a huge change – you must remember a lot of new things, make recipes and do new tasks. And most importantly, feel comfortable with yourself while doing all these things – especially in English.

“Taking the step from national competitions to the international stage is a huge change.”

The training for EuroSkills consisted of many different areas. I got the opportunity to practice in different places in Finland as well as abroad. For example, I practiced in Oslo, Norway, at the Michelin 3-star restaurant Maaemo. In addition, I practiced with competitors from Russia and visited the Estonian competitors in Tallinn. I think it’s very good to meet people from other countries, you always learn something new. The former Finnish competitors were also a big part of my training.

In September 2018 it was finally competition time. The three competition days went well, and I finished in 8th place out of 20 competitors. I earned a Medallion for Excellence and was very pleased with my placement. The entire experience was something I will never forget. All the emotions, the ceremonies and everything in general was such an unforgettable experience, I decided I wanted to do it again.

“I feel very privileged to have found such a passion.”

After returning to Finland, I attended the trials for Team Finland for WorldSkills Kazan and got the place. I spent another year training and learned so much more new things. The best part of my training was when I had the chance to hop off my regular work and train at different restaurants in Helsinki.

When the competition got closer, I thought about my three-year journey – what I had learned, both professionally and about myself, my skills and all my experiences. That’s when I realized that I was ready for my last Skills competition. The competition came and went well. After four hard days I finished in 5th place out of 33 countries and was again rewarded with a Medallion for Excellence. I was happy with the result because I knew that the level in Restaurant Service was really high.

The Skills training not only gave me rock solid proficiency. It also challenged me to think about myself as a person in a wholistic way. Due to this I’ve learned a lot about myself – how I act, how I react to failure and how I can stay humble through success. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling a lot and working in many different environments with different people in a short period of time. I’ve learned what inner motivation is and how it gets you to do things, even without fiscal reward. At the same time, I feel very privileged to have found such a passion, and I hope that I get to travel along with future competitors on their journeys and share some of my own experiences with them.

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    Suvi's first competition was Taitaja2017 in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Skills Finland / Tiiu Aning

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    Suvi Minkkinen finished in first place in Taitaja2017. Photo: Skills Finland / Liina Caselius

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    First time at an international competition. Suvi earned Medallion for Excellence in EuroSkills Budapest 2018. Photo: Skills Finland / Nelli Paakkanen

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    Team Finland at the opening ceremony of WorldSkills Kazan 2019. Photo: WorldSkills

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    WorldSkills Kazan 2019. Photo: WorldSkills

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    The Minister of Education Li Andersson rewarded Team Finland after the WorldSkills competition. Photo: Skills Finland / Jarmo Linkosaari