Rock excavation experts are not afraid of the dark

Visa Myllymäki was captivated by tunnel construction already during his studies. Underground excavation impressed the young man, and now Visa is the leader of the rock engineering operations at YIT in Finland.

Visa Myllymaki
Visa Myllymaki

Visa Myllymäki started his career in rock engineering already when obtaining his Master of Science degree by working as a summer trainee at the mine in Pyhäsalmi, Outokumpu, in 2001. Underground excavations impressed Visa to the extent that he chose rock engineering as the main emphasis of his studies and worked at YIT’s open cast site of the Finnish Parliament Annex during his following summer traineeship. During his studies, Visa also expanded his experience in Ireland as well as in a parking excavation site in Turku and a traffic tunnel excavation in Vuosaari, Helsinki. Visa was permanently employed for supervision and site engineer tasks in infrastructure construction projects by YIT in autumn 2006.

“I had the opportunity to work on challenging and interesting sites from the outset of my career. I worked at the vibration-sensitive excavation site of Helsinki Airport Terminal 2 baggage tunnel and, after that, in the renovation projects of Jämsänkoski-Jyväskylä rail traffic tunnel in 2008.”

The renovation project of the rail traffic tunnel was challenging due to the one-month’s time window during which all the work had to be completed.

“We started the preparations for the project at the end of 2007 and surveyed the rock support and compaction points in the train tunnels at night in April 2008. In May, there was a break in the rail traffic and the works had to be completed during this break. We had an excellent team and managed to complete the work on time,” says Visa.

Starting from spring 2009, Visa worked as a Construction Manager, e.g. in Länsimetro tunnel excavations, construction of the Kylylahti mine slope tunnel and Vaalimaa construction of the E18 Hamina-Vaalimaa motorway.

“My years as a Construction Manager taught me a lot. I completed several projects from the tender phase all the way to the contract handover. I had an opportunity to tackle schedule and financial challenges and to meet many YIT employees and partners.”

In 2018, Visa began as the Vice President, and his area of responsibility is rock engineering. Currently, Visa spends his working days by maintaining and developing the unit’s efficiency – related to people, competence, equipment or ways of action.

“Our team holds all the keys to success in tunnel construction projects. It’s a pleasure to work with this team, and a large house offers us a large range of possibilities and learning opportunities.”

You get used to waking up early

Working days in traditional rock engineering start early; the morning shift at 6 a.m. In his summer traineeship, Visa had to learn to sleep regardless of the long daylight hours in the evening.

“You get used to it. Early mornings are common in this industry and you have to be well rested and alert at work for the sake of occupational safety as well as your colleagues.”

At the beginning of his career, Visa thought that the best things about the work were the large machines, explosions and totally new world under the ground. Their appeal has not faded, and great colleagues and unique sites also add value and appeal to his work.

“Rock engineering is concrete work and results are clearly visible – excavating while ensuring that the tunnel will last far into future without collapsing. Natural conditions, rock and soil as well as groundwater create special challenges that need to be managed at all sites. Controlling forces of nature is one of our biggest challenges,” says Visa.

Although the latest technologies and machines are used in excavations, it is also manual work. For example, you need to feel the rock when drilling and using the controls of the machine as well as observe visible hints and cracks on the rock.

“Human work and competence are the most important tools. Leadership, planning, cooperation, knowledge of materials, excavation and blasting technologies, just to mention a few areas. And when it comes to the technologies related to the equipment, the sky is the limit. There are endless possibilities to develop oneself in this industry, since the range of expertise to master is so extensive.”

Career development starts at the site

Visa has felt no need to change employers, thanks to nice colleagues, a good working atmosphere, work engagement and suitably challenging tasks. Task development also keeps him satisfied.

“YIT provides great opportunities for career development. At the moment, my own area of improvement is to learn more about project development; it creates a new, interesting perspective for work and I’m inspired to learn more.”

Visa recommends an employee traineeship for newcomers, no matter how much they would like to start immediately in the supervisory tasks.

“Construction site experience prepares you for career progression. It’s worth utilising the traineeship opportunities to learn the basis of the industry. You will have time to fill bigger shoes for the rest of your working career. Keep on rocking,” says Myllymäki with a smile.