Become a game changer – Giant steps

When management students from all over the world began the new term with an exciting, Amazing Race-style exercise, they learned a lot about working in diverse teams with different skills, cultures and habits.

Over the last few weeks of summer, strange happenings took place all over Helsinki. A group of students took to the streets carrying funny signs and high-fiving passers-by, while others trudged around a muddy pasture interviewing rogue cows. All in all, close to 30 students from all over Europe cold-called media, pitched strangers and stepped way out of their comfort zone. 

The competition with different challenges on entrepreneurship was part of the Block Seminar that kick-started a new term for the Global Alliance in Management Education (or CEMS) students – the teams had only two days to complete the challenges and the best team received a prize at the end. However, the race wasn’t about acknowledgment but building confidence and connecting with others. 

“What we did at the Block Seminar was super exciting, but also top secret, so we don’t spoil the fun from those who are doing the seminar next year”, smiles Russian Tamara Makarova, an exchange student on the CEMS programme from Cologne, Germany. “If you’re considering applying, just take the risk. Once you’ve been accepted to the programme, you’re already surrounded by inspiring people”, she encourages. 

Aalto University School of Business is part of CEMS – a network of 30 universities and more than 70 corporate and social members around the world that together offer the high-ranked Master’s in International Management programme. CEMS MIM students complete their studies in two CEMS schools in a highly international environment with close corporate collaboration. 

Jenni Suhonen from Finland began her studies on Aalto University’s CEMS programme this autumn. She found the Block Seminar a fun and memorable start to the studies. “We tried to do in practice the things we have learned in theory. There was lots of diversity in the teams, different working experiences, habits and skills. When you work as a team, you can do things that you couldn’t ever even imagine doing only by yourself.” 

Jenni will be moving to Sydney for her CEMS exchange period. She plans to relocate abroad after graduating, and hopes to start a company of her own one day. “I studied accounting, but I also wanted to have a wider view on business, so CEMS was a perfect choice for me. I like to push myself to do new things and step out of my comfort zone.” 

Developing team work skills required in multicultural, interactive, networked working life played a key role in the seminar, which involved people who didn’t know each other working closely together. Ines Weise from Austria expands, “In my team, we were all from different fields and from different countries. It was hard to agree, but that’s finally why we did so well. We learned a lot about how different people can work together.” 

Ines is completing the CEMS programme in Vienna, but will be arriving for an exchange period in Helsinki for the spring term. “I chose Aalto because I wanted something different academically, but also culturally. I came here with low expectations, though. I had heard that Finns are very introverted, but it proved to be exactly the opposite. People are open-minded and so kind, it was easy to make friends.” 

The CEMS programme attracts ambitious students, who have an active life also outside their studies. Ines enjoys skiing in her spare time and plans to visit Lapland to try out different winter sports. “I’m really impressed with nature in Finland, it’s so clean and wonderful.” Also Tamara wants to travel around Finland during her exchange period. “I want to get to know local culture, business life and people. I’m going at least to Turku, because other students have told me that it’s such a nice old city.” 

All three women are open-minded, sharp and have a great sense of humour – ideal candidates for top leaders. What do they think are the most important characteristics for future leaders? “For me, a good leader has to have emotional intelligence and be aware of herself”, Ines muses. After a week of intensive team work, Jenni remembers to value colleagues, “Yeah, I think nowadays a successful leader needs to be a good team player. A successful leader needs to give her employees the freedom to be innovative.”

Become a game changer. Find your own bachelor's programme (in Finnish) and apply to Aalto University 14–28 March 2018.