1. Jamila Awadh, what do you do for a living?
I am a Business and Marketing Director in Polar Glucan. Polar Glucan is a company that specializes in developing food technologies and products. It also sells its own patented food ingredients.
I work in international business, creating and maintaining the business contacts. I formulate strategy and ideate for NPD and new innovations. I am a multicultural person and diversity, languages and cultures help me to create business contacts and solve complex problems. At Polar Glucan I adopt a holistic approach in order to manage a fragmented business and offer solutions, such as personalized ingredients and applications. Examples are sustainable instant oat drink powders and plant-based alternatives.
2. How did you become Business and a Marketing Director at Polar Glucan Ltd?
My background is in international business; I work with my husband in the company and we both have a passion for our work. My husband is also a graduate of TKK and holds an MSc in Biotechnology and an MBA. We found common ground as we both worked in the food industry for many years.
The inspiration for entrepreneurship also came from my parents who were both entrepreneurs. My parents were good role models who motivated me to keep my entrepreneurship spirit alive – I guess it runs in the family. My previous business field in my home country, Yemen, connected me directly to EU business partners, during which time I learned about European business culture. I possess knowledge and experience of entrepreneurship that contribute to my current work.
3. What have been the highlights of your career?
At the beginning of my career, I was interested in being a lawyer, but then my business genes took over. My Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration at Aalto University complimented my MBA received from the University of Sheffield in the UK. I have gained knowledge from my studies and working life, especially when I apply my entrepreneurship experience and implement theories. My MBA thesis was about the supply chain of powdered milk and analysis of the Common Agriculture Policy of the EU (CAP), which I wrote about my own company. My MSc thesis at Aalto University was about the identification of international business networks, a topic that allowed me to analyze Polar Glucan’s business and network partners. For example, 90% of our income has originated from international markets so far in 2020.
I believe that my entrepreneurship experience in international business and my husband’s background in biotechnology have contributed to good teamwork that has helped me strengthen ideas and strategies in my work.
4. What are the key characteristics for someone working in marketing?
Good communication and analytical skills are essential. The key is to be transparent, honest and able to solve customer pain points through suitable solutions that meet their needs. Unfortunately, there are many sales and marketing people who give “empty promises”, and this has resulted in great confusion between marketing and sales. A marketer must be honest, agile and able to help customers in pivoting their marketing strategies. I believe that marketing is critical for every successful organization. It is not enough to have good products or services if one is not able to market them to the right channels.
5. How did studying at Aalto prepare you for the world of work?
I started at Aalto with a full package of entrepreneurship experience; my studies at Aalto gave me more views of business processes and research and insights into them. For example, I learned about teamwork and co-creation projects, attracting funding and VCs, critical thinking and creativity. My studies at Aalto complemented my earlier studies and experience, and led me to the position I hold at Polar Glucan. I have been mentoring students for five to six years at Aalto University; I find it very beneficial and it is a two-way communication process of sharing knowledge and experience. I think that it is beneficial for students to have mentors as they need support in their decision-making process and everyday life. This also means that both mentors and mentees need to be active in communication in order to achieve the best results. I also enjoy the diverse backgrounds and the cultural differences experienced in my mentoring because they contribute to the richness of knowledge.
6. What advice would you give yourself if you were a student now?
I would focus on sustainable and circular economy projects as this is the future and the only way to save our planet. I would like to work for Finnish companies as an “intrapreneur” in order to gain more insights into their organizational culture and critical thinking process. I would also like to contribute my innovativeness and broad thinking to those companies.
7. What are your expectations for the future?
I expect that the future will lead me into focusing more on sustainable and personalized diets in our food inventions at Polar Glucan. I expect to continue my ideation and creativity process in order to achieve the best results for the customers and their well-being. I remind myself that everything starts from good health. When passion is alive and you love what you do, there are no boundaries.