For alumni

Nora Rosendahl

In our interview, we will interview Nora Rosendahl, an alumna of the Aalto University Department of Industrial Engineering and Management. Nora is a start-up entrepreneur and working on a doctoral dissertation on the future of work. In addition, Nora has received the prestigious Bracken Bower Prize for young authors, awarded by the Financial Times and McKinsey & Company, for her book proposal Mental Meltdown.
Nora Rosendahl_Alumnihaastattelussa_02_2019

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career path.

As a student, I was interested in all fields related to energy, banking and sales, and not being able to decide between them, I chose a job where I could do all of them. When I graduated with a Master of Science in industrial engineering and management in 2009, I went to work as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. There I had a chance to work on projects on a wide range of areas such as health care in the Nordic countries, the mining industry in Australia and the oil-drilling industry in the North Sea.

After four years, I felt the need to build something of my own, so I started up a business. The first product of the start-up, Fifth Corner Inc., was a consumer application for health and wellbeing, designed in collaboration with e.g. Jamie Oliver. Currently, the company produces a digital training service for businesses, which offers employees tools and methods for stress management and continuous learning.

After five years as an entrepreneur, I felt the urge to broaden my horizons again, and so I have recently started doctoral studies at Aalto University, where my research focuses on the future of work.

How did you end up studying your field of choice?

You could say that it is in my blood; my mother was a student at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management when she had me and I have been told I sat in many lectures with her, happily babbling away.

When I was young, I was convinced I was going to be a doctor. I might well have ended up in medical school, too, had I not applied to university a year later than my friends had because of my student exchange year. Talking with my friends at the time, some of whom were in medical school and others at Helsinki University of Technology, I realised, to my surprise, that technology and business intrigued me more than medicine. My interest in both technology and business made industrial engineering and management a natural choice for me.

What is your best memory from your student years?

It’s April in 2008. Two happy groups meet each other in the middle of a crossroads in Nice, France. The joy of meeting is great, almost tangible. So great in fact, that they open up a bottle of sparkling wine right then and there, in the middle of the day, right in the middle of a crossroads in Nice.

That’s what it was like when engineering students travelled to Europe ‘to brainstorm’. You were sure to make some good memories on those trips. All my best memories from my student years have to do with good friends. I am happy to say that even today, more than ten years later, we meet each other at different crossroads in our lives.

What is the most valuable thing you learned at university which has helped you in your professional life?

I learnt a lot through my involvement in different organisations and associations. In my capacity as board member of Prodeko, I worked as a project manager in a European TIMES case competition. I also had an active role in Tietopoli, the entrance exam prep course provider administered by TF (Teknologföreningen, the Swedish-speaking students’ association). Working in a variety of teams, I noticed that it is crucial to enjoy what you do, because a team that feels good always gets the best results. I also learnt that the best leadership is the kind that engages you and that colleagues make work meaningful, even when the work itself is not always that exciting.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

I like to relax by writing fiction. When I create fantasy worlds and characters, I forget everyday chores and work, and the daily grind of a family with small children. Who knows, I may even publish something someday.

What should everyone experience once in their lifetime?

Failing totally and completely in something that matters to them. Failure makes you grow stronger, teaches you humility and puts things into perspective, as it forces you to question your priorities. 

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