Aalto University brings international talent to Finland: Leonidas Karavanas strengthens the competence of Bayer's Espoo unit

Studies in Industrial Engineering and Management at Aalto University paved the way for Leonidas Karavanas to become Medical Writing Digital Innovation Manager at Bayer's Espoo unit.
Leonidas Karavanas
Karavanas develops new digital tools, technology and innovations for Bayer’s medical writing functions. Photo: Leonidas Karavanas' archives

When Leonidas Karavanas arrived in Finland in 2017, he had a degree in engineering from the National Technical University of Athens. After his studies, completing the military service in Greece gave him time to consider his next move. This was starting studies at the Aalto University Department of Industrial Engineering and Management. 

‘At Aalto, I got to learn about developing ideas and new concepts, setting up a company and innovative renewal of organisations. Studies in industrial engineering and management were a great combination of engineering, management and business thinking,’ Karavanas says.

Karavanas was introduced to Finnish companies at Aalto courses that focused on looking for solutions to their problems. The first contact with Bayer was established. 

In summer 2021, Karavanas started as a summer intern at Bayer in Espoo, where one of the company's largest global clinical research units is located. The Espoo unit manages the clinical research of Bayer's new medicines both in Finland and globally.

The three-month internship was continued and Karavanas became a project intern, after which he started his master’s thesis at Bayer. ‘As a life sciences company, we work with science and technology, which is why university collaboration is important to us. Universities are sources of new knowledge and innovations,’ says Arto Pakkalin, Digital and Innovation Lead at Bayer Nordics. 

Expert in digital innovation

Bayer has 100,000 employees, approximately one thousand of whom work in Finland. In his master's thesis, Karavanas examines the possibilities for collaboration between large companies such as Bayer and startups in the Nordic countries. The thesis was completed in May 2022 with top grades.

Bayerin tiimikuva
Leonidas Karavanas, Arto Pakkalin, Tuomas Heikkinen and Hanna Väisänen at Bayer's Espoo office. HR Business Partner Hanna Väisänen was also involved in Karavanas’s journey to Bayer. Photo: Nea Iso-Kuortti

When the master's thesis was nearly finished, Bayer's medical writing unit in Espoo was looking for reinforcements. The search for a Medical Writing Digital Innovation Manager was open recruitment, and applications were submitted from different continents around the world. They hired Karavanas.

‘We choose the best experts for our teams. Our medical writing experts in the Espoo team represent six different nationalities. Some have come to study in Finland, and some have moved here for work,’ says Tuomas Heikkinen, Karavanas's supervisor, Medical Writing Operations Manager at Bayer.

Karavanas develops new digital tools, technology and innovations for medical writing functions. ‘With digital innovation, we aim to make pharmaceutical development processes more efficient and faster. This requires expertise in data sciences and machine learning, which Leonidas brings to us,’ says Pakkalin.

Diversity is needed in companies as well as at universities so that Finland stays globally competitive.

Tuomas Heikkinen, Medical Writing Operations Manager at Bayer

Best talent to Finland

According to Pakkalin, diverse teams that combine expertise from different fields are a significant competitive advantage for Bayer. Diversity and multidisciplinary science create a foundation for innovations when people from different backgrounds bring their thoughts and views to the table. ‘Finland needs highly qualified experts to develop high-tech innovations. The competition for experts is global, and it’s important that we attract the best talents to Finland,’ Pakkalin continues. 

Internationalisation is also one of Aalto University's strengths. 25 percent of Aalto's master's students and 48 percent of teaching and research staff come from outside of Finland. ‘Diversity is needed in companies as well as at universities so that Finland stays globally competitive,’ says Heikkinen. 

Although the working language of the international company is English, Karavanas also knows Finnish: ‘I started my Finnish studies at Aalto and will continue studying. With the help of Finnish, I get to know new people easier. Knowing the language is also a way for me to show respect for Finland.’

What about the standard question to those who have moved to Finland: How have you adapted to your life here? ‘Very well, I’ve been well received, and Finland has a good quality of life. The weather is an ongoing topic here, for good reason. Last winter was a bit cold, but we've also had good winters here. And the heat this summer hasn't been a problem for me!’

Text: Marjukka Puolakka

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