Alum Maria Lehto: My hobbies have had a big influence in my career and through them I have had my first leadership experiences
Who are you? What did you study at Aalto University School of Business, and when did you graduate?
I am Maria Lehto, and I studied at Aalto University School of Business from 2015 to 2020. During my bachelor's studies, my major was Information and Service Management, and during my master's studies, I switched to the Management and International Business program. I really appreciated the flexibility of my studies, which allowed me to create a personalized study path.
What has your career path been like?
While my career path hasn’t always felt very straightforward, it has been an exciting journey. Looking back, I can see that every experience has played a significant role in my professional development. During my student years, I taught dance and managed a dance school, which taught me a lot about practical business operations. Even though it was "just dance", I gained valuable insights into managing a business, taking responsibility, time management, enabling change, and project management. Working while studying was a highly educational experience because I could immediately apply to practice what I learned during the lectures.
Towards the end of my studies, I transitioned into consulting with a firm that specializes in leadership development. There, I learned a lot from my more experienced colleagues and had the opportunity to work in a B2B environment. I learned not only about leadership development but also about how large companies operate and what, for example, executive teams expect from their partners.
My most recent career move, about a year ago, took me to material handling solutions provider Konecranes, where I've had the opportunity to delve into the theme of employee engagement. It's been particularly exciting as it combines my interests in employee well-being, organizational psychology, and data-informed leadership. My work is divided into two main areas, the first of which is related to producing information about employee experience through methods like employee surveys. The second part is about using the data to identify the most crucial areas of development for the organization. I collaborate with various stakeholders and support them in developing the company in a direction that helps provide a better working environment for our employees.
Alum Maria Lehto
My hobbies during my student days, especially dancing, have had a significant impact on my career.
Would you do anything differently in your studies? What advice would you give to your younger self if you were studying now?
During my own student days, work and active hobbies unfortunately didn't leave much time for student activities. If I could give advice to my younger self, I would encourage being more active in student life and networking more with fellow students. I would also emphasize that even if your study path might not seem very linear at a given moment, having the courage to follow your interests and focusing on what excites you, will eventually lead you in the right direction.
How have your hobbies and work experience during your student days affect different stages of your career?
My hobbies during my student days, especially dancing, have had a significant impact on my career. Through dancing, I gained my first leadership experiences when I started to run a dance school and was responsible for ensuring its smooth operation. Teaching dance also allowed me to meet many different people, which led to unexpected opportunities. For example, one of my dance students introduced me to a friend who had started a consulting firm a few years earlier. This connection opened the door to the world of consulting and marked the next step in my career.
What do you consider the most important workplace skills?
There are many important ones of course, but I would highlight curiosity, versatility, and adaptability. These qualities enable transitioning between different fields or roles and ensure continuous learning. Self-awareness, self-leadership, and time management are also crucial skills, especially in knowledge work. Knowing yourself better, for example being aware of how you react under pressure, not only helps you take care of your well-being but also makes you better at making decisions in challenging situations. It's also important to be able to influence the organization and “lead up”, even without a leadership title. This means the ability to "sell" and present your ideas effectively, without forgetting the importance of building good relationships with various stakeholders.
What are your expectations for the future, and what aspirations do you have for your career?
In the future, I expect challenging and exciting moments in my career. I hope to learn more about organizational psychology, data analytics, and the possibilities of artificial intelligence. I'm looking forward to the opportunities where the amount of responsibility feels a bit scary. Having learned from past experiences, I can say that these situations are challenging, but the courage to embrace them is undoubtedly worth it!
The Department of Information and Service Management refers to the creative use of information and digital technology in business and the move from industrial to service dominant forms of production.
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