Alumna Annastina Saari: I want to be involved in solving the climate crisis

‘I had always dreamed of a career dealing with environmental questions’, says our alumna Annastina Saari, who studied international business as well as information and service management at the School of Business, and who now works as a consultant for D-mat, a company that is specialized in sustainable lifestyles.
School of Business alumna Annastina Saari
School of Business alumna Annastina Saari.

Who are you? What do you do for a living and why?

I am Annastina Saari, and I work as a consultant for a company called D-mat because I want to be involved in solving the climate crisis. I got my master's degree from Aalto University School of Business and now I am in my first year of studies in the master's programme in Forest Sciences at the University of Helsinki. 

In my bachelor’s degree I studied international business, and for my master's studies I chose information and service management. In my master's studies, I minored in the Strategy and Experience Design path in the Information Technology Program, and as a bachelor’s student I went on a student exchange in Bordeaux, France, which was definitely one of the highlights of my studies.

Annastina Saari on a summer cottage as a child.
Annastina Saari at her summer cottage as a child.

What kind of work did you dream about as a child? And how about when you were in school?

I have been aware of environmental issues from an early age and consequently, I have always dreamed of a career dealing with environmental questions. However, I have never had any very specific idea of what this career would entail. An important criterion has been that the work must be meaningful, ethically compatible with my own values, and something that would help mitigate climate change, for example. 

When I was in high school, I also took many courses in psychology, and it is still my dream to take some more as university level courses. The topic interests me primarily on a personal level – not so much in the professional sense. However, it has certainly been beneficial in many situations in my work, when I have been working with other people, and designing services and products that people can use.

What kinds of things do you think affected these dreams?

I am a very empathetic person, which has undoubtedly affected my interest both in psychology and the human mind, as well as environmental matters. My father has also always been interested in environmental questions and has worked with them. He was the single most important person to spark my interest in the topic of climate change. Through my father's interest I became familiar with both climate change and other environmental problems already when I was in primary school. 

In addition, I spent the summers of my childhood in a cottage on an island where nature has always been close. For a small island it has offered plenty of things to wonder about, with wild berries, animals, and weather phenomena, and it is there that I learned to respect and to appreciate nature.

Annastina Saari as an exchange student in Bordeaux.
Annastina Saari as an exchange student in Bordeaux.

How did you decide to study business?

I am from a small city called Kokkola. I was not that aware of all the things that would be possible to study, and I could not ask my parents or close relatives about it, as none of them had university-level educations. 

However, the School of Business seemed to be an interesting option because of the varied alternatives available for career and studies, and it certainly did not rule out any of the topics that I was interested in. Perhaps one of the main criteria was studying in English, which is why I decided to apply for the BScBA programme at the Mikkeli campus of Aalto University School of Business, where English is the language of instruction, and where the programme is genuinely international in other ways as well. Applying for the Mikkeli campus proved to be one of my best decisions, although it initially felt like a strange option considering the location of the campus. The study atmosphere and the community spirit there were nevertheless magnificent.

Could you tell us a little about what it was like to study at the School of Business?

Studying at the Mikkeli campus was quite intense. One course was completed in three weeks and there were lectures every weekday. Naturally, fellow students made this tolerable, and without them I probably could not have coped. In Mikkeli I got the sense that we really were working together on the degree, especially as we all had the same major, and everyone attended the same courses at the same time. The professors on the courses, meanwhile, came from around the world to teach in Mikkeli, which made studies interesting, and gave a very international feeling to the major.

At the master's phase my studies switched to the information and service management major at the Otaniemi campus of the School of Business in Espoo. The experience of studying at a large campus offering many fields of study was very different from what studies in Mikkeli were like. At the master's phase I especially enjoyed having many students from different fields around me, being able to study at my own pace, and being able to sign up for courses that were not a part of my own major. For example, on the UWAS (University Wide Art Studies) course, shoe painting in the Väre building of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture provided a pleasant balance to my studies in information and service management. In addition, in my last year of studies at Aalto I applied to join the board of KYllä Oluelle, the KY beer club, which I enjoyed so much that I decided to stay on the board for a second year, even though my studies continued at another university.

As a whole, my studies at the School of Business were rewarding in many ways, even though it sometimes felt like I was not learning anything concrete. However, when I started working, I noticed that I had absorbed many things there.

The most important things that I learned came from my thesis works, because I was able to choose climate issues as the focal point.

Annastina Saari, School of Business alumna
M.Sc. Annastina Saari.
Annastina Saari, M.Sc. in Economics and Business Administration.

What part of your studies did you find the most rewarding for you personally? And what was the most challenging?

Completing my master’s thesis was certainly one of the most challenging and most painstaking parts of my studies, even though I found the topic to be interesting. During the coronavirus period it was truly very difficult to make progress with the thesis at home, in addition to which I was also working part-time. After I completed the master's thesis, it took me a long time to recuperate and to internalise that I would no longer need to think about it or feel stressed. I was nevertheless very lucky that I had a thesis supervisor who was very pleasant and supportive throughout the project.

The most rewarding experience was to complete the entire degree. Applying for graduation felt odd, and I wondered if this was really it.  And there it was – six years of studies finally wrapped up in a single package. At that time, it felt rewarding to look back at everything that happened in my university years. However, the best parts of my studies were my time as an exchange student abroad, and all the parties and events, the student clubs, and meeting new people in general. All of these add energy and support to the studies themselves and make studying so much more fun. Those who began their studies in the coronavirus period have largely missed out on this, which is very sad.

What kinds of things did you learn at the School of Business that are helping you in your career with sustainable development?

The most important things that I learned came from my thesis works, because I was able to choose climate issues, a topic that interests me, as the focal point. For my bachelor's thesis I examined the recycling processes of different companies, and in my master's thesis, I studied the user experiences of a carbon footprint calculator. I also attended some courses linked with sustainable development both at the School of Business and in other Aalto University schools. The master's thesis was nevertheless the most helpful, because it helped me get my current job, and its topic has raised interest in other ways as well. Writing the thesis was also a great opportunity to learn, because the topic that I had chosen, and its point of view, were completely new for me. Working with it made me understand at a concrete level that learning by doing works.

Currently you are working as a consultant for a company called D-mat. What kinds of work assignments do you have, and what are your workdays like?

Each day at work differs considerably from all the others. I work independently, with a team, and with customers. We share the office space with a few other companies, so it is possible to get to know new people on coffee breaks.

As a consultant I work at many different assignments, in addition to which I work each week with communications, marketing, and website maintenance and design. I have also learned about calculating carbon footprints. In a small company one ends up doing many different things, which I find to be most valuable. The opportunity to learn new things and to become part of different projects depends largely on one's own attitude and personal initiative, which means that opportunities really are available.

To learn more about Annastina's studies and her career, check LinkedIn!

School of Business alumni stories

Here you can find School of Business alumni stories. Our alumni share their professional journeys and give advice and tips regarding working life. The stories have been sorted based on the alumni's majors. The newest publications are placed first in the major groups.

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Information and Service Management, Master of Science (Economics and Business Administration)

Master's Programme in Information and Service Management is the most tech-savvy programme at the Aalto University School of Business. The ISM programme shapes students into future leaders of the digital era with a unique combination of leadership, business and technology. ISM provides students with in-depth expertise in developing, managing and leading data-heavy businesses, making graduates highly sought after in the job market.

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International Business, Bachelor (BScBA, Mikkeli) and Master of Science (Otaniemi) in Economics and Business Administration

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