Alumna Anne Tolonen: In an international career courage and hard work will pay off
Who are you and what did you study at Aalto University School of Business?
My name is Anne Tolonen. I studied management, marketing and tourism in the School of Business. I also completed many courses on work psychology and management in the School of Technology. I graduated in the summer 2013.
Why did you want to study management?
The two options I had were management and marketing, and I pondered a lot about which one would become my major subject. I ended up with management, as managers have a great impact on not only the results but also on developing and supporting the personnel. Moreover, management seemed like an important theme regardless of the organization, function or country. My mother’s 15 years of experience as a manager served as a great role model to me. Lately, I have started tot hink about completing a PhD on team leadership.
What has been especially useful in your studies when considering your employment?
The most useful course has been a selective course in management, where we did a study trip to Singapore. We were 14 students working towards an ambitious goal of organizing and financing a study trip to a remote destination outside of Europe by doing consultancy projects and acquiring sponsorships deals. We collected over 30 000 euros of funding from for example selling our consulting services to companies. I was a part of a smaller team and we did a case on management development for KONE. This course boosted my confidence in taking more responsibility in different projects and helped me believe in my abilities to sell and have an influence. I believe that this ‘Singapore‘-project had an impact on me getting a Master’s Thesis contract with Finnair and a internship offer at the Finnish Embassy in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Another course that comes to my mind is the management consulting course: as I was recently building a course offering on innovation management for a Norwegian university, I thought about this course and the themes on open innovation discussed during the course.
Would you do something differently in your studies?
I used many years in my Bachelor studies by studying this and that. Now I see that it would have been wiser to focus on something and graduate faster. However, during my studies, it was hard to gain work experience from the fields of management and marketing – I hope that the situation is better for current students.
CEMS degree sounded also interesting. If I were not to do a Master’s degree, doing a double degree for example from Aalto and London School of Economics would be a very intriguing thought.
How is your current job like and how did you end up there?
I have acted as the Program Manager in Technical University of Münich, in the Executive Education Center since the summer 2018. I’m in charge of all our degree sales activities and the development of internationalization strategies. I also do program design and tailored programs for our international clients and lead different project teams. In January 2020, I had the honor of talking about female leadership in our very first Women Event.
My previous work experience in management education from Portugal and the Netherlands played a crucial role in my employment to the current position. I saw a job notice on a website Indeed-de, and decided to apply, even though the notice was in German and the job required a knowledge of the language. Today, I still don’t speak much of German, but I tried to say something in my interview. The interview went well and the combination of expertise and courage provided me with a job offer!
You have been working abroad in several countries. How easy it is to integrate into the (work) culture of a new country?
I always knew that I would go to work abroad. As I started to look for jobs abroad, I received a lot of interest in the UK, especially from London. I was really close to start in a position at the University of Cambridge, but unfortunately the local Executive Education team lost its recruitment budget reserved for my position. I ended up taking a temporary marketing and sales job at TripAdvisor in London.
The hardest part for me has not been in integrating into the culture, but adjusting to the different ways managers tend to lead their teams. As a management professional, I have learnt to quickly recognize inspiring and caring managers and also, the opposite to this. The manager I have now in my current position is one of the best I have had so far in my career – she happens to be a person who is younger than me and has also studied Human Resources and Management as her major subject.
In an international career, courage and hard work will pay off, when you just remember to be persistent and not to give up even if the first years abroad might feel difficult.
I’d be happy to share my international experiences and thoughts on management and leadership to the School of Business students. Do not hesitate to contact me for example via LinkedIn, if you feel like talking about these issues!
Get to know Anne’s career path more closely on LinkedIn!