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Alumna Tuuli Hakkarainen: To know your strengths, you need to get to know yourself first

Unlike most of her fellow students, School of Business, Mikkeli Campus alumna Tuuli Hakkarainen chose an academic career path. She defended her dissertation in December 2020, and in her doctoral thesis she examined expertise sharing within multinational corporations.
The BScBA Program alumna Tuuli Hakkarainen

Who are you and where do you work?

I am Tuuli Hakkarainen and I work at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, after obtaining my PhD degree in International Business at Aalto University School of Business.

What and when did you study at Aalto University School of Business?

I was part of BScBA6 in Mikkeli (graduated in 2009), continued studying IB in the Master’s program at Aalto (2012), worked in the meantime and then continued studying IB when pursuing for a PhD in the Aalto IB Doctoral program (2020).

How did you end up in your current position?

While most of my fellow Mikkeli people went to work in the industry, I chose an academic path. I think the interest towards working abroad was sparked in Mikkeli, but it took some years of more studying and working in Finland before I found the academic path that I have loved ever since. The classic IB question of to which degree firms should adapt locally and standardize globally seems to be endless - and no less now with the global pandemic and different forms of digitalization, so there are many interesting global phenomena to do research on.

In my PhD Thesis, I focused on understanding global expertise from the perspective of the individuals who need to juggle with the challenge of collaborating online across different boundaries - which is not always easy. However, firms, such as my four knowledge-intensive multinational companies, depend on these experts so it is of the interest for them to find the best ways of supporting different new forms of collaborating. I found that having those years of work experience in different companies after graduating were very useful in terms of understanding the reality in workplaces I was now studying.

I also continue teaching IB topics in Bocconi, which I am very happy about.

In your opinion, what has been most useful regarding your career?

Out of the many useful points of learning from Mikkeli, one particularly helpful for me was the high amount of presentations to become confident in presenting. Now in my academic work, I have continued taking any opportunity to present my ideas to different audiences. This helps me shape the argument and framing the idea through feedback.

When presenting, you also learn to be vulnerable in front of others, which is a great way to learn to leave your ego in the corridor and focus on how you can improve upon. Openly asking for feedback and not being defensive when receiving it (applies beyond presenting) is important because others can point out your blind spots and speed up your professional development. Although in the beginning I remember finding presenting nerve racking, nowadays I almost can’t wait to see what others react to and what type of critique they come up with. And when those uncomfortable feelings still arise, I comfort myself by thinking that now others work for me - for free!

What is your advice for students interested in working during their studies?

I worked during my studies and although I remember being sometimes quite tired from both studying and working, it taught me about time management and prioritizing. As things get done when there is just slightly too little time left, having to balance between work and studies made me having to decide how much time is needed to accomplish everything and at what level.

For students I would like to say that do not worry too much even if you would not get “the dream job” right away because in many jobs, you often learn important soft skills, which are in high demand. For example, when I conducted my PhD research and interviewed many experts in different firms, although these were technical experts, already when asking them to define expertise, they emphasized that having high amount of technical expertise is useless if you are not willing and able to share it with others in a way that others can understand. For this reason, firms are always on the lookout for people who know how to collaborate with different people, can communicate clearly, and who have invested in having good self-management skills. The last point is particularly important when working from home and it is your own responsibility to get things done.

Overall, I think that working alongside studies demonstrates to the next employer that you are hardworking, can handle stress and juggle between multiple demands at the same time, and according to my experience, employers appreciate that kind of “can do” attitude.

Keep taking steps towards what it is that you really want to do and what makes you happy.

Tuuli Hakkarainen, BScBA Program alumna

What is your advice for current BScBA students and recent graduates?

Although I mentioned earlier the importance of listening to others, the most important thing is to listen to yourself. I do not believe in settling - with work, yourself, possible life partner - before you can be truly honest with yourself and feel confident that this is what you are supposed to do with your life. It does not matter how long it takes to get to feel you “have arrived”, but what matters is that you keep taking steps towards what it is that you really want to do and what makes you happy.

For example, the Japanese concept of “Ikigai”, nicely sums up a dream job as the balance of what you love, can do and what others also need and will pay you for. I did not know what type of work I was aiming for after graduation, but I continued following my interests, focused on improving myself (rather than be fixated on premeditated performance measures) and tried to find creative ways to build on my strengths. But to know your strengths, you need to get to know yourself first.

Your best memories from Mikkeli?

When Nesu came to town! I was proud to be part of the very first Nesu-Probba and we were all so excited to organize these new events. (Note: NESU-Probba is a student organization arranging academic dinner parties called ‘sits’.) It was so much fun to see how committed everyone was to learn all the songs and rules, designing the first logo, the songbook and of course, contemplating possible punishments, and finding out secret locations around Mikkeli to hold the new event. Just when we thought Mikkeli Spirit couldn’t get any better!

Further information:

Find out more about Tuuli's career path in LinkedIn!

Bachelor's Program in International Business, Aalto University

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

The Bachelor’s Programme in International Business provides students with a comprehensive range of skills and knowledge to build, develop and lead companies on a global scale. A bachelor’s degree in business with an international focus opens up a wide variety of career opportunities across all industries and continents.

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