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Alumni Ambassador Matti Honkala: Studying is always worth the time that you spend on it

"Accept the job when offered, and don’t be too picky in the beginning", says our alumnus Matti Honkala to the current students.
School of Business Alumni Ambassador Matti Honkala

When and what did you study at Aalto University School of Business?

I studied in the former School of Economics in 1972–75 accounting as my major, marketing and law as my minors.

Before this, I completed the Vocational Qualification in Business and Administration at Helsinki Business College.

What jobs have you held since graduation?

I worked almost my whole career at Kesko Ltd in different positions, for altogether 38 years.

At first I acted as the financial manager for the food supplies group, and then as a manager in different tasks. I was a member of the board for 19 years, of which the last 7 years I acted as the CEO.

At the moment I’m happily retired.

In what ways have the studies been useful for your career? What is the significance of the major subject? What about the grades?

The accounting studies advanced my career at first. Even though the tasks grew larger as my work experience increased, the basis for all was gained at the School of Economics!

No matter in which position you end up, studying accounting always pays off.

Good grades are obviously appreciated, but along your career path the importance of the grades gradually fades.

Share something memorable from the time when you were studying.

I will always remember the words of our rector, Jaakko Honko, in our freshman year: ”Focus both on life lessons and your studies.” It is still a very good advice today.

How do different work experiences and other activities affect one’s career path?

Luckily, I had a compassionate employer, for I was working full-time during my studies. Thus, I could hardly fit anything else between the work and studies.

I gained more work experience by accepting all the jobs offered to me, and this took me forward from one position to another.

Grasp every opportunity when they emerge. This will teach you, make you stronger, and gives the employer an image of your motivation and abilities.

Having as wide-ranging curriculum as possible is the alpha and omega of everything.

Your advice for the students who reflect on their studies?

As I already mentioned above, studying accounting gives a good basis for you in the business life, especially in the positions of financial administration, but also in marketing positions.

When it comes to choosing the most suitable person for a CEO-level task, financial thinking is an important criterion.

Any thoughts about the business world?

Business world is changing so rapidly that having as wide-ranging curriculum as possible is the alpha and omega of everything. A comprehensive curriculum includes both languages, economics and marketing, as well as subjects that develop internationalization.

Many students worry about finding their first job in the field. Do you have any advice for them?

Young students obviously do not have that many networks, but being initiative will surely drive you forward. Accept the job when offered, and don’t be too picky in the beginning!

And remember, studying is always worth the time that you spend in it.

You act as Alumni Ambassador at the School of Business. What does being an alumnus mean to you?

Being an alumnus is a part of continuous learning.

I took consciously part in the alumni activities in the beginning of 1990’s when I was a member of the Alumni Board for few years. Later on, in 2008, I was selected as the Alumnus of the Year.

Further information:

Read more about the School of Business alumni cooperation and about the other Alumni Ambassadors who, like Matti Honkala, are involved in developing the School’s alumni activities: www.aalto.fi/school-of-business/school-of-business-alumni-ambassadors.

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