Alumni Ambassador Niklas Huotari: I like that there is always an opportunity to learn more

‘It’s worth following your own interests and enthusiasm, because then there’s a better chance of really becoming good at something.’ says Niklas Huotari, School of Business Alumni Ambassador and the CEO of aTalent Recruiting.
Niklas Huotari
Niklas Huotari, School of Business Alumni Ambassador.

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

I am a M.Sc. graduate in Business Administration and Economics specialized in the human side of business, CEO of a recruitment company of 50 employees, and an Aalto alumnus since 2015. I studied management and international business at the School of Business. In my studies, I focused on themes related to strategy and its implementation.

After graduating from Aalto University, I also started at the University of Helsinki to study all kinds of interesting subjects from different faculties without any bigger goals for my studies.

Why did you want to study management and international business?

Even before my studies at the School of Business, I had worked as a supervisor and built a strategy for an organization, based on my learnings from the School of Business’ entrance examination books. I found myself excited about the holistic nature of the strategy and decided to follow my desire to learn more about it. I later found out that the hardest and, at the same time, most inspiring work actually starts when the chosen strategy should be implemented. That’s when people are at the heart of success.

I don’t think there’s anything as interesting as human beings and their behavior, whether it’s an individual, a small group, or a larger community. Human beings carry with them the instincts and patterns of action created by 3.5 billion years of evolution, but also self-reflection and cultural and learned behavior. I have always wondered and analyzed the actions of other people: why people do as they do and think as they think. What makes a person work or act for something?

From these themes – at least in the context of business and economics – I’ve already gained some understanding. However, I like that there is always an opportunity to learn more. 

What has your career path been like?

I started my career as an entrepreneur at the beginning of elementary school when my neighbor and I ran one summer kiosk where we first sold old toys and later candy and other things to the kids and passers-by in the neighborhood. It was fun, and my first lesson learned was that it’s not worth selling goods for less than your own purchase price. 

At high school, I ended up in student council activities, which eventually lead me as a fresh high school graduate to Helsinki, where I became the full-time chairman of a student organization with an annual budget of 1 million euros and with 10 full-time employees. The student organization represented all high school students to politicians, public officials, and to the media. In Finland, our organization, among other things, aimed to ensure that school shootings such as Jokela and Kauhajoki no longer take place. I can still feel the meaningfulness of this work in my heart. This was my first actual managerial position, at the age of 19, and I could feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I would do many things differently now, but most of all I learned a lot.

Alongside with my studies at the School of Business, I worked for four years in a company that provides change management, outplacement, and executive coaching services. This experience served as a good introduction to the B2B field, the world of large customers, and the human side of business.

After graduation, I worked at the British company GlaxoSmithKline, which gave me a good view of the global pharmaceutical company. Eventually, I became CEO of the recruitment company aTalent.

I don’t think there’s anything as interesting as human beings and their behavior.

Niklas Huotari, School of Business Alumni Ambassador

Where do you currently work and how did you end up in your current position?

I have now been the CEO of aTalent Recruiting for five years. Our company focuses on recruiting people with a university background and with 0-10 years of work experience. Every year, we recruit about 500 people to good positions in the Finnish industries, mainly for business, engineering, and IT roles.

I followed aTalent already during my studies and I was fascinated by the company's culture and people-centered industry. I had discussions with aTalent about the position of CEO already towards the end of my studies, but at that time I didn't end up to the company yet. However, I was very satisfied with the process at that time, and a few years later I got a call when the CEO of that time was moving to another job, and I started as CEO.

What do you think has been especially important in your studies for your career?

The most useful thing is that I became used to doing large amounts of work and diverse challenging tasks efficiently – especially when I had a job alongside with my studies. Problem-solving, producing high-quality text, presenting things clearly, and working on a variety of case assignments continue developing my thinking today. Especially one course from my studies was very memorable: ‘The development paths and strategies of Finnish companies’. The course had a lot of high-level visitors involved. Furthermore, I was part of organizing KY-Sail's sailing trips to the Mediterranean, which developed my organizing skills and pressure tolerance. I also appreciate the fact that during studies, I grew up and matured as a person with my various fellow students, without even noticing it. 

Share something memorable from the time you were studying.

I am very glad that in my first year of study I was able to experience the student organization KY's 100th anniversary celebrations and, after graduation, the ceremonial conferment of the School of Business.

Throughout my studies, there are many great memories, which are often associated with new experiences and laughing our heads off with great fellow students. I especially remember the autumn when I made a trip to Champagne with the wine club Baccus, a surf trip to Portugal with the KY-Ski club, a two-week KY-Sail sailing trip to Greece and finally a trip to the World Championships for student sailing in La Rochelle, France. I took less study courses then, but later accelerated my studies.

My exchange studies in the Chinese Special Administrative Region, in the former Portuguese colony of Macao, was also a culturally special experience.

Your advice for studies or tips for working life and looking for a job?

My own view on studies has always been clear: it’s worth following your own interests and enthusiasm, because then there’s a better chance of really becoming good at something.

My tip for working life is to take a ‘people first’ attitude. Everything goes easier and better when there is trust and good mood with the people around you – be it colleagues, customers, suppliers, or other partners.

There are many ways to look for a job. However, if you want to maximize the number of different opportunities, I recommend finding a certain angle related to business operations and then profiling your skills according to that angle. Especially in the early stages of a career, it might be a bit more challenging to find employment if you are a generalist. Many graduates with little work experience often write quite general job applications: ‘I am hardworking and responsible and get along well with others.’ However, every employee is expected to have these qualities, so you won’t stand out with those qualities. I recommend using concrete examples to tell what you know or have accomplished that will support success in the job you are applying for.

You are an Alumni Ambassador for Aalto University School of Business. What does being and alumnus mean to you?

Being an alumnus means that I have joined other alumni as one small link in the history of the Finnish universities and business life. At its best, the cultural, scientifically high-quality, and societally influential community continues to live, even when studies end.

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Thank you to Aalto University, School of Business, KY student organization and to all my fellow study friends for fun and educational years!

Find out more about Niklas' career path on LinkedIn!

In the picture, there are some of the School of Business Alumni Ambassadors

School of Business Alumni Ambassadors

Alumni Ambassadors consist of 50 active alumni, who support our School in developing the alumni activities. In addition, the Ambassadors also serve as a bridge between students, the School of Business and business life.

School of Business
School of Business students sitting

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.

School of Business
Two Aalto University business students on campus in Otaniemi.

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Strategic management in a changing world, Master of Science (Economics and Business Administration)

Strategic Management in a Changing World is a unique Master’s programme that teaches students how to develop effective strategy in a rapidly changing world. Graduates are analytical decision-makers who can identify valuable business opportunities by evaluating of complex global megatrends such as sustainability, digitalization, and globalization. To action these new opportunities, the programme teaches students how to bring an entrepreneurial mindset into their organizations.

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