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Alumni Ambassador Sirkka Hämäläinen: Each job has its effect on one’s career path

The former Bank of Finland Head Sirkka Hämäläinen emphasizes the importance of extensive, high quality common knowledge in working life success.
School of Business Alumni Ambassador Sirkka Hämäläinen

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

I started studying at Aalto University School of Business (former Helsinki School of Economics) in 1958 and graduated with a three-year degree in 1961. In the same year, I started working as a research assistant at Economic Research Institute of Bank of Finland. Alongside the work, I completed the Master of Science Degree, economics as my major, and in 1981, I graduated as Doctor of Science in Economics.

What jobs have you held since graduation?

Since 1961, I have worked as an Economist in different positions at the Bank of Finland. I was nominated as a member of Bank of Finland Board, and in the spring 1992, I became the Governor and Chairman of the Board, amidst the Finnish banking crisis and during deep recession.

In 1998, I moved to Frankfurt to a newly established European Central Bank, as a member of the Executive Board.

Between the years 1991–2006 I held lectures at the School of Business on the functioning of the Finnish financial markets. It was an incredibly inspirational, but at the same time, an incredibly demanding task; I truly learned to appreciate the work done by teachers and lecturers!

During last year, I stepped out of the last bigger tasks, and now there only remains some smaller, culture-related and other societal responsibilities.

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

It is clear that each job has its effect on one’s career path. One key aspect in recruiting is the applicant’s ability to act professionally and be efficient in a work community. Many of my fellow students gained excellent work experience on student union activities, which is, for a valid reason, highly appreciated by the employers.

I would like to emphasize two things in working life success: first of all, the importance of being social and caring for others, and secondly, the importance of extensive, high quality common knowledge. Success is a result of broad cooperation taking place both within personal and digital contacts. There one needs multicultural knowledge and the acceptance of diversity, and even the most brilliant, though narrow-minded, mastery of one’s one major is not enough anymore.

Especially knowing the history of one’s native country, the history of economics, and the development of culture and society is “a must” for a successful businessperson, teacher or researcher in international cooperation.

Your advice for the students who reflect on their studies?

I feel that I have received a good basis from the School of Business, on which I have been able - and I am still able - to build new knowledge and experience. On that basis, I could build my career.

It is good to start considering the field and major based on your own interests.

I am convinced that no matter which major you are studying, it will give you a solid basis and a supportive tool kit for learning new things, and therefore also for working in a wide range of areas.

It is good to start considering the field and major based on your own interests. However, it is as important to check the opportunities for decent living standards in the selected field. You should always have the courage to take risks and challenge yourself when studying!

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

I participated in the launching of alumni activities at the School of Business, and in the beginning, the activities were experimental and not that organized, but during the years, the alumni cooperation has developed into a great way of communicating between the working life and the School. It has been a pleasure to see how the School has actively focused on developing alumni activities in line with international benchmarks.

In several countries, especially in the United States, the alumni organization has traditionally focused on universities’ fundraising. When the government is tightening the purse strings on public funding of the Finnish universities, this mission of fundraising has become important in Finland, too.

In fundraising, the alumni network is one natural way of spreading the word and engaging people. I participated in the School’s fundraising campaign in the years 2011–2013 by acting as the Chairman of the Campaign Board, which monitored the campaign targeted for the School’s alumni.

I really wish that every student and alumni would cooperate very actively and in creative ways in succeeding with the current fundraising campaign, within their own capabilities.

Further information:

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

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