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By studying software and service engineering, you will learn truly useful skills

Nikolai Denissov jumped out of his comfort zone, moved to Finland to study software engineering, and now he wants to stay for good
Nikolai Denissov standing outdoors wearing a blue shirt. Behind him there are green trees.
Nikolai Denissov is studying software and service engineering, while working full time and raising a child. Photo: Matti Ahlgren / Aalto University

When Nikolai Denissov finished high school in his home country Estonia, he was sure about two things: He would not study information technology nor anything related to physics. In school, Denissov liked mathematics and chemistry and overall his grades were so good that he was free to select what he would study at the university.

‘When I was very small and I played with Legos, I always told my parents that I will become a construction engineer – which I would nowadays call a mechanical engineer or something like that – but when I finished school, I disliked physics so much that I went to economics.’

Denissov completed a Master’s degree in Business Administration, but after working at an IT consulting company in Russia for some time, he noticed that in addition to comprehending the business world, he would like to understand more of the technical side of IT.

He decided to return to student life and this time he would study technology. Also his fiancée wanted to study more and they decided to move to Finland. ‘Sometimes people say that you should go out of your comfort zone. I actually know what that means and what challenges you will face on that path,’ says Nikolai who has now lived in three countries and studied at four different universities.

Important skills and great teaching

Denissov studies computer science at Aalto University, majoring in Software and Service Engineering. After moving to Finland, he completed his second Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, after which he decided to apply to a Master’s program at Aalto. ‘I am happy I found this program. It teaches you things that are very important and are on a demanding level.’

The program is very well structured. You learn basically all the necessary stuff and the teachers are very good.

Nikolai Denissov

The aim of the Software and Service Engineering major is to equip students with skills that are valued in modern organizations. Students learn to design, develop, and manage digital products and services. They also learn to tackle complex, real-world problems taking into account human, societal and organizational factors. ‘The program is very well structured. You learn basically all the necessary stuff and the teachers are very good,’ Denissov adds.

He points out that many jobs in technology call for also other skills than just coding. For example, one needs to know how to talk to customers to understand what they really want. His current studies allow him to combine his background in economics and business with a deep understanding of technology. ‘I’m a bit of a chatty guy, so I am into agile methods and scrum mastership. I did scrum mastership as part of one of my jobs before joining Aalto, so joining this program was a very natural move to me.’

In Finland, the combination of studying, working and starting a family is possible

Denissov grew up in a small town in northeastern Estonia. He always did well in school and regularly participated in the STEM Olympiads, for example. In his hometown, the choice of hobbies was relatively small but he played the clarinet and the saxophone, which took a great deal of his time.

Soon after moving to Finland, Denissov and his fiancée who had now become his wife decided that they would stay for good. Finland is close to their native Estonia both physically, culturally and in terms of language, but according to Denissov there are some important differences, too. ‘Finland is the calmest of the three countries I have lived in. Every place has its own challenges, but it is safe in here – so safe that we even decided to have a kid here.’

Even the combination of studies, family life and a full-time job is doable in Finland, he says. ‘It’s a bit challenging, but in all my jobs, the employers have been very understanding and the whole system with parental leaves and kindergartens is just great. This allowed me to spend plenty of joyful time with my kid.’

Denissov hopes to graduate with a Master’s degree in Technology by the end of 2020 and find a job that combines technology with education. ‘Taking into account the recent developments, coronavirus situation and paradigm shift in education, more emphasis will be put on online education. I see a very bright future for this field.’

How did your own studies go when the Covid-19 situation closed schools and universities? ‘The courses I took did not change that much. Because many of our courses include group assignments, we would have probably been a bit more efficient as a team if we were to sit together in the same place, but overall it don’t think it effected the studies that much.’

Portrait of a man in a blue shirt with a dark brown background
Photo: Matti Ahlgren / Aalto University

Nikolai Denissov, Master’s student

Education: Master of Business Administration (University of Tartu), Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering (Metropolia University of Applied Sciences)

Comes from Kohtla-Järve, Estonia

Lives in Espoo

Greatest study-related accomplishment: ‘I completed my Bachelor’s degree within the four-year target time even though I had a full-time job and my wife was pregnant at the end of my studies. When I presented my thesis, my son was two-weeks old. Luckily he slept through the presentation!’

 

Is also

A person who likes seals. ‘I consider seals to be my totem animals. They are nice animals that are not that bad to others but can be sometimes quite fierce – and they are really cute, especially the pups.’

Someone who made a shift from business to software engineering. ‘If you ever think how it is to step out of your comfort zone and how that feels in practice, ask me. I have some stories to tell!’

Patiently waiting for his child to grow older. ‘Then I can buy him – or actually myself – a programmable Lego set to play with.’

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SSE aalto

Master's Programme in Computer, Communication and Information Sciences – Software and Service Engineering

Software and Service Engineering is the backbone of modern society and economy. The Master’s programme in Computer, Communication and Information Sciences – Software and Service Engineering equips students with some of the most sought after skills in today’s job market, across a wide range of industries.

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