Doctor’s career path: CEO Sami Itani

‘Doctoral studies consist of team-based project work in which you can act as your own project manager.’
KTT Sami Itani
PhD Sami Itani works as CEO / Country Manager of Finland at Adecco Group.

You graduated with a Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration degree in 2012. Was it obvious for you that you wanted to continue your studies in a Business and Economics doctoral programme?

I got very excited about research when working on my thesis. At that point, it seemed natural and very inspiring to apply to Aalto University and work on a doctoral dissertation. Furthermore, I was still investing a great deal in my sports career at the time, and I knew that doctoral studies would allow for a more flexible pace of life than other types of employment. This also supported my decision to apply for the programme. I have not regretted it for a moment!

What do you consider the best aspect of doctoral studies at the School of Business? And is there something that needs improving?

Of course, the people; staff and fellow students at the School of Business. The place is full of really inspiring, intelligent and determined people. Moreover, I felt that on average people were extremely kind on a human level, too. I cannot explain why I thought so, but it contributed to making my studies a wonderful time in my life, not only professionally but also socially.

Aalto University is a really good place for a student to be, but I hope that even more cooperation with companies will be incorporated into the studies in the future. For example, research papers could be first presented to an academic audience on a theoretical level and then adapted to the corporate context and presented to the business community. This would be a brilliant practice serving both students and the world of business, and I believe it would be beneficial for the university too. Of course, this is already taking place at Aalto more than at other business schools in Finland, but it could also play a valuable role as a more explicit part of the actual curriculum.

Did you attend seminars and conferences abroad during your doctoral studies?

Of course! I participated in many interesting events at universities from Tokyo to Cambridge and from Rome to Stanford. I never encountered any difficulties in obtaining funding from Aalto or the different foundations for this purpose.

Did you complete courses at foreign universities during your doctoral studies? If yes, did you apply for funding?

I completed a part of my degree at Stanford University. In addition, I took individual courses in cities such as Oslo, Copenhagen, Manchester, Uppsala and others. As my studies progressed, it became rather a routine measure to apply for funding, and I never encountered difficulties in obtaining financial support.

In my opinion, students aiming for a doctorate degree in a goal-oriented manner in Finland, and at Aalto University in particular, receive substantial financial support as long as they apply for it. Moreover, the university's professors always gave me the necessary recommendations and other staff helped me with the applications. Thank you very much for that!

How long did your doctoral studies take?

My goal was to graduate in four academic years, and I succeeded in doing so. Doctoral studies consist of team-based project work in which you can act as your own project manager. This is also the case in almost all knowledge work in the world of business. Ultimately, it is the committed and competent people around you that ensure a smooth progress of your studies. At Aalto, I had great instructors Rebecca Piekkari and Matti Häyry, as well as consistently strong support from other staff. Nobody can achieve success alone, but together we can achieve anything.

Did you find employment the way that you had hoped after your doctoral studies?

I believe that there is an ever-increasing demand for doctors in the field of business in the many sectors of society that employ people. The most important thing is not the doctoral status or the degree itself, but all the skills that you learn and that you must apply in different contexts during your studies in order to complete your degree. It is also valuable to learn how to conceptualise and present these skills in a manner suited to the needs of your future employer, as in principle, it is the student's own responsibility to be able to highlight the value of higher education.

Even before I graduated, I was lucky to have interesting opportunities to find employment at the university, as well as in the world of organisations and business. This time, I chose the corporate path, but I still visit universities regularly to lecture, and I also hold many positions of trust in the world of organisations.

Doctoral programmes

Doctoral education at Aalto University is offered in six doctoral programmes.

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