From an emergency room to HR, Selena Kabonge has always wanted to work in a field where she could help others

Studying People Management and Organizational Development perfectly combines her three passions: leadership, people and helping others
Selena Kaponge talking to fellow students

How did you end up studying People management and Organizational Development at Aalto University? 

When I moved to Finland in 2019, I decided that I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in business management. After researching different programs and schools, I discovered Aalto and was very impressed with the school. The Master’s Programme in People Management and Organizational Development sounded like the perfect fit for me. 

Tell us about your background 

I come from the United States. I pursued medicine during my undergraduate studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. After graduating, I was interested in getting a master’s degree as a physician assistant, which would enable me to practice medicine and have my own patients. I took additional post-baccalaureate studies, like anatomy and physiology, that would help me reach my goal.

I worked in the medical field, for example as a medical assistant in a paediatrics clinic, volunteered at a health clinic in Peru, and worked in the emergency room as a medical scribe. At some point, I decided to take a break from the healthcare industry and I chose to work for a temporary employment agency and did some office assistant jobs. In 2014, I got my first full time job in management as a project administrator and worked there before moving to the healthcare technology industry.

What are the best things in your programme?  

I truly believe that the people are the best part of my program. When I refer to “people'' I am including both the students and the professors. The students in my program are great because we all come from different educational backgrounds and many of the students have a bachelor’s degree in different majors outside of business. For example, we have students who have bachelor's degrees in education, nutrition, or law. Like the students, our professors also represent an array of different professional backgrounds. These diverse backgrounds have enriched my overall learning because we all have different perspectives and experiences to add to each course, which has enabled me to gain a more comprehensive understanding and perspective on the different subject matters.

Do you have any hobbies now? What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

Today my hobbies include travelling. I have been to over 30 countries and I have lived long term in four different countries. I also love to meet new people. Here in Helsinki, I have a diverse group of friends, which includes Finns who are native to Helsinki, Finns from all over Finland, and expats from all over the world who live in Helsinki. 

I also like to spend time with my dog, Charlie. I love my walks with Charlie, where we get to enjoy nature and explore the different parks in Helsinki. I am also passionate about leadership, especially women leadership, and I have taken on various leadership roles in my personal life. As a whole I like to learn new things, whether I am learning about new cultures or just general knowledge, and I like to share those experiences with people.

What kind of work did you want to do when you were younger? 

My favourite thing to do when I was young was to show my younger family members how to do new things and watch them grow and learn. As a result, I actually really wanted to be a teacher when I was a child. As a teenager, I knew I still wanted to work in a field where I could help others, but instead of being a teacher, I was interested in working in the medical field.

What are the elements in your current study area that you were interested in while you were growing up? 

Throughout my life one of my biggest motivators has been helping others. From when I was a young child trying to teach my younger family members new things, through the time I held elected positions in student government, to my post-bachelor career in client consulting, and my present time here in Finland. I believe my current study area in People Management and Organizational Development aligns with this theme.  

Is there something with studies that has surprised you?  

One of the differences here in Finland versus the United States is the informality between students and professors. For example, in the United States, you typically call professors by their last name and title, like “Doctor” if they have their PhD. It definitely took me a couple of days to get used to calling my professors by their first name. But I really like that the focus here is not on titles but rather a mutual respect between students and teachers.  

Also, I really like the student overalls and how they are such an important part of student culture here in Finland! 

Is there something that you have felt challenging about the Finnish culture?

The weather here was very challenging for me, especially the dark winters. I overcame this challenge by spending time in the sauna, taking vitamin D tablets, and staying active.

Best thing about Helsinki capital region?

Sauna, hands down. I also love the water and the fact that you are never too far from the Baltic Sea. Whenever I am stressed, I like to walk by the water with my dog.  

People Management and Organizational Development, Master of Science (Economics and Business Administration)
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