1. Would you shortly introduce yourself?
My name is Philip Ziegler. I come from Cologne, Germany, but moved to Finland in 2019 to study at Aalto University, as part of my double degree in Supply Chain Management and Infomation and Service Management (ISM). I graduated recently and have since been working in a Helsinki-based SaaS company as a Data Manager.
2. What made you choose your programme? What are you specializing in?
I initially started studying Business because I wanted to understand how major decision-makers of our economy think. I soon found myself to be more drawn to the quantitative aspects of Business, and also started getting a bit into coding in my free time. Studying in the Business Analytics track of the ISM program, which combines both of these interests areas aspects, thus seemed like the perfect path for me.
Coming from Germany, a country in which many things are handled the old-fashioned paper-based way, I am also very passionate about digitization. I truly believe digitization has huge potential to impact our everyday lives and interactions with each other for the better, hence I was excited about ISM as a programme that covers digital business models, data-driven decision making, and information technology in general.
I also appreciated being able to study and immerse myself in the life and culture of two different places, as part of the double degree program between the University of Cologne and Aalto University, through which I spent a year each in Germany and Finland. Getting to spend a year in Finland, arguably the happiest country in the world, seemed like a nice prospect.
3. What skills have you learned in your programme that you find valuable?
In my current job, I use SQL and work with databases a lot, so learning about coding, machine learning, and data analytics was definitely useful. I already knew some coding before starting my studies, but through ISM I was able to dive deeper into how data analytics and machine learning works and was truly fascinated by it. Especially since machine learning is at the core of so many applications we use daily, such as Google Translate and Spotify, and will continue to have even more business and tech applications in the future, understanding how it works on a deeper level has been both interesting and valuable. I even dedicated my thesis topic towards exploring the uses of machine learning for forecasting.
Further, while these hard skills are great to have, to me an even larger benefit of ISM has been learning how to tackle problems with a data-driven approach. Working in a company that provides an analytics software now, understanding how to solve problems with data has helped me immensely in communicating with customers about our work and solutions.
4. What inspires you at the moment?
I use Google Translate a lot these days, as I have been learning Finnish. Sure, it’s not perfect, but seeing how far it has come in recent times alone shows the direction in which we are heading. Okay, I will risk sounding a bit nerdy here, but in the old episodes of “Star Trek”, the crew used to have a universal translator device. Maybe we are not that far away from that.
An interesting development recently with Google Translate has been the controversy related to the Finnish gender-neutral “hän” pronoun, which was being translated in gendered ways when used in the context of stereotypically gendered occupations, so ‘He is working’ but ‘She is taking care of the children’. What is interesting to me about this is how it highlights both the power and limitation of technology: The Google algorithm learns from millions of documents, and it is powerful because it learns by itself, but in the process it reproduces biases. In that way, it is also limited because it needs human intervention to counter learned biases.
Seemingly trivial examples like this inspire me to think more deeply about the complex issues related to technological developments. Now more than ever technology is developing at a rapid pace, but we need to understand it thoroughly to influence the direction in which it is heading to be in our best interest.
5. Why would you recommend your programme to prospective students?
ISM gives you a lot of freedom to tailor your course selection to your specific interests. It offers three tracks to specialize in, and within each of these there are multiple courses to choose from. The course content is relevant, and many courses cover highly contemporary topics and issues.
As someone who has always been more interested in the tech side of business, but did not want to go fully into computer science, ISM was the perfect intersection between both for me. Hence, I would recommend this program to prospective students who also wish to combine both business and technological understanding. This programme will probably not turn you into a software developer, but it will equip you with a broad conceptual understanding that empowers you to work in tech-oriented industries and jobs. If that’s what you are looking for, ISM will be an excellent choice.