Genuine networking is about meeting people as people

For School of Business alum Jude Kokkonen, people and doing things together is a matter close to his heart
Jude Kokkonen. Kuva: Aalto-yliopisto / Roope Kiviranta
Jude Kokkonen. Photo: Aalto University/Roope Kiviranta

School of Business alum Jukka-Pekka "Jude" Kokkonen has always been an active networker who enjoys spending time with other people. His childhood family of five did a lot both within his own family and with other families. From an early age, Jude has been used to doing things together with others, and feels that this has also helped him to get ahead in his studies, at work and in numerous positions of trust.

‘I'm told that even in the sandbox when I was under school age, I told other kids, as we played 'town' and drove toy cars to work, that my job in play was to live on interest. I had learned this expression from my uncle, who made his career at OP Financial Group.’

It was some time before Jude thought he would like to go to Kauppis to study and learn more about living on interest and more.

‘I'm not really the reading type, so in order to get into the Helsinki School of Economics, the coaching course with the midterm exam was important for me. We listened and discussed things, and that's how they stuck in my mind.’

Jude started at Kauppis in 2005, moved on to a Master's degree in 2009 and graduated in 2013. Due to the attractiveness of the banking sector, his studies were slightly extended. Jude majored in economics at Bachelor level and minored in finance.

‘In my Master's degree, I changed my major to entrepreneurship because I was particularly interested in product development and innovation management. You can change your major for a Master's if you feel you didn't make the right choice in the Bachelor's programme. Or even if you have made the right choice, another major can be a good way to broaden your knowledge. As an example, I know a guy who was strongly oriented towards finance, but said after a few years of working life that he could have studied marketing a bit more. In the working life, you need to understand how value chains work, even if you only work at one step of the value chain. It's good to appreciate and advance diversity in practice, and a broad understanding of things is only a good thing.’ 

‘Among the teachers at Kauppis, I remember Mikko Tarkkala and how he took care of the students and how much he gave of himself in the basics of industrial engineering and management course he taught. I also remember Matti Pohjola's interesting economics lessons and excellent teaching.’

Active in KY and as a tutor

Jude was very active in KY student association and has always been interested in international affairs. In his first autumn at the School of Business, he joined NESU-KY (Nordiska Ekonomie Studerandes Union) in KY. Internationality also comes naturally to Jude because, from an early age, he has also been in contact with his relatives who live in Canada and Germany.

‘We established an international committee under KY, KY-Sub (KY International Subcommittee), which took over the tasks of the former International Committee from the beginning of 2007 and continued to promote international affairs. We wanted to better integrate international students into the community. We proposed that KY changes its language to English, which later happened. Today, KY is very proud to communicate in English. I have got to know international students better by hosting them during KY International Weeks and in return I have been able to stay with them in their home countries. Many of the international students have become my friends.’

Most of Jude's current friends are from Kauppis, KY and other Finnish business schools, whose students he has got to know through NESU. ‘We are not all from the same class of studies, but we got to know each other at KY events and had a lot of fun together. In our time, the Kuntis events (student party) drew 1 500 students to Sedula - local bars and night clubs - every three weeks. The crowd was off and running. Nowadays, I think students do more things in smaller groups.’

‘Another role that has been really important to me, and therefore worth mentioning, is that of tutor. I've been a tutor of all kinds, whether it's a Bachelor's tutor, a Master's tutor, an exchange tutor, a degree student tutor or an open university tutor. I enjoy helping people. I myself have received a lot from Kauppis, KY and later from the business graduates' community, and I also want to give back. As a tutor, I have invited and encouraged students to participate in info nights and clubs and  presented their activities. I'm sure there's something for everyone to do to suit their interests, if they can find the information and get involved.’

Business degrees are valued in the labour market

Jude has been in the banking sector for 15 years. He works currently as Head of Fraud and Dispute Management at Nexi Group. Jude encourages everyone to orientate themselves towards tasks that really interest them in their professional life.

‘No business student need to worry about choosing the wrong major. There are jobs for people in all majors, and a degree in business is good currency in the job market.’

Jude advises job seekers to contact, call or suggest a short meeting with a specific person directly if they have one in mind. ‘Everyone feels good if someone is interested in them and in what they do. With direct contact, you can stand out in the Finnish job market.’

‘Personally, I often advocate networking because it is what I love. Recommending job opportunities among your acquiantances usually benefits everyone. I myself got my first job in my field at Sampo Bank (now Danske Bank) when a NESU friend who worked there knew I was interested in banking and tipped me off about an open position. The only genuine way of networking is being yourself and meeting people as people. There are some phrases you can learn if you feel that networking doesn't come naturally. You can always ask a new person where they come from and what they are interested in. Curiosity and self-knowledge are beneficial in finding a job and in working life.’

Jude has also done a lot of mentoring. He has been involved in the Aalto mentoring programme 6-7 times, and before that as a mentee when he was a student, which he also has fond memories of. Mentoring allows you to reflect on yourself and spar with your own strengths and potential threats. ‘I've also mentored tech students and international students. In Finnish Business School Graduates (Suomen Ekonomit), I have done a number of short-term mentorships.’

"HEKO is my adult KY"

KY was very important to Jude, and after graduation, he felt a small sense of loneliness when KY and the people in it were left behind. ‘Luckily, my old NESU friends tipped me off about the Helsinki Business Graduates' (HEKO) Young Business School Graduates' Club, which I joined. I moved from that Club to the Financial Business School Graduates' club and invited more people I knew to join.’

After a few years of actively organizing events, Jude wondered what to do next. ‘I ran for the HEKO board and soon after that, to become chair of the board. After five years in that position, I thought it was a good time to apply for the board of the Finnish Business School Graduates (Suomen Ekonomit). The first time I applied, I was elected as second vice-chairperson and now, at the beginning of this year, I started my 3-year term as chairperson of Suomen Ekonomit.’

Suomen Ekonomit currently has 60 000 members. ‘Our goal is to get recent graduates to join the Union. We are doing this in cooperation with the business student associations. We recognize the importance of networking and competence development. We also want to invest in well-being and in ensuring that the quality of business studies in Finland remains high. Suomen Ekonomit work for a better working life and the Union has a broad influence in society on issues that are important to business graduates.’

Jude is already familiar with donating to his own school, Alma Mater, having participated in the donation decisions of Helsinki Business School Graduates and Suomen Ekonomit in the past. ‘I know the importance of donations to the School of Business and I've talked about it to my friends, and now I finally had the chance to make a personal donation. I would recommend donating to anyone who feels that they have got a good foundation for their career and lifelong friends at the School of Business. Even a small donation helps, and you can donate a tax-deductible amount every few years, for example, so that you get a little bit of benefit yourself, too.’

Jude Kokkonen has made a lot of friends and learned a lot during his years at Kauppis, in his positions of trust and at work. He has had the chance to do big things and sometimes had to make big and difficult decisions. But all in all, working together with others has always moved things upwards and forward.

Interview: Jonna Söderholm and Terhi Ollikainen
Text: Terhi Ollikainen

Better Business - Better Society seminar in December 2019, School of Business alumni networking after the seminar

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