Juha Jouhki, Aalto University alumni and experienced investor: “Studying is a process, not a project”
When Juha Jouhki, an applied physics student at the Helsinki University of Technology, landed a summer job at Imatra Power in 1991, he was planning to embark on a career as a reliability engineer in the nuclear industry. But things worked out differently when Finland said no to additional nuclear power and IVO terminated its plans for Loviisa 3. Jouhki ended up designing logistics software for Finncarriers, after which he also gained experience in the venture capital and financing sector, the forest industry, and many medical and biomedical engineering applications.
“Business is about getting along with people and solving problems. University equipped me well in both these key areas,” Jouhki says.
Today, Jouhki is chairman of the board for the 111-year-old family-owned company Thomasset Oy, one of the company’s owners, and also the CEO of the pharmaceutical development company Tenboron. Founded in 2010, Tenboron develops better delivery vehicles for boron neutron capture therapy. Such vehicles can significantly improve the treatment results for cancers in the head and neck area. “We are now at a really exciting stage, as the clinical research will begin at the turn of the year. Pharmaceutical development work is an excellent and fascinating combination of chemistry, biology, and physics.”
Jouhki describes Aalto University as a place that excellently brings together different fields of study. “The multidisciplinary Aalto University, where business, technology and art students share the same campus, offers splendid opportunities for students to expand their perspectives and network.”
Thomasset’s subsidiary Thominvest supported the establishment of Aalto and made a donation during the university’s first fundraising campaign in 2011. In 2021, Thominvest donated to Aalto School of Business a professorship in ownership. “Finnish top research organisations and the companies built from their research are very well placed to reach the top of their field at the global level, as can be seen in many success stories out there. What is needed is both basic and applied research in one’s areas of strength.”
Teamwork skills are needed in working life
Jouhki began his studies at the Helsinki University of Technology in 1985. At least as important as his subject studies was his life and experiences outside the lecture halls. “I was involved in many things, and I got to know people. As I see it, the social capital obtained from university studies is at least as important as the knowledge capital. In working life, no one asks for your thesis grade. They want to know about your teamwork skills and social skills.”
Jouhki urges young students to get to know each other and spend time together. This can just as easily happen in university corridors and at parties as it can through student organisations and hobby activities. “Don’t shut yourself away in your room studying away for the best possible grades – get out and meet people. Networks and the ability to get along with people are important in the workplace and in life in general.”
One of the most important things Jouhki gained from his studies was the logical and analytical way of thinking needed for solving problems. “The most important thing in academic studies is to learn how to acquire, organise, and analyse data and then draw sensible conclusions from it. Over time, knowledge becomes outdated, so we need ways to update our expertise.”
Getting excited about studies again
As a father of three, family life kept Jouhki busy during the early 2000s. When the youngest started school in 2006, Dad also decided to go back to school – to study biochemistry at the University of Helsinki. “Curiosity drove me there. As an adult, I no longer needed to focus on the social side of studies, so that saved me time. There was another adult student like myself, and we often paired up for the laboratory work. We were those old guys on the back row. The studies were rewarding, and we were full of enthusiasm.”
Now this Master of Science in Technology has got himself a master’s degree in biochemistry and an investment analyst degree from Hanken, but his thirst for learning has not faded. Last spring, Jouhki got interested in studying economics through Aalto University’s Open University. He read through the online textbook for the Basics of Accounting course and then, to finish off his workday, he did a couple of tasks from the exercise handout. “I am currently studying Aalto’s Basics of Operations Management course. I completed a similar course at HUT 34 years ago. This time I intend to get a good grade, which means I need to put the effort in.”
Jouhki has also found his way to the FITech Network University, through which nine different Finnish universities offer technology courses to adult students and degree students. Through these, Jouhki has updated his expertise in programming and databases. “For me, studying is a process, not a project. It is dangerous to say ‘right, now I know it all’. It is important not to stagnate. You can always learn something new – and through this discover new and surprising features in the things around you.”
Text: Marjukka Puolakka