Kalle Airo: "For an entrepreneurial mind, a problem is an opportunity, not a threat”

Kalle Airo has been appointed Head of Entrepreneurial Mindset at Aalto University from the beginning of September.
Kalle Airo
Kalle Airo. Photo: Aalto University/Annika Linna

Kalle Airo leads Aalto University's entrepreneurial mindset, which is a cross-cutting theme of the university's strategy, alongside sustainable solutions and radical creativity. He will work in the Leadership Support Services unit and report to Development Director Sirkku Linna.

The aim is to include entrepreneurial mindset in all activities of the university. For Airo, this is a welcomed challenge. The solution begins with every member of the community being exposed to entrepreneurial spirit. Although the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Aalto students is already an internationally recognised success story, not everyone at Aalto is familiar with the entrepreneurial way of thinking.

Airo moved to his current position from the Aalto Ventures Program (AVP), where students learn about entrepreneurship. He was one of the founders, leaders, and teachers of the program. Airo became familiar with entrepreneurship already through his family as a child, and his understanding of it was strengthened through his studies, as well as working experiences, as a business consultant, and a commercialiser of technology at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Airo has a Master of Science (Technology) degree in Information Networks from Aalto University.

‘I wanted to become a Master of Science so that I could build something that would remain even after me. At that time, I thought about information networks, but later I realised that this something could also be an organisation.’

What is entrepreneurial mindset?

For Airo, the attitude towards problems is at the core of the entrepreneurial mindset. 'The key is that when you encounter a problem, you do not turn away but go towards the problem and try to solve it. Problem is often an opportunity, not always a threat.’

In other words, entrepreneurial mindset is a tool that anyone can learn to use. ‘Not everyone needs to be fluent in talking about entrepreneurship or say that they think like an entrepreneur, but everyone can act in an entrepreneurial manner.’

As for students, Airo has encountered two types of learners. For those who are already motivated and want to learn about entrepreneurship, the university offers excellent courses. But for those who are not interested in entrepreneurship, there is no use in telling them about its importance. They should have the opportunity for this insight through projects related to their own field.

‘For example, an engineering student who does not want to participate in an entrepreneurship course should be inspired into entrepreneurship in concrete product development.’

Aalto University already has good experiences of integrating entrepreneurial mindset into teaching. Today, every bachelor student can learn entrepreneurship even if they do not take part in an entrepreneurship course.

Airo believes that the ability to adapt and react, characteristic of an entrepreneur, is one of the greatest requirements in future work life.

‘Entrepreneurial skills may provide students with better capabilities to set up startups, but above all these skills help them challenge existing operating models and accelerate transformation in organisations and societies.’

Airo is planning to use the lessons learned among students in exposing Aalto personnel to entrepreneurial mindset. The values of the university will help.

‘Entrepreneurial mindset and activities are a key part of solving the challenges of sustainable development. That is why, everyone should learn about it. Courage is essential when we challenge ourselves and others to push the boundaries, and also when we have to dare to say to a colleague not to overdo it. Cooperation emphasises the desire for diversity and openness. Also, working together must be fun.’

Senior Communications Manager Annika Linna is responsible for the communication of Entrepreneurial Mindset. She is also responsible for the communication of the impact of Aalto University's ecosystem, including Advancement and Corporate Engagement.

For further information, please contact:

Kalle Airo

Kalle Airo

Head of Entrepreneurial Mindset
U924 Innovation Ecosystem Services
Aalto university

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