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My Kauppis Memory: The focus was on becoming more international, on networking and branding, and all this at a fast pace

‘There was no time to be bored.’
Kaarina Heinonen, former Executive Assistant, School of Business

I studied at the Helsinki School of Economics in the early 1970s and thought I would never go back. But things turned out differently. At the beginning of 1991, there was a position open for the director’s secretary at PRODEC (Programme for Development Cooperation at the Helsinki School of Economics), to which I was selected. We had a great team and an international atmosphere at PRODEC in Töölönkatu. I first worked as Saara Kehusmaa-Pekonen’s secretary and later as an assistant to Liisa Tervo-Niemi-Jaskari. My colleagues travelled to exotic destinations for educational tasks, and I personally had an opportunity to participate in the training of secretaries in Namibia and Eritrea. They were fantastic experiences.

When PRODEC’s activities ended as such, the position of rector’s secretary at the School of Economics was opening in November 1998, when Ritva Lehtinen was about to leave. I was selected for the job and started working as Eero Kasanen’s secretary. Eero was easy to work with, and our cooperation continued until 2010, when Eero left his managerial position. For over a year from 2002 to 2003, Vice Rector Olli Ahtola substituted for Eero, and I worked as his secretary. I continued working as an executive assistant when Aalto University was born, and the title of rector was changed to dean. At first, Jyrki Wallenius served as dean for the year of 2011 before Ingmar ‘Inkku’ Björkman was elected for the position. I worked with Inkku and the vice dean until my retirement in spring 2014.

I really enjoyed my job, and all my bosses were nice. Eero had many new ideas and plans for development. The focus was on becoming more international, on networking and branding, and all this took place at a fast pace. People were busy at the different departments, student offices and administrative and financial offices and units. We were working in close cooperation with the communications unit. Despite the stress, I have fond memories of that hectic time, and it was fun to work with Eero. The flow of guests through the secretary’s room to the rector’s office meant that I had a true vantage point. I met interesting people: staff, emeriti, Finnish influencers, stakeholders and international visitors. The management team’s Friday morning coffee meetings in the rector’s room were nice. The realisation of Aalto University was the result of years of hard and stressful work, but we managed it. Under Inkku’s management, the fast pace and changes continued, and internationalisation took major leaps forward. It was a pleasure to work with him during my last years in employment.

Every autumn, I organised the evening party in connection with the opening ceremony of the academic year and the rector’s mulled wine party in December, which always created many happy memories. We also organised some parties in the spring. In this regard, cooperation was smooth between (the Helsinki School of Economics) Support Foundation and Antell restaurant followed later by Amica restaurant. Throughout the years, I also took part in arranging academic functions, which acquainted me with colleagues from other Finnish universities.

At the beginning, my closest colleagues from the administrative and financial offices formed an important support group in the coffee room, followed later by my colleagues at international relations. I also have fond memories of cooperating with other secretaries. The exercise classes, gym and other recreational activities for staff were absolutely necessary, and I got to know the other participants very well. I recall with gratitude my working years at the School of Economics and School of Business, and all my colleagues over the years.

Kaarina Heinonen
former rector's secretary and Executive Assistant

#kauppis110

In 2021, we ask former and current members of the School of Business community (especially faculty and staff) to share memories of the school. These memories will comprise the ‘My Kauppis Memory’ series of stories.

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