School of Business alumni story: Married couple Mia Hoang and Juhana Polso

The Bachelor’s Program in International Business is not only an exceptional business education opportunity, some even find their significant other there. Our alumni Mia Hoang and Juhana Polso started a life together while studying in the program, and after Mikkeli they both combined studies of business and technology in the University of Nebraska.
BScBA Program alumni Mia Hoang and Juhana Polso

We are team Ilo: Mia Hoang and Juhana Polso (Ilo is our oldest cat and he rules our household). Mia is the Data Product Owner at First National Bank of Omaha and Juhana is a Senior Business Intelligence Analyst at Valmont Industries. We are both nerds, basically. We are currently living in the United States.
(Note: ‘Ilo’ is a Finnish word and means ‘joy’.)

What and when did you study at Aalto University School of Business?

Mia: Juhana started in Aalto University’s BScBA Program in Mikkeli in 2009 but took a break to do his military service in 2010 and came back in 2011. I started the same program in 2010 and met him in 2011 in the Intercultural Communications class. I still remember declining to join his team when he asked me. I didn’t know then that I would end up marrying the guy.

Juhana: After Mikkeli, I worked in sales and social media marketing for a while, and then both of us went on to combine studies of business and technology through an MBA-MIS dual master’s degree program in the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

How’s your career path been?

Mia: It has been an interesting journey. I always thought I would be in business, more specifically some Marketing position, but I decided to acquire a master’s degree in MIS with a focus on quantitative techniques, and I couldn’t be happier with that decision. Being able to understand the business side and the technology side has been a huge advantage for me, as I’m able to communicate with both areas of the business when previously working as a senior Decision Sciences Analyst, and now as a Data Product Owner.

How did you end up in your current position?

Juhana: During my graduate studies in Omaha, Mia came across a job posting for a marketing internship at Valmont Industries, a global leader in products that support agricultural irrigation and various types of infrastructure. After several interviews, I got the job, and I continued with the firm full time after I graduated the following year. Five years since the start, I’m still with Valmont, but in quite a different role than where I started. With the aim of providing actionable insights to our leadership, my current focus is on market monitoring, research, and business intelligence.

How would you describe the International Business Programme?

Juhana: The International Business Programme is truly an exceptional business education opportunity not only within Finland but globally. Professors who teach in Mikkeli bring a wealth of knowledge and experience from universities across the world. Comparing with my other university experiences, I find that the modular study structure ensures students are more engaged, which is important in a setting where group projects are often a part of the course curriculum.

Mia: It is an amazing program that helped shape me into who I am today. I often get compliments on my presentation skills and understanding of business, and I always tell people it’s all because of the education and training I received in Mikkeli. My class of 2010 had many intelligent and talented students, from whom I learned a lot through our group work and presentations. Looking back, I did not like to have my presentation recorded and analysed at all, but it helped me become aware of my weakness in public speaking, and therefore, train myself to be a good presenter. Being a good presenter is important in any position, because no matter how brilliant your idea is, it will fail if people can’t understand it and see how it can solve their problems.

I also like the 3-week class schedule during which we could focus on only one topic at a time and met a new professor from another country who shared with us his/her experience outside the classroom. I actually decided to go to Omaha, USA for an exchange semester because of the Finance professors I met in Mikkeli who are still teaching at University of Nebraska at Omaha today. That then led to a full scholarship in the form of a graduate assistantship for an MBA and an MS in MIS.

Professors who teach in Mikkeli bring a wealth of knowledge and experience from universities across the world.

Juhani Polso, BScBA Program alumnus

In your opinion, what was particularly important in your studies regarding your career?

Juhana: The intensive, module-based program gave me an excellent foundation not only in business concepts and presenting but also in how to conduct research, which has proved very valuable to me throughout studies that followed as well as in my professional career. Additionally, since I always lived in Finland before my studies, the opportunity to live and study abroad as part of the curriculum was a very valuable experience.

What would you do differently in your studies?

Mia: Many of my friends and I came from Asia and we experienced a culture shock. Sometimes I felt isolated when my classmates spoke Finnish instead of English during group work, but I was too shy to say anything. It took me half a year to be more assertive and communicate my opinions, and everyone was very respectful and supportive. I made many great friends whom I’m still in touch with today. I wish I had been more open and spoken up to integrate with Finnish students earlier in the program and had more fun sooner 😊.

What is your advice for current BScBA students and recent graduates?

Juhana: My advice for current BScBA students would be to be curious in your studies, have fun with your peers, and go out to the beautiful nature of Mikkeli. Also, think carefully and select a thesis topic of which you are passionate about. It makes the process much more interesting and, at times, enjoyable! My advice for recent graduates would be to be selective about the jobs you apply for and think of ways to stand out with the ones you select.

Mia: I know this sounds a cliché but never stop learning. The world is changing so fast around us, and there is always something new to learn. If I hadn’t decided to challenge myself with a new master’s degree in IT, I wouldn’t have been able to widen my horizon and combine my business and technology knowledge to advance in my career. You are young, so just take a leap of faith to learn something new, and you don’t know it yet, but it will come in handy someday.

Your best memories from Mikkeli?

Mia: My best memory from Mikkeli is about Baba’s Kitchen, the cooking club that I founded with my friends. I make friends by cooking for them and having conversations around the dinner table, so with Joan’s help (Dr. Joan Lofgren is the Director of the program), a group of friends and I founded the club, and we organized many fun cooking events that were very popular.

One of the most memorable events was the Christmas celebration in 2011 where we had 5 different groups making 5 different cuisines for about 50 participants. The food was amazing, and we learned a great deal about how other cultures celebrated Christmas and New Year’s. Whenever I think about my Mikkeli days, I think about that event and how much I loved having friends from many different countries and cultures. Such a fond memory.

Juhana: Falling in love with Mia in summer 2011 is something I will never forget about my time in Mikkeli. The weather during that summer happened to be one of the best on record, which made it even more memorable. Additionally, being part of Baba’s Kitchen cooking club and seeing Mia and the other founders of the club build a community centered on food was fantastic.

Find out more about Mia's and Juhana's career path in LinkedIn:

Mia's LinkedIn profile

Juhana's LinkedIn profile

Bachelor's Program in International Business, Aalto University

International Business, Bachelor (BScBA, Mikkeli) and Master of Science (Otaniemi) in Economics and Business Administration

The Bachelor’s Programme in International Business provides students with a comprehensive range of skills and knowledge to build, develop and lead companies on a global scale. A bachelor’s degree in business with an international focus opens up a wide variety of career opportunities across all industries and continents.

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