Who are you? What and when did you study at Aalto University School of Business?
I’m Niklas Karvonen and I graduated in spring 2018 majoring in International Design Business Management (IDBM). Additionally, I completed the CEMS program and did my Bachelor’s degree earlier in Marketing.
Currently, I work in Tokyo as a Business Design Manager at a startup called 16Lab, where we are developing equipment for IoT applications. Our aim is at the smart cities and the required new interactions between people and technologies.
What has been important or useful during your studies?
Several different experiences and occasions from the university have affected my employment. The exchange and language studies opened up the path to Tokio, and internships both in Finland and abroad gave me the skills to succeed in my current task. The multidisciplinary IDBM program has offered me a good tool kit for working in a startup, where one needs the ability to work over different roles and the viewpoint on the uncertain operational environment.
I met my future boss by accident when I was volunteering at Slush, thus also the activities outside the School have affected my employment. Acting as the Chair of CEMS Club Tokyo gave me good networks in Japan and developed my leadership skills.
Special thanks belongs also to the Aalto University Mentoring Program and the School of Business Career Services for their help in mapping my own skills and planning my career!
How and why did you end up working abroad? What is your advice for getting a job and working abroad?
Working abroad has always fascinated me, so when my graduation date was approaching, I started to think about my options.
Japan was one of them, but the job application from Finland with the visa application and all felt difficult. I ended up applying for a CIMO internship at Business Finland in Tokyo. I was accepted, and the internship gave me valuable work experience and in addition, six months’ time to look for a job on site.
The exchange studies in Japan helped me better understand the context and create networks, but I wish I had completed even more language studies at the University. Language is emphasized in a country like Japan, where the working life still demands steady language knowledge.
I believe that despite the country and language used at work, knowing the language of the country shows real interest and helps you create personal relationships and being employed. Even though the job application process might feel challenging and the first job abroad might not be anything compared to the Finnish jobs with all the benefits, I appreciate the personal growth that the working abroad enables. Furthermore, living in a city like Tokyo is always an adventure!
If you are interested in working in far-away countries, you should first think how to get your foot in the door. For example, the events like Slush are good employment tracks abroad if you are interested in startups.
For me, working abroad is about the balance between my own doing, my values and different working methods in a specific country. Finding that balance can be difficult, especially in the beginning, in the work cultures, which differ from what you have been used to, but finding it is crucial for the sake of your own identity and wellbeing.
Adaptation to the culture and environment of a foreign country is inevitable in order to work there, but you should also remember that your own cultural background and expertise separated you from the other applicants and offered you this kind of opportunity. The foreigners who have lived in a country longer can help you adapt and understand the different context.
What would you do differently in your studies?
I could have taken even more advantage of the multidisciplinary studies that Aalto offers, and do even more courses and projects that truly interest me.
Lately, it has occurred even clearer to me that by making inspiring choices, you end up with interesting projects and people, which then create new opportunities. Thus, travel boldly on your own path, which might differ from the mainstream, and trust your own intuition!
Get to know Niklas Karvonen’s career path more closely on LinkedIn.