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School of Business student Katja Toropainen: What keeps me inspired is the hope that we can make an impact

Katja Toropainen, the founder of Inklusiiv, talks about her studies in Information and Service Management (ISM), her entrepreneurial career and how Slush got her interested in diversity in the technology industry.
Close-up photo of Katja Toropainen standing at a bay.
Katja Toropainen, founder of nonprofit organisation Inklusiiv.

Would you shortly introduce yourself?

Hey! I’m Katja Toropainen, Founder of Inklusiiv, former Chief Curator at Slush and a student at Aalto University. Earlier this year I founded Inklusiiv that has grown from a campaign to a community. Now we’re building a nonprofit organization with a mission to advance diversity and inclusion in the working life. I’ve also been writing my Master’s thesis on financial inclusion this year, and still need to finish that before it’s time to graduate.

Why did you choose Aalto for your studies?

I am really happy that I happened to find my way to Aalto University because it has allowed me to do multidisciplinary studies. When applying to Aalto School of Business, I did not know it was possible. Looking back now, it’s been one of the greatest experiences. I’ve gotten to study in diverse teams and do studies in Aalto Business, Arts and Science with students from different schools.

I’ve always struggled with deciding what to study or what career to choose and I had a really difficult time deciding my major. Nothing felt right. But the wide array of majors, minors and multidisciplinary studies offers a great possibility for way-too-curious people like me to study different things, learn, get a wider perspective of possibilities and in the end, through trial and error, find our dream careers.

What made you choose ISM? What are you specializing in?

After my bachelor’s degree, having volunteered at Slush, I was excited about getting to follow more of what’s happening in the intersection of business and tech. I feel it’s extremely important to have more people from different backgrounds who understand technologies and their impact on the world.

ISM as a major provides a wide category of very different subjects and courses and allowed me to do some courses at Aalto Uni School of Science as well.

I feel it’s extremely important to have more people from different backgrounds who understand technologies and their impact on the world.

Katja Toropainen, founder of Inklusiiv

How have you translated your acquired skills to your work life?

I’ve almost always worked part-time while studying. That work experience has essentially helped me figure out the existence of ISM as a possible major and also helped me to figure out what subjects to study. Studies have been much more beneficial after having work experience.

The most important skills acquired from studies have probably been thinking and prioritization. Thinking in terms of reading and learning a lot and being able to think and analyze things in a big picture and also in detail. Prioritization in terms of how to find the essential information fast, get things done and excel at different kind of projects.

Courses have included both academic readings and very practical case studies from real life, and I have enjoyed the combination.

What has been your favourite course?

Working on my thesis! Because at ISM the array of thesis topics is wide. Almost whatever you’re interested in you can do a thesis about. I have got to choose my favourite topic: how new technologies can advance financial inclusion. I also get to work in a self-organizing manner and interview very interesting people for the thesis, such as technology entrepreneurs and researchers all around the world. I’ve always loved independence; deciding what to do, when and how. That’s the reason why I chose to study at a university, and probably why I’m also an entrepreneur currently.

How have you liked the new building? 

I have done most of my studies in Töölö. I’ve visited the new building a couple of times and it’s fantastic. I think the Otaniemi campus is spectacular and having all business, science and arts students there together can create real magic.

Where are you heading and what inspires you at the moment?

For the past two years, I was in the leadership team of the startup and technology event Slush. My job as a Chief Curator was to follow the startup and technology industry globally, and our team was in charge of our content, program and speakers. I got to learn a ton and got curious about diversity and inclusion in tech.

This year in April, I started the inclusion movement Inklusiiv and challenged the fast-growing tech companies to report their diversity data, which led to 15 companies reporting their data for the first time. Now we’re building a nonprofit organization that advances knowledge and best practices about diversity and inclusion in the working life.

What inspires me always and all the time is learning! I’m happy that now, building Inklusiiv with our stellar, and diverse team, I get to learn all the time and do new things, building and creating something from scratch. I’m an optimist and believe in being able to change things for the better, so what keeps me inspired is the hope that we can make an impact.

What would you like to tell prospective or existing ISM students?

If you want to learn what’s happening in the business world, from technological development to the knowledge economy, ISM might be a great choice!

Two students and a professor sitting around a table, talking and looking at laptop screen.

Information and Service Management, Master of Science (Economics and Business Administration)

Master's Programme in Information and Service Management is the most tech-savvy programme at the Aalto University School of Business. The ISM programme shapes students into future leaders of the digital era with a unique combination of leadership, business and technology. ISM provides students with in-depth expertise in developing, managing and leading data-heavy businesses, making graduates highly sought after in the job market.

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Department of Information and Service Management
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