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Various career paths: tax expert Saara Hietanen is building a better world

Saara Hietanen became interested in organisational activities in upper secondary school through her love for animals, but only started a career in organisations and advocacy work after working in an international auditing company. Instead of animal rights, Hietanen ended up promoting fair taxation.
Kuvassa saara Hietanen seisoo Kauppakorkeakoulun aulassa portaiden edessä.
Saara Hietanen, MSc (Econ & BusAdmin), currently works as a tax expert at the corporate responsibility organisation Finnwatch, where she does research and advocacy work on corporate taxation. Photo: Aalto University / Roope Kiviranta

In general upper secondary school, Saara Hietanen, MSc (Econ & BusAdmin), still hadn’t decided what she would like to do as an adult. Being fond of animals, she had observed the activities of animal rights organisations since lower secondary school, but wouldn’t develop a wider interest in societal affairs until much later. After a few years of reflection, Hietanen applied to the Aalto University School of Business, as that allowed her to keep her options open.

At the School of Business, Hietanen studied accounting and business law. While she was still writing her master's thesis, she started auditing work at PwC, an international chain of companies. Hietanen enjoyed her four years at PwC and learned a lot about accounting and financial statements. Eventually, though, she started wanting to work on matters that were personally important to her.

Kuvassa Saara Hietanen seisoo kollegansa kanssa Punaisen Ristin teltan edessä, kun hän työskentelu ulkomailla hätäaputehtävissä.
Among other occupations, Saara Hietanen has worked for the Red Cross in emergency relief work. Photo: Saara Hietanen

’I'm truly grateful to my supervisor at the time for allowing me a to take a break for a few months to think things through. During the break, I worked for the Finnish Red Cross; I was responsible for the financial affairs of an emergency relief operation that was set up in Greece in response to the large flow of refugees.’

From an international company to the world of non-governmental organisations

After employment by non-governmental organisations had caught her interest, Saara Hietanen started working at Physicians for Social Responsibility - Finland, where she was in charge of finances. She was given all the financial work, from the budget monitoring of development cooperation projects to the organisation's financial statements. The full scope of the job opportunities in non-governmental organisations finally dawned on her when she saw the advertisement for her current job.

Kuvassa näkyy Saara Hietanen työmatkalla Afrikassa ja pukeutuneena peittävään asuun.
In Physicians for Social Responsibility, Saara Hietanen handled all financial work from development cooperation projects’ budget monitoring to the organisation's financial statements. Photo: Saara Hietanen

’Before I saw the job advertisement of Finnwatch, I had never even imagined that my financial expertise could also be used for research and advocacy work in an organisation that promotes matters important to me, such as human rights, tax responsibility and combating climate change.’

Saara Hietanen currently works as a tax expert at the corporate responsibility organisation Finnwatch, where she does research and advocacy work on corporate taxation. Hietanen studies corporate tax arrangements and makes research-based recommendations on correcting legislative gaps in order to tackle aggressive arrangements. Her work also involves statements on legislative amendments concerning corporate taxation, which are sent to the Ministry of Finance and to the committees of the Parliament of Finland.

’We want to ensure that policymakers are aware of the gaps in tax legislation and that legislation is corrected to address these gaps’, Hietanen explains.

’Injustice of all kinds has always sparked strong feelings in me, and now I am able to address it in my work.’

Saara Hietanen

Concrete proposals for solving problems in legislation

Saara Hietanen feels that she can truly improve the world in her current job. Making the world a better place has become increasingly important for her during her career.

’Injustice of all kinds has always sparked strong feelings in me, and now I am able to make a difference in my work by highlighting the shortcomings in legislation. And also by proposing concrete solutions to address these problems. I have seen how the work done by Finnwatch can lead to concrete legislative changes. Nowadays, it would be really difficult for me to start working in an organisation that doesn’t seek to improve the world through its core operations in one way or another.’

Saara Hietanen has a message for young people considering their educational choices: It’s all right even if you don’t know what you’re interested in at the end of upper secondary school.

’Based on my own experience, I believe that studies provide an opportunity to explore your own interests. All studies, regardless of subject, are beneficial and always provide you with something useful, even if your career ends up being completely different from what you originally planned. Business and Economics is a flexible and versatile study option; it allows you to focus on your own areas of interest as they become clearer during your studies.’

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