I studied Mechanical Engineering with a major in Product Development and minor in Industrial Design and Spanish (almost completed). I also spent two semesters as exchange student at ITESM in Mexico and yearlong course, ME310, partially in Stanford, California.
When choosing what to study, I applied to number of universities, but mechanical engineering runs in my family as my father completed the same major. We actually shared at least one professor!
I felt a little bit out of place during the first years and basic courses, but things got interesting after discovering the product development opportunity: I wanted to design things based on deep insight on human mind and behavior. I actually considered adding anthropology in the studies as well, but ended up studying that on my own time.
One of the most memorable events during my studies was the paper bike challenge at Stanford. Each student team had to come up with a design of a vehicle for a game with certain rules: it had to be made out of cardboard, be able to carry a person and goal was to retrieve water balloons from other team’s basket and bring them to yours. It showed how much fun and playful the designing can be, and what a great team-building exercise!
The best part of my studies in Aalto was the sense of freedom and the excitement of having unfolded future in front of you. Last three years were very good as we moved from sometimes dull basic courses into project based learning.
When thinking of what tools that I gained from studying Mechanical Engineering, I’ll go with a cliché: thinking outside the box. I think that the experiences abroad really helped to develop the independence that has been good in the entrepreneurial career. Allowing very cross disciplinary curriculum and giving slack when a lot of my time was tied to comedy have really helped too. The fact that design factory and Startup sauna were new and fresh when I studied was great: before that it felt that the university produced wheels for the corporate machine, but it all changed during my studies.
During studies I did some manual warehouse work and performed and produced stand-up comedy. I was about to graduate in 2008, but the economy fell out of place and I decided to study and work at the same time. I’ve worked as product development engineer at Link Design and Powerkiss, concept creation facilitator and design consultant at SEOS, research assistant at Aalto and I’ve been a CEO of two startups that I co-founded, Scoopinion in Finland and Beatroot in San Francisco. 9 out of 10 years of my post-studies career I’ve spent in companies that I’ve co-founded.
Now I’m co-founder of Kyrö Distillery Company. I recently moved to Berlin, leading our business in Germany and previously I took care of the brand development and new products at Kyrö.
When describing my regular work day, I have only one word for that: irregular. As the company is evolving in such a speedy pace, things don’t have that much time to normalize. Basic structure that I try hold up is excercise in the morning followed with deeper thinking while moving to more reactive tasks by the end of day. There’s quite often sales tour or events in the nighttime.
My future plan is to build an internationally successful spirit brand and maybe serve in a non-executive board to pass the learnings from that experience. I feel that we need to get better at building consumer brands as a nation, otherwise we do the hard work and someone else reaps the benefits.
My tip for the new students is to Go crazy and reflect!
Student life is the time where you really can get to know yourself, build network, fail without massive consequences and find your own way of life. But it happens only if you bravely follow your interests and spend some time reflecting and making sometimes hard decisions on stepping out of the expected path. Otherwise you’ll end up living the life someone else wants you to live.