Walk in my shoes

Inspired by the saying that you should walk a mile in someone’s shoes to understand them, the ‘Walk in my shoes’ series aims to share some of the experiences, thoughts, perspectives and challenges faced by another Aaltonian. Our first interview is with Aalto’s president, Ilkka Niemelä, and the most recent interview is always published on top.
Walk in my shoes, illustration by Anna Muchenikova.
Illustration: Anna Muchenikova.

Risto Ilmoniemi: The most important thing is having confidence that others will be there to support and help when needed

'I have thought many times that I am going to give up the whole thing: this is not going to work. But I recover quickly: often already on the next day, optimism is reborn.'

Read Risto Ilmoniemi's story and watch the video
Risto Ilmoniemi, photo by: Hayley Le

Panu Savolainen: I wish we would have a day when we remove the power dynamics completely

‘In many indigenous cultures, there are such periods, when leaders relinquish their power. Either that power is given to someone, maybe the poorest or most oppressed community member, or then the power isn’t used by anyone.’

Watch the video interview of Panu Savolainen
Panu_Savolainen, photo by Hayley Le

Maarit Korpi-Lagg: I have so few female colleagues that sometimes it’s difficult to maintain self-esteem

'Both in physics and computer science there are very few female researchers and professors. Last year we had a celebration because the first female student passed my course. It was a big thing for me.'

Watch the video documentary of Maarit Korpi-Lagg
Maarit Korpi-Lagg, photo by by Matti Ahlgren

Saban Ramadani: Is it radical to create a rocket in a week?

‘When you are expected to come up with something quickly, for instance, in visual arts, is the purpose itself lost in the creative process? Is it radical to create a rocket in a week?’

Watch the video interview of Saban Ramadani
Saban Ramadani, Photo by Hayley Le

Minna Halme: At first, sustainability wasn’t taken seriously

'I was told to do a doctoral thesis on a different topic if I want a job in the future.'

Watch the video interview of Minna Halme
Minna Halme, photo by Hayley Le

Guide dog Niksi: It's always amazing and fun to come to campus

'As difficult as it is, we can't say hello when I'm wearing my guide dog harness. I'm responsible for moving safely, and it's really important to focus on that. I do try to catch people’s eyes every now and then, but it's not something you should respond to.'

Read Niksi's story
Labrador Retriever Niksi looks into the camera.

Mashrura Musharraf: You don’t get to see a lot of women like me in academic leadership positions

'I think my shoes are quite unique, and so is my path. You don’t get to see a lot of women like me, a non-white female from Bangladesh, in academic leadership positions. Especially in a male-dominated field like marine technology.'

Read Mashrura Musharraf's story
Mashrura Musharraf, photo by by Jaakko Kahilaniemi

Dimitrios Gkoutzounis: After the first month I decided I don’t wanna leave

'I was very unfamiliar with something like the orientation week and all the activities and lectures, where they told us useful things, like how the university works. It made me feel like I’m not on my own to figure everything out.'

Read Dimitrios Gkoutzounis's story
Photo by Dimitrios Gkoutzounis.

Mikko Kosonen: Empathy is needed to communicate across disciplines

'When you disagree or feel defensive, it’s important to really try to hear what the other person is saying. That requires empathy. If disciplines have different languages, it’s easy to talk past each other.'

Read Mikko Kosonen's story
Mikko Kosonen, photo by Mikko Kosonen.

Laura Aalto: It means a lot to be seen and heard

'I remember how much it meant to have the opportunity to teach. People believed in me as a professional, and I was seen and heard. I succeeded despite being nervous. This organisation saw my potential.'

Read Laura Aalto's story
Laura Aalto, photo by Mikko Raskinen.

Veera Repka: It's easy to get immersed in the Otaniemi bubble

'If someone were to walk in my shoes in the same way at the beginning of the studies, I would hope that they would not try to achieve everything right away. You can give yourself time and work through things on your own.'

Read Veera Repka's story
Veera Repka, photo by Veera Repka

Myungji “MJ" Suh: The Aalto stand at Slush is all about how we can make the world better

'You are entrepreneurial when you see a problem as an opportunity, instead of avoiding it as a threat. A can-do attitude is also an entrepreneurial skill.'

Read Myungji “MJ" Suh's story
MJ on stage giving a talk

Koos Zevenhoven: The scientific world doesn't know this kind of unusual path very well

'There have also been PhD students in my group, and I haven’t been able to officially act as their advisor. Some of my students have finished their PhD before me.'

Read Koos Zevenhoven's story
Koos Zevenhoven, photo by Oona Hilli

Kari Tammi: When we are lean enough, we have time to think without rushing

'Aalto is a pretty calm and safe environment to work in. The management and evaluation system is relatively kind, and the rules are just right for an odd and absent-minded person like me.'

Read Kari Tammi's story
Kari Tammi, photo by Kalle Kataila.

Ville Wikström: Peace of mind and interpersonal skills are the characteristics of a good custodian

'The protesters were in the lobby for a week, and it didn't matter, quite the opposite. But the School of Business and the School of Arts and Design are a bit like fire and water, there's a difference in cultures between the two.'

Read Ville Wikström's story
Ville Wikström through the kaleidoscope. Photo by Ville Wikström.

Leonardo Fierro: Sharing experiences for a better doctoral student life

'Now I’m less fearful of failing. I know how to put things into perspective. It was a good lesson to learn that failing is part of the process of succeeding.'

Read Leonardo Fierro's story
Photo: Leonardo Fierro.

Mantė Žygelytė: Some things are more about the journey than the goal

'The tiny reminders made me question myself: what am I doing here? What is my purpose here? Back then, the office was not ready to welcome me. It was scary to admit openly that I don’t feel included, and I needed someone to recognize that and stand behind me.'

Read Mantė Žygelytė's story
Mantė Žygelytė, photo by Linda Lehtovirta.

Jussi Ryynänen: In the back row, I wondered what on earth I was doing here and whether I would survive

'I meet a lot of people, and I have a finite social battery that gets drained during the working day. When I want to clear my head of the day's thoughts, I go and lie down under the car to fix it. The best part is that I don't have to talk to the car.'

Read the story of Jussi Ryynänen
Jussi Ryynänen, photo by Mikko Raskinen.

Albert Devasagayam Francis: We are bringing community gardening and beekeeping together

'My main aim is to have clean energy, which can happen far into the future. In beekeeping, I can see the impact at the end of each season.'

Read the story of Albert Devasagayam Francis
Albert Devasagayam Francis, photo by Susanna Oksanen

Pärttyli Rinne: My work is both internally rewarding and economically fragile

'Academics without a permanent post experience uncertainty and stress, mainly related to financial fragility. It is not just my experience.'

Read the story of Pärttyli Rinne
Pärttyli Rinne, photo by Nora Rinne

Abhiteg Jammu: There's so much untapped talent because of the language barrier

'Coming to Finland as an Indian student means that I lack the implicit understanding of the Finnish culture to be able to truly connect with someone. I don’t know the local way to communicate, or what’s the emotional intelligence like.'

Read Abhiteg Jammu's story
Abhiteg Jammu with a dog

Konsta Klemetti: Creative artistic thinking and finding surprising perspectives are ingrained in me

'It has been fun and enlightening to discover that there is a tribe, i.e., like-minded people at Aalto. Everyone accepts an idea, no matter how crazy it is. The culture is open-minded and accepting in a fun way.'

Read Konsta Klemetti's story
Konsta Klemetti happened to have a friend's silly and good-humoured dog in his care on the day of the photo shoot. Photo by Zina Marpegan.

Annukka Svanda: It's important to challenge yourself to do hard things

'I believe that those of us who can and are capable have a duty to work to make the world a little better place all the time. For example, we can try to improve the situation of those who are not so well off.'

Read Annukka Svanda's story
Annukka Svanda, photo by Linda Lehtovirta

Riitta Hari: The exploration of the human brain and mind is captivating

'According to Olli Lounasmaa, ten meters is a distance where half of the information gets lost: the further you are from another researcher, the fewer unexpected conversations arise, and the more refreshing science gossip goes unheard. This is food for thought for remote workers as well.'

Read Riitta Hari's story
Riitta Hari by Ville Malja, Ateneum-lehti

Irma Pasanen: Curiosity is an asset

‘You have to be curious. If I don't know something, then I'll find it out. I think that’s the core of being an information specialist. I believe that I can do things that feel good to me. Curiosity is an asset.’

Read Irma Pasanen's story
Irma Pasanen at Otaniemi

Gary Marquis: If I had a magic wand, I would use one wish to enliven our sense of community

'Cooking together was fun, relaxing, and we could meet people in a non-work-related situation. It seemed to be a very good way to build community for the new professors and their family members – even children in some cases.'

Read Gary Marquis' story
Gary Marquis has made dresses for his wife and his daughter, and one for his granddaughter as well. Photo: Lily Hernández.

Emil Stråka: It’s interesting to see physicists and chemists complement each other’s expertise

'It’s interesting to see how physicists and chemists can be looking at the same system, and yet arrive at very different conclusions, questions, and results. In LIBER Center of Excellence, you can see the expertise from different disciplines.'

Read Emil Stråka's story
Emil Stråka, photo by Linda Lehtovirta.

Pauliina Ilmonen: The scientific community is like my second family

'The moment when the new doctors receive the hats is the one that gets me particularly emotional. There is plenty of work behind each new doctoral degree and that work has a huge societal impact.'

Read Pauliina Ilmonen's story
Pauliina Ilmonen, photo by Nita Vera.

Erika Renedo Illarregi: I love being a design researcher and navigating a variety of emotional landscapes

'I came with a lot of energy and a lot of willingness to do different things and integrate, but also, the winter was coming. Even though I like new experiences, it was not always easy to arrive in the moment when every day was a little bit darker.'

Read Erika Renedo Illarregi's story
Erika Renedo Illaregi, photo by Linda Lehtovirta

Leila Arstila: As a recent graduate, I have a whole world ahead of me

'We could learn to listen to ourselves and be kinder to ourselves. After burning out, it's really hard to climb back up. It would be easier to stop before the fall.'

Read Leila Arstila's story
Leila Arstila, photo by Linda Lehtovirta

Valentina Arrietta: Feedback is always a gift

'Sometimes I feel like I’m struggling alone with rejection and expectations of publication. But if I talk to someone else, I find that they too have their own struggles. It’s important to talk to people and realise that at the end of the day, I’m not walking alone in these shoes.'

Read Valentina Arrietta's story
Valentina Arrietta's photo by Valentina Arrietta.

İdil Gaziulusoy: We can start by touching each other a bit more

"We need to move towards one another and start walking together. Internationalisation is integration."

Watch the recording of İdil Gaziulusoy's keynote speech
Idil Gaziulusoy, photo by Sanna Lehto

Jessica Sinikoski: Events must have room for a little magic

'My mission is to communicate what Aalto sounds, looks, smells, tastes and feels like, make the message tangible. As we are very close to nature in Otaniemi, the experience should have a bit of tree needles and soil in it, but it should also represent innovation, creativity and social impact.'

Read Jessica Sinikoski's story
Jessica Sinikoski, photo by Heli Sorjonen

Jason Selvarajan: A shared kitchen helps me bring people together

'When I started the job, I was told that they were looking for a ‘mood manager’ whose job was to create a good, positive atmosphere with the attitude that anything is possible. I'm not always in a good mood, though, despite what other people say.'

Read Jason Selvarajan's story
Jason Selvarajan, photo by Jessica Sinikoski.

Maija Taka: I want to plan the route in advance

'I have a background in geographical research, and I always have to have a map. I need to know where I'm going and why, at what pace and with whom.'

Read Maija Taka's story
Maija Taka

Ida Salin: It takes courage to speak up

'The EDI topics involve a social debate that can stir up strong emotions, including polarisation. When I started the assignment, I was nervous about whether I could talk about the right issues in the right way.'

Read Ida Salin's story
Ida Salin, photo by Linda Lehtovirta.

Anastasia Koptsyukh: I have a lot of support from the community

'Our unit is very young and dynamic. There are 15 of us in total. Our culture is vibrant, supportive, and embracing. It’s oriented towards professional growth and development.'

Read Anastasia Koptsyukh's story
Anastasia Koptsyukh, photo by Tuấn Lê

Tapio Lokki: You can always find another way

'If I look at my own career, the skills I learned in the Student Union’s Representative Council and as a chairman and artistic misleader at Retuperän WBK are the skills I need as a department head: how to get along with people, how to lead a group, and how to motivate people. A role model is important.'

Read Tapio Lokki's story
Tapio Lokki and the orange jacket, photo: Olli Suutela.

Kristiina Mäkelä: My stride is generally brisk, motivated and positive

'Whenever possible, I say yes when someone in our community invites me to an event. I'm involved in so many things, and I move around the campus a lot.'

Read Kristiina Mäkelä's story
Kristiina Mäkelä, photo by Linda Lehtovirta

Heidi Henrickson: Being connected to people is an important part of feeling good about work

'If you look at how I walk, you can still see some evidence of marching band there: we roll our feet to make the walking softer, and the distance between the steps is very precise.'

Read Heidi Henrickson's story
Heidi Henrickson, photo by the Finnish Union of University Researchers & Teachers

Audio Dubbado: Retuperän WBK represents firefighter-like dignity and good manners

'After I had played in the fire brigade for a few years, I thought that maybe it would be good to have some excuse to spend so much time in Otakaari. I decided it was time to apply to study at Aalto.'

Read Audio Dubbado's story
Retuperän WBK:n Audio Dubbado, kuva: Atte Mäkinen.

Ilkka Niemelä: When trying to fix something, it’s important to start by understanding the problem

'It’s really important to me personally that we value each other. I believe in that very strongly. The way you treat other people determines the culture of an organisation. We accomplish a lot more when we have respectful interactions.'

Read Ilkka Niemelä's story
When Dipoli was being renovated in 2017, Ilkka Niemelä happened to be present during the installation of the artwork and ended up supporting a painting from one corner. Photo: Severi Kasurinen.

If you would like to share your story for the Walk in My Shoes series, please contact Tiina Aulanko-Jokirinne. Walk in my shoes is part of the Aalto Cultural Development project led by Carita Pihlman.

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