Alumni stories

Use for alumni interview stories.

Alumnus of ISM: Samuli Kesseli

1. Would you shortly introduce yourself?

My name is Samuli Kesseli and I’m currently in my first year of the ISM master’s program in Aalto University. Simultaneously, I work at Columbia Road as a marketing technology consultant, which I have now been doing for over one year. B2C ecommerce and “practical” marketing data science are areas that I mostly work with.

ISM Studies

1. What made you choose ISM? What was your specialization?

During my bachelor’s studies (International Business) at Aalto’s Mikkeli campus I got into website development and digital marketing. As far as master’s programs go, ISM seemed to be the best business related match with my newly found interest. In a similar vein, I’m now specializing in Information System Science.

2. What are the top 3 skills that you learnt from your ISM studies? If you could do it differently, what skills do you wish you had had learnt while you studied? Based on the courses so far, I would say that ISM offers courses with very practical learnings. That being said, a lot of the courses ​are​ theory-heavy, which of course is to be expected of universities. Analytics related courses have given me extra tools and knowledge to utilize in my client work at Columbia Road every day.

So top 3: Analytical skills, problem solving and Python

3. Which classes were your favourite?

“Data science for business” has been my favorite by far. The assignments on that course were structured in a way that allowed me to learn and immediately utilize the knowledge in my client work at Columbia Road. Data science is also extremely difficult to teach, but the professor managed to do it really well.

4. Did you work alongside your studies? How could you balance work-study-social life balance?
I currently do 70-90% of a full-time employee’s weekly hours at Columbia Road, on top of the normal two-courses-per-period in Aalto. It is a lot of work, but due to the flexible nature of my work it hasn’t been a problem.

5. If you can describe ISM in 3 words, what would they be?

Analytical, relevant and frustrating.


1. How was your study major related to your career path/current work?

They merge quite well together. Although studies often are too theoretical to draw direct value from, there are always some courses’ that surprise me positively, allowing me to learn concrete tools to improve my client work.

2. What is the most significant contributing experience/factor to your current work?
My “part-time” entrepreneurial endeavours I did during my bachelor’s. The entrepreneurial experience helped me to discover what I enjoy doing.

3. How would you describe the culture of your organization?

Ideal. There is no hierarchy, which gives people maximum freedom but through that, also maximum responsibility. I feel like in a sense, every Roadie is an entrepreneur under the Columbia Road umbrella. Columbia Road offers the environment and cases for consultants to work with, and consultants have the

freedom to approach the problem in whatever way they see fit, because trust in all consultants’ expertise is strong. And if faced with an unfamiliar problem, other Roadies are quick to support and share their knowledge.

4. Can you talk about the kinds of projects that new hires have worked on this year in your department/organization?
Depending on what you wish and want to do, you have a fair amount of freedom to choose. When I started, I was given my own client case on my second day. Continuing at an even pace, within a year, I have worked with 20+ clients, all of them in different business sectors, doing and selling different things. It has been very rewarding.

One of the best things about being a consultant is that you get to work with various industries and businesses, in my opinion. With some projects, I am responsible for the digital marketing activities of a given ecommerce store, and in others, I work together with colleagues as a team to drive value for our clients.

5. What trends do you see in your field?

Practical AI. So not AI in itself, but microservices that utilize AI as a built in function. Examples of this are marketing platform suggestions and chat service autosuggestion and customer-paths. Controlling and maintaining these microservices requires very little knowledge of AI, but they still offer the core value of AI.

6. What do the current students need to self-learn to be more prepared and competitive for work life after graduation?
Concrete experience of some advertising platform or other digital tool is important to anyone interested in marketing. Most digital tools have very similar rule-based operating functions, so once you get familiar with one, you have an excellent basis to adapt to new ones very rapidly.

Another thing to highlight is analytics. Interpreting data in different situations, not only in marketing, is important. Specific metrics might change from context to context, but the core knowledge of interpreting data is the same.

7. What are some internship/job search strategies you would recommend?

Always highlight concrete activities, and especially the activities you have done proactively. My theory on why Columbia Road decided to hire me, is that they highly valued my proactive work experience – the things I had done purely out of my own interest to learn. My subject “expertise” was far from perfect, but my many failed projects showed my eagerness to learn.

8. If hiring, what would you look for from new ISM graduates?

Base analytical skills, interest towards a given subject and eagerness to learn more.


1. What are your favourite sources of knowledge? E.g. website, FB page, etc.

Feedly. Columbia Road has built an internal Feedly-feed which composes all relevant news for marketing technology (SEO, SEM, new CRM tools, updates on current stack etc.).

2. How do you stay motivated?

If I search long enough, I will find the meaning to life.

Alumnus of ISM: Samuli Kesseli Read More »

Alumnus of ISM: Ville Sillanpää

Would you shortly introduce yourself

I’m Ville Sillanpää, 33 years young ISM Alumni. I did my B. Sc in Business Technology (2011) and M.Sc in ISM (2013). Since then I’ve worked as a Supply Chain Analyst, Supply Chain Consultant, PhD Student in Operations research and now – most recently – as a product owner in a software company specializing in software for retail operations. My current role is mostly about steering the product development of statistical software that produces large amounts of forecasts for retail demand.

I live in Kallio with my spouse, 7 month old child and two cats who are too lively. In my free time I do gym exercise, read, practice singing and do creative writing.

What made you choose ISM & what was your specialization?

I got interested in operations management and operations research in the first year course on Operations Management. That was a major factor for me to choose Business Technology. I ended up choosing the Business Analytics track, since I felt drawn towards statistics and mathematical modeling of business problems. That same draw led me to do a Phd in operations research, during which I further deepened my understanding of statistics and machine learning.

Lately I’ve been more interested in managing software development. Thus I’m really glad I did a bunch of information systems science course in the program as well. Those courses gave a lot of perspective for managing software development as well as understanding the role of IT systems in business.

What 3 top skills did you learn from your studies? Retrospectively, what do you wish you would have studied more?

I value the good command of algebra and calculus I got from completing all of the mathematics and statistics courses on bachelor level. The ability to read mathematical documents and – even superficially – understand mathematically complex algorithms goes a long way when you have to have discussions about developing statistically advanced software. I also appreciate the communications skills from the mandatory communications courses, since the ability to communicate efficiently is necessary pretty much everywhere. I also appreciate the good work ethic ISM instilled in me. Most of the courses I did required daily focus and completion of regular exercises. I’m glad I got the rhythm for that sort of thing during my university years.

In retrospect, I should have probably invested more time to learn a new language during my degree. However, I did love almost everything i studied, so I don’t know what I should have replaced!

What were your favorite courses?

Simulation by Tomi Seppälä, Introduction to Programming by Anssi Öörni, Operations Management by Mikko Tarkkala, Information Economy by Virpi Tuunainen

How did your studies relate to your current work?

In every imaginable way really. For me personally all of the themes in the ISM program have been relevant.

The statistics and mathematics part comes in because the software that we develop does statistical inference. Programming and database fundamentals come in because I work with developers who do software and database development. Supply Chain and Operations management stuff is important because that’s the focus area of our software. And finally, all the stuff in Information Systems Science really helps to understand how our customers think when they make IT investments.

Can you tell of what kind of things / projects / etc. have you been working with this year?

I’ve been a development lead in a project, where very recent innovations in time series forecasting are applied to forecasting retail demand at a scale of tens of millions of forecast models.

What current students need to learn to be more prepared for work life?

I think that the most important things are capability for abstract thinking and persistence. Both of those things will come, if you do your ISM program with good grades though. So I guess my advice is to just take the studies seriously, even though their practical applicability might not be very clear at first sight.

What are your favorite sources of knowledge? E.g. websites or news sources

For work related things I mostly read scientific articles about machine learning and applied statistics. For the same topics I frequent stack overflow and cross validated. Most likely I will need to brush up on some supply chain stuff as well, and for that I probably will want to find an online course.

How do you stay motivated?

Have a good balance between work and leisure. I’ve had the privilege of working in a company that values the well being of its employees, and I’ve felt that to be really important for my motivation.

Alumnus of ISM: Ville Sillanpää Read More »

Student of ISM: Jani Kurki

Would you shortly introduce yourself?

I’m Jani Kurki, a 26-year-old student at Aalto School of Business majoring in Information and Service Management (ISM) and minoring in Computer Science. Previously, I’ve been quite heavily involved at KY and Slush, and currently I’m writing my Master’s thesis on predictive modeling.

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

Back in high school, I was wondering whether I should apply to law school or business school, as I was interested in social sciences rather than natural sciences. My interest in tech arose only later during my first year of studies, when I volunteered at Slush for the first time. I realized how technology is a driving force for development in society, but tech also needs business to reach its full potential and impact. I was excited to learn more and therefore ISM, at the intersection of business and tech, was a natural choice for me. I also like the forward-looking attitude of ISM, where studies adapt to new things quickly. For instance, no new technology is too early in its lifecycle to be studied in a thesis.

My specialization is a balance between Business Analytics and Information Systems Science, which provides a good mixture of both quantitative and qualitative skills.

I realized how technology is a driving force for development in society, but tech also needs business to reach its full potential and impact.

What skills have you learned in ISM that you find valuable?

I consider the role of many ISM students, including me, to be building and developing companies after graduation. Nowadays companies are increasingly data-driven businesses with lots of digital operations. This shift requires one to be able to both crunch their way through internal and external data for meaningful insights, and then act upon them in digital business context. The concrete analytical skill set as well as the wide understanding of digital business provided by ISM help one achieve it.

It is also worth noting that even though the technical background of ISM students is (naturally) not as strong as of technical students, it is still appreciated by various employers. For example, after my Bachelor’s studies I got elected to Huawei’s global flagship student program in China for hands-on training in ICT technologies. Technical students were the target group, but the contents of ISM studies convinced the company that I had what it takes to participate in the training.

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

The skills have been highly beneficial in various places. While I was working as Junior Data Scientist at Supercell, my analytical skill set was fully in use, since my job was to analyze customers and some of the firm’s digital operations. The wider understanding of digital business has also been valuable. At a private equity firm, I was given the responsibility to screen through software companies and understand their business models and market dynamics in order to figure out if they would be good investments for the fund.

There have also been occasions when the combination of these skills was highly needed. In 2018, I worked at Slush and was responsible on our side for a joint project with the London-based venture capital firm Atomico. We created the State of European Tech report, which is the single, most comprehensive data-driven analysis of the European tech ecosystem. We crunched a massive pile of data and put it into the wider tech context for new insights. I also had the pleasure to spend quite a lot of time in London working with Atomico.

The skills are also applicable in non-digital context. The general understanding of business and analytics helped me a lot when I did an internship in the field of management consulting a couple of years ago. One rather surprising place, where I got to put analytical skills to good use, was the political campaign of a candidate who was running for the Finnish Parliament. I helped in making data-driven decisions for marketing and budgeting by analyzing publicly available data. Fortunately, he eventually got elected to the Parliament.

One rather surprising place, where I got to put analytical skills to good use, was the political campaign of a candidate who was running for the Finnish Parliament.

What has been your favourite course?

I have to mention two instead of one, so definitely both of the Data Science for Business courses! They introduce the most common algorithms for predictive modeling and through hands-on coding exercises students get to see what kinds of challenges can be tackled with them. Frankly, the courses were a lot of fun and professor Pekka Malo is just amazing. The courses inspired me to continue the topic in Master’s thesis as well.

What inspires you at the moment?

The dream of spring! The sun itself, of course, makes people happy and energized again after an exceptionally dark winter, but furthermore I’m graduating after I finish the Master’s thesis this spring. So, I’m going through a big life change, but I’m excited to see what the future holds.

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

Even though ISM studies have given me a lot, most of the learning still occurs outside classroom. The studies give a solid basis to build on, but in order to turn learnings into practical skills, they need to be practised. I’d recommend being active in both work life and extracurricular activities during studies to achieve it.

The studies give a solid basis to build on, but in order to turn learnings into practical skills, they need to be practised.

Still, do things that actually give you joy. Enjoy life and experience new things. Don’t do anything because it is ‘expected of you’. Do things that excite you and make you happy and see where it takes you. Make the most of your student life, because it is over faster than you think.

Student of ISM: Jani Kurki Read More »

Alumnus of ISM: Jesse Rajala

After finishing his Bachelor of Business Administration at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Science and working for a few years, Jesse Rajala realized he wanted to further his studies. He ended up choosing Information and service Management at Aalto University School of Business due to the reputation, location and great selection of courses. Now a fresh graduate of Information and Service Management, Jesse talks about his studies, and gives a few tips to students coming from a University of Applied science background.

  • Would you shortly introduce yourself?

I am Jesse Rajala, a 29-year old fresh graduate of the Master’s Programme in Information and Service Management from Aalto University and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences a few years prior. I began my master’s studies at Aalto Biz in 2017. 

  • Why did you decide Aalto for your studies?

After graduating from Haaga-Helia back in 2015, I acknowledged the possibility of continuing to a Master’s programme, but decided it was not worth it at the time. Eager to get into the working life, I thought I was ready to pursue my career ambitions in supply chain management and logistics. Working for a few years, I began to notice that my ambitions grew steadily and it became apparent that all the interesting open positions I found seemed to require a Master’s degree. Somewhere along the way I remembered that a Master’s degree was the end goal all along. The words of my mother to ‘maximise my potential’ and frequent debates with friends about the necessity of master’s degrees lingered in my head leaving me with only one option: getting that Master’s degree. Wanting to stay in the same field left me two viable options for a Master’s degree: ISM at Aalto Biz or Supply Management at LUT. I chose Aalto due to the reputation, location and great selection of courses.    

  • Did University studies differ from UAS studies?

In terms of course-work and lectures, the differences are noticeable. In UAS studies, courses and lectures were more intense with a strong practical approach and focus on building presentation skills whereas in university studies the lectures tended to be monologues by the lecturer or a guest lecturer with a few positive exceptions. Both studies included a lot of group projects. I didn’t feel that there was a significant increase in the difficulty of exams going from UAS to university courses. The key difference between UAS courses and university courses is that in university courses, the lecturer is not there to hold your hand and tell you what to do. While in UAS courses, where the lecturer acts more like a teacher and guides the learning process, at the university level, especially in the master’s-level courses, actually learning the course subject requires a lot of independent learning, self-guidance and active participation from the student. This is often learned the hard way, so this is probably my biggest takeaway to people coming to master’s studies from outside the university system.

Another significant difference between studying in a university compared to a university of applied sciences is the level of mathematical and analytical skills required to get by. This might depend on the study program, but coming from a bachelor program in business administration, I had to spend some time refreshing my more advanced high school math skills that I hadn’t used in over ten years. For UAS studies, basic math skills are enough, but university studies require a far more advanced maths skills. This caught me slightly off-guard, therefore I strongly recommend students starting their Master’s degree from a UAS background to take a few bachelor-level maths courses to start off. I know several people in my class who did just this, myself included, and it helps vastly. 

“ISM combines business and tech effectively, which is something companies really like right now and probably even more in the future.”

-Jesse Rajala, Graduate of ISM

  • What made you choose ISM? What did you specialize in?

I chose ISM as my Master’s degree program for its course offerings in supply chain management and logistics. Having worked and studied in the field, it was the perfect next step in my educational storyline. The idea of my master’s degree was to expand my knowledge on a very specific subject to become an expert of the field. Therefore, it was a logical choice to take the supply chain management track at ISM. The great thing about ISM that I learned is that even though the three tracks offered within the department at first seem irrelevant from each other, there is one underlying theme that links them together beautifully: data. After realising this, I began taking a few courses from the business analytics and information system science tracks to build a wider understanding into information and service management itself from courses across the track boundaries. I am really pleased with the end result. I gained more depth into my SCM knowledge while adding new valuable dimensions to my palette. ISM combines business and tech effectively, which is something companies really like right now and probably even more in the future.     

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

Whether by luck or unconscious planning, I’ve noticed that I’ve managed to build my career path by expanding and utilizing my previous experience with surprising efficiency. In my current job as a business intelligence consultant, I am able to use my acquired skills, whether from school or work, to greatly benefit my work life. I strongly feel that choosing ISM as my Master’s degree major subject was a fantastic choice for my career, as it taught me valuable skills and has opened up doors I didn’t even realise existed. 

“I strongly feel that choosing ISM as my Master’s degree major subject was a fantastic choice for my career, as it taught me valuable skills and has opened up doors I didn’t even realise existed. “ 

-Jesse Rajala, Graduate of ISM

  • What has been your favourite course?

The most interesting course I took was Decision Making and Choice Behaviour and I recommend it for all ISM students. The course is a fantastic introduction into behavioural economics/psychology and is something every business school student should have at least a brief understanding of. The significance of this knowledge in actual business life can’t be emphasized enough. Product and Inventory Management was a great course that explored the mathematical modelling of inventory levels and yield management and taught me a lot. Lastly, my third pick for top course is Corporate Financial Management, and was part of my minor subject, finance. The course had an excellent lecturer, a challenging group project and provided a compact but thorough view into financial management. Yet again, something I believe every business student should know something about.   

  • What inspires you at the moment?

Finally getting closure on my educational goals, after years of ‘maybe, perhaps’, gives me the inspiration to be truly able to move on in life to focus my energy on my career and other aspects of life. Luckily I also found a perfect job during my Master’s studies, so I can delve straight into the working life, highly motivated and full of confidence in my decisions. Having already been full-time in the working life before, this time around the path is much clearer. 

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

To prospective ISM students, especially those with UAS backgrounds: if you feel that you could have gone further with your studies to chase that career you really want, take the chance, I promise you will not regret the decision to apply to a Master’s degree. 

To existing students: do not forget to work on your soft skills, as usually those are the skills that get you places. Also, the ISM community is awesome, don’t be afraid to be a part of it. You might even end up finding job opportunities in surprising places. 

Alumnus of ISM: Jesse Rajala Read More »

Students of ISM: Katja Toropainen

The department of Information and Service Management is running stories about its students, and recently posted about Katja Toropainen, Founder of Inklusiiv and former Chief Curator at Slush. The story was originally published here.

  • Would you shortly introduction 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 work-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.

  • 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 the best/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.

  • What direction are you looking to advance to / 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!

Students of ISM: Katja Toropainen Read More »

Alumna of ISM: Eleonora Nazander

Eleonora Nazander, a graduate of Information and Service Management and a Senior specialist in Advanced Analytics at Bain & Company, talks about her career and gives some tips regarding ISM studies and looking for employment in Finland as an international student.

This story was originally published in Aalto News at:

“In my opinion, the Information and Service Management program provides students a perfect mix of business and technical skills.”

Eleonora Nazander

Would you shortly introduce yourself?

I am Eleonora. I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia. After finishing a bachelor’s degree in my hometown, I came to Finland to do a master’s degree in ISM. After graduation, I started working as a business intelligence analyst at Stora Enso. Stora Enso gave me a chance to participate in their global leadership trainee program, which included getting to know how to do business in China, as well as an international assignment in Brazil.

 After several years at Stora Enso, I made a switch into consulting by joining Bain & Co. Currently, I work as a Senior Specialist in Bain’s Advanced Analytics function in San Francisco. My areas of focus include customer segmentation, driver analysis, whitespace analysis, data visualization, etc. 

What made you choose ISM? What did you specialize in?

I was always interested in quantitative methods and wanted to use them to solve business problems. Information and Service Management was a perfect match, as it teaches you how to apply statistical methods to marketing, logistics and finance. In my opinion, the program provides students a perfect mix of business and technical skills.

 I specialized in the Business Analytics track, which resonated perfectly with my interests.

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

My work is directly related to what was taught in ISM. To give you a few examples, the Database Marketing course gives a perfect background for working in customer analytics. It includes customer segmentation, in-market tests, predicting churn and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) analysis. On another note, I did a lot of work in sales forecasting while still at Stora Enso. This is a rather complex issue well-covered in the Time Series Analysis course.

 I must say that the ISM master’s program was not the end of my studies. After graduation, I have been doing a lot of additional studies mostly through online courses on Coursera, DataCamp, Edx, etc. They were essential for strengthening coding skills in R, Python and SQL. Additionally, I was lucky to attend courses on leadership and business at IMD International Business School in Switzerland and Stanford Continuing Studies in the US.

What was your favourite course?

It was probably Simulation. It provided amazing intellectual challenges to be solved through the means of statistics. The course was undoubtedly difficult, yet each and every problem was fascinating. That’s when I realized what type of work I wanted to do in my career: complex intellectual problems requiring statistical methods.

 I would also like to mention one course I took as part of the minor in Finance. The Corporate Finance course is absolutely outstanding in how much essential knowledge about the functioning of a company it gives to students.

What direction are you looking to advance next?

In the future, I would like to apply statistical methods and data visualization for social impact problems. From climate change to poverty, there are just too many solvable issues in the world to stay indifferent. I strongly believe that analytical methods can help us find solutions to almost any problem.

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

Be hungry. Learning can be an incredible joy, if you give yourself to it. Find what you are interested in and invest as much time as you can in becoming great at it. The modern world is very fast-paced and competitive, which means you will have to keep learning even after getting your diploma if you want to have a great career and impact.

Any tips for international students looking for employment in Finland?

From my personal experience, finding your first job can be very tough. I faced a lot of rejections, despite very good grades. Don’t give up! There are two pieces of advice I would like to give to those looking for jobs:

  1. Play on your strength. Identify your strengths and work on improving them even further. It is much harder to improve in the areas of your weakness, so, investments in strength will have greater payoffs. Remember, that everyone has weaknesses. Eliminating them will bring you to the average level, but will not make you an extraordinary candidate.
  2. Don’t think that good grades are enough. Most people find jobs through networking. Make sure to go to every company visit and career fair. Meet company representatives, ask them smart questions about their company and specific roles. Make them remember you. If you mention the encounter with company representatives in your motivational letter, it will make it easier for recruiters to relate to you.

Alumna of ISM: Eleonora Nazander Read More »

Alumna of ISM: Le Thuy

We would like to introduce an Aalto ISM Alumna! Our third story is about Le Thuy, who works at August Associates. Are you ready to hear her story?


  • Hi Le, could you give us a short introduction of yourself?

Hello, I’m Le, an ISM alumna graduated in 2017.

I’m originally from Vietnam, born in Quy Nhon – a small city along the coast. (Small on Vietnamese scale means ~300k of population).

I moved to Finland in 2010to study International Business in Lahti UAS, and then did my master’s degree in Aalto School of Businesswith a major in ISM Business Analytics.

I’m now working as an analyst at August Associates, the leading local strategy consulting firm in Helsinki.

  • You have an interesting background. Could you tell us more about that? Why did you choose Finland, and would you like to share with us a bit about your life here in Finland?

Back in 2009 during my 2nd year at a university in Ho Chi Minh city, a friend of mine, who was studying here at the time, suggested me to come to Finland, which offered free education, magical nature and high standard of living. I didn’t need to think twice.

Thinking back, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Life in Finland has been more than great for me. I’ve graduated and got a dream job. I’ve also got the chance to learn and do new things like downhill skiing, riding a boat, or jumping into an ice hole (avanto) from sauna, just to name a few.

The connection with Finland has also been deepened in my family over the years. My sisters have joined me to come here and build their own lives. My parents have also visited us and immediately fell in love with the place.


  • Why did you decide to study ISM at Aalto?

I was participating in the mentoring program held by HERA (Helsinki Education and Research Area)in 2012. In an event, I was sharing my plan to start a master program and my mentor gave me the hint that data was going to be big and people who could translate insights from data into business actions would be the most looked for in companies.

I figured that ISM is the program that emphasizes on developing information-based skills and provides the most direct route for business students to become a data analyst.

It was a valuable insight that I got from my mentor and it is still applicable now!


  • Why did you choose August Associates?

Strategy consulting seems like a natural career jump-start as it provides great exposure to a wide variety of industries and business problems. Moreover, the required core competence is data analysis – the skill I’ve learned from ISM studies.

August’s internship is an awesome opportunityto try out strategy consulting and get to know the firm. In the first “Base Camp” – an intro session for interns, one of August’s founders drew a steep line on the board and said that “this is the learning curve you would get over the time at August”. That was proven during my internship with countless eye-opening and jaw-dropping moments.

What I found unique at August is its super community of ~25 rock-stars. The perk of a small company is not just “Nice, everybody knows you”, but it also means that senior colleagues know you in person and can give you “tailor-made” development advice. That’s one of the significant learning accelerators, especially important for young people.

As I value continuous learning and places where I can develop, I find that August is such a place.

  • What inspires you and what is your daily motivation?

I feel inspired by smart people who always strive for the best. They consequentially motivate you to do the same. Also, being able to do the things you like and find meanings in what you do are extremely stimulating.

Besides work, the time spent with the people I care for is crucial for me. Interaction with them, however small, will always add some extra flavor to my days.

Finally, doing sports is a great way to stay motivated. I like practicing yoga and swimming. August community is also extremely sporty. Participating in HCR (Helsinki City Run) yearly is one of August’s traditions, for example.

  • Do you have any advice for ISM students?

First, you’re in the right place! Data related skills are increasingly relevant in business, so try to learn and practice as much as you can when you have a chance.

You don’t need to have the answer to that big question “What do you want to do with your life?”. You only need to keep an open mind and be active.

Consult senior people around you – they’ve done it and they will surely have something to share.

Brave your future* and try out new things – internship is an effective way to find the career that makes you tick.

Plus, you can always drop me a mail regarding ISM studies, strategy consulting and August.

*As August’s slogan goes, “Brave The Future” means facing it with courage


August Associates are the leading local strategy consultants in Finland. Founded in 2001 we are a firm of 25 capable professionals committed to helping companies rise above the crowd and surpass their targets. Deep customer relationships are at the heart of delivering relevant strategic counsel that is a perfect fit for the organization and their business. Combining experience with non-conformist thinking we go beyond the commonplace, providing solutions that Brave The Future.

Alumna of ISM: Le Thuy Read More »

Alumna of ISM: Mari Silvennoinen

We would like to introduce an Aalto ISM Alumna! Our second story is about Mari Silvennoinen, who has multiple degrees and works as a Principal Consultant at Columbia Road. Are you ready to hear her story?

Intro and university


1) Could you briefly introduce yourself? As an ISM alumna, could you tell us why you chose this major, what are advantages and disadvantages of that choice?

My name is Mari Silvennoinen.  I work as Principal Consultant at Columbia Road.  We are part of Futurice Group and our focus is on digital commerce and growth hacking.  I have three kids and traditional Finnish house with garden, so basically I love to do sports at my free time, if I have any.

I started my studies at 2004 in ISM, at that time Helsinki School of Economics.  I had graduated as Master of Science from Tampere University of Technology at 2000.  After that I wanted to increase my knowledge about corporate finance, IT and marketing, so I started in Open University.  After collecting around 120 credits,  I came across with ISM at 2003.  That sounded exactly something I would like to study. I didn’t apply that year, while I was expecting our firstborn at that time, but year later I decided to apply.

If I remember correctly, there were around 30 students starting at that year.  I think that one of the most positive things were that our group was very diverse. For me clearly the biggest advantage was that ISM was interdisciplinary programme.


2) You studied in many universities and completed multiple degrees. How did it help you in your career? How has it influenced your career choices?

Before ISM, I have finished a master’s degree in Fibre Material Science from Tampere University of Technology.  I think that combination of technical & business was a  good combination for me.  When studying one degree before another and working between and meanwhile, gave me substance and perspective and was able to get most from my studies in ISM.


3) What encouraged you to get a master’s degree in business at Aalto?

I wanted to expand my knowledge and learn new things.  ISM seemed to be suitable programme for me.


Entrepreneurship and work


1) What motivated you to become an entrepreneur and how did it happen?

I have become entrepreneur by accident; ten years ago interesting opportunity came along and I jumped in.  Currently I’m a part-time entrepreneur as I’m a partner at Steaks Contact Wear.  In addition to that I have full-time job at Columbia Road, where I work as an employee.


2) What drives you in daily life? What inspires you?

Learning new things.  That is something I love about consulting.


3) What is your next career goal?

Learn more about digital sales transformation.


Tips for ISM students


1) Could you give an advice for those who have not found a suitable career path yet? How to find it?

Try to list things you want to learn and seek opportunities to learn those things.  I believe that learning by doing is the best way to get new skills and the way to find suitable career path.


2) What kind of soft and technical skills are required to work for a digital consultancy?

I would say empathy is quite good start: understanding what are peoples’ motives, what are their worries and what are their problems.  Technology is just a tool for solving problems.  My job is not that technical, but some skills in analytics and martech is nowadays pretty useful.


Alumna of ISM: Mari Silvennoinen Read More »

Alumnus of ISM: Vesa Sironen

We would like to introduce an Aalto ISM Alumnus! Our first story is about Vesa Sironen, who has had a very interesting study path and career and is now sharing many life experiences and valuable advices. Are you ready to hear the story?

Intro and university

Hi Vesa, could you briefly introduce yourself? As an ISM alumnus, could you tell us why you chose this major, what are advantages and disadvantages of that choice?

I’m Vesa, an ISM student. I started in 2007 and continued studying in 2017 after a five-year hiatus.

I chose ISM because of the combination of IT and business. I’ve held an interest in information technology for a long time. I first encountered Internet in the beginning of the seventh grade, when Urho Konttori (nowadays the CEO and co-founder of VR-phenomenon Varjo) introduced the concept to me at the school library. I’ve been hooked ever since. 

The first time around, the courses at ISM were a bit of a letdown. To put it into perspective, it was still stuff about the waterfall model and SOA, when the world around us was going the way of Scrum. That’s why I went abroad to study at Stockholm School of Economics for my CEMS exchange and took part in the joint Aalto/Stanford course ME310 in 2009–2010. I was trying to hold on to my place of study but couldn’t resist the call of entrepreneurship after working throughout my studies.

You studied in many universities and completed multiple degrees. How did it help you in your career? How has it influenced your career choices?

I do have studied at eight different universities (exchange programs included), but my BScBA still remains the only academic credential I hold. Having had the opportunity to look at the world from many different angles and having met so many different people has definitely expanded the horizons. It has fed my curiousness and the insatiable hunger to know and understand. I am sincerely thankful for the Finnish education system for enabling me to do this. 

Why did you decide to take some time off from studying? What encouraged you to return to Aalto and get a master’s degree?

I had been working more and studying less. Ultimately, it was the manager of academic affairs who made the decision for me in a rather sobering telephone conversation.

There had been thoughts of making a comeback when the dust had settled. The perfect moment came in 2017, when at the beginning of a six-month parental leave I re-applied and was accepted to complete my studies.


Entrepreneurship and work

What motivated you to become an entrepreneur and how did it happen? 

At the time I started my first company, a sole proprietorship, I had been working in management consulting and entertained the idea of starting on my own. Having been let go from a job, I first did a three-month consulting project on contract which reassured me of the validity of my decision. Things started small and sometimes the learnings were pretty harsh. 

I just had my 10-year anniversary of entrepreneurship and business is still a hard thing; one just must keep learning more.  

What drives you in daily life? What inspires you?

People inspire me both at home, at work and in general. Building a family and building companies makes for a good balance. I have been lucky to get to work with excellent people and will be the first to say that any successful organizations are partnerships – no one can go it alone. 

As mentioned earlier, the thirst of knowledge is something that drives me. Learning new things and uncovering information I haven’t known before gives me a sense of understanding the world better. Life today – especially business life – is a world of unknowns and incomplete information. Maybe it is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding; trying to make sense of all of it. 

What is your next career goal?

As the chairperson of the board of Gapps, my goal is to help the team build a great success. The company is on a solid growth path of 73 % CAGR over the last eight years and I can see us becoming a serious player in the Nordic scene.

However, being a chairperson is not a full-time commitment and I still feel like I have a company or two in me. 2019 will show what are the next steps in an operational role!


Tips for ISM students

Could you give an advice for those who have not found a suitable career path yet? How to find it?

I’ve come to realize that no one wakes up one day and realizes that their passion lies in some X area that they don’t really know anything about. Rather it takes some trial and error to find what is of interest to just that person. If possible, try out different things at work and outside of it to understand what makes you tick. 

I always felt that there was a strong push towards a corporate career within ISM and CEMS. I’m happy to see that the possibilities in entrepreneurship and smaller companies have gotten more airtime in the recent years. It’s the easiest to start a company when one is still at school or recently graduated; the lifestyles get pretty flamboyant after working in a corporate job for a few years and that’s when one needs a much greater war chest to take that leap.

What kind of soft and technical skills are required to work for a start-up?

A key soft skill is the ability to deal with ambiguity and be able to perform even though there is incomplete information at best to base decisions on. 



Alumnus of ISM: Vesa Sironen Read More »