Just think of this fact: Forrester Research predicts that today’s youngest workers will hold 12 to 15 jobs in their lifetime. How then to choose a study path, when you are 18 years old and hardly have any work experience? It seems we all need to become lifelong learners. I have accepted this fact and found for myself that two questions always help me: first, Where am I now? and most importantly, Where do I want to be next?
Modern jobs are demanding, and require a large toolkit of skills that cannot come from only sitting in a classroom. Moreover, formal education to the job – at some point of life – may not be enough, if people also want to do the work they find inspiring and meaningful, but is going beyond their current qualification. In addition, different jobs and life experiences may reshape one’s interest areas.
As a result, the need to learn new things comes about more often than ever before. Based on my own experience, to manage with this fast pace and change, I’d encourage young students to take a shorter study path after high school, and then acquire work experience according to one’s own interest areas.
To illustrate my point, I will share my own experience. I started by completing my Bachelor’s degree in 2005 at Metropolia AMK (Stadia at that time) in Automotive Engineering. After four years of studying, as I realized already during my studies, I wanted to do research work and I aimed at VTT (Technical Research Centre of Finland). That was the best option in the field and my own best choice. Persistency – and a bit of luck – helped me to get a job at VTT as an R&D engineer, as I always dreamt.
Next, after a couple of years of practical, highly educational work at VTT, I asked myself ‘Where do I want to be next?’. Honestly, I wanted to go abroad for new challenges and moved to the Netherlands, to work as a Testing engineer at TNO (the Dutch counterpart of VTT). During my time at TNO, I was lucky to work with major international engine and vehicle manufacturers. These years gave me practical knowledge about the business side of the automotive industry. Then, after experiencing the business side, the question loomed again; Where do I want to be next?
I returned to Finland and back to VTT, as I now felt clearly that my interest area shifted from pure research to a more commercially oriented research work. As soon as I outlined my desire where I want to be next, I got a call from a headhunter offering an opportunity at Neste Oil as an Engine researcher. The role was precisely in my dream area, in-between the R&D and business units, which was a perfect match with my new ’where to go to’. Meanwhile I kept doing various short courses in communication, marketing, sustainability, and innovation to strengthen my Bachelor’s technical background with business expertise.
Finally, after some four years, I felt a clear ‘next to go to’ in sales. But now it was a far too big stretch from my technical roles towards commercial work. Yet, the company trusted me and gave me the opportunity at Neste’s wholesale business unit as a Technical Account Manager. Pretty soon, I realized an acute need for in-depth knowledge in sales, marketing and business administration. This time, my next ‘where to go to’ was to get a Master’s degree from business studies.
My basic requirement was to find a short, compact study module of an MBA type catered for the demanding technical environment. I found the best match at Metropolia, in Industrial Management Master’s studies. The curriculum was very close to an MBA course, with the topics I wanted to learn. Also, the classes and course tasks were organized in such a way that I could keep my new full-time work and even perform many of the given research assignments at my company.
After a compact (and very tight!) year of super-interesting Master’s studies, I graduated from Metropolia, Industrial Management Master’s degree program as a Master of Engineering in 2015, much better equipped for my new role. It took me about two years to digest all the new knowledge and develop new skills, before my next ‘Where to go to?’ started maturing. This time, it felt as a clear call for business development. My job offered so many new challenges that a combination of technical knowledge with the expertise in sales – and knowledge of industrial services – really fired off well for me.
A global shift to services, that makes the core of Industrial Management Master’s degree program at Metropolia, approach our team on a very practical level. We have faced a challenging task to introduce services into a very traditional industry. Luckily, after my Master’s studies, especially courses in Service business, I felt more confident in my work on many occasions. Even now, I keep complementing these skills through various short courses in Service design, which I found very useful.
Now, I am also lucky to see how my team members decided to follow a similar study path and made into two extremely talented and intelligent students. They also keep asking the same questions: Where am I now? and Where do I want to be next? in order to decide which courses to take to match their interest areas, and it will probably help them in their future careers as well.
I share this approach hoping that someone may find it useful for making one’s own choices. The world is changing in an ever-faster pace, and to keep up with this pace requires honesty and timely grasping lifelong learning opportunities.
Commercial development manager