Essi Heikkilä: Landing a dream job straight after graduation
How to sell Swedish-made dog ice cream in the Japanese market? That was one of the many intriguing assignments that Essi completed during her studies in the Master’s Degree Programme in International Business and Sales Management (IBS). The knowledge she accumulated led to an interesting job opportunity straight after graduation, soon-to-be-published research article based on the topic of her Master’s thesis, and many dreams and aspirations for the future.
In high school, Essi Heikkilä’s plan was clear: she wanted to study law. But she didn’t get into the law school on the first try, which actually was a good thing, allowing her more time to think what she really wanted to do. She realised that detailed legal clauses and paragraphs were not for her, but instead she wanted to do something more creative, together with other people.
Essi’s father said he had always pictured her in business school, so she started browsing business courses in open universities – and finally she passed the entrance exam and started studies at the Business School of the University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio campus, in 2015. After finishing her Bachelor’s degree, it was time to choose the major in the Master’s degree. There was one course that caught her attention and led her to choose the IBS track: a course called Global Marketing Management.
– I was very interested in all things international, and besides that, I wanted to learn more about sales. I knew that it would be tough – for someone like me who doesn’t slide into the role of a sales person intuitively but needs to put some thought into it. This programme was a perfect choice for me – as I also have a secret dream that one day I will be a grocery store owner. I felt that wherever I end up, this degree will be of great benefit in each turn.
Learning in practice
The international aspect that Essi was looking for was truly present throughout the IBS studies.
– I think the best course ever was Strategic Sales Management in a Global Context last fall. It included a very practical assignment of crafting a key account management plan for a real company. The plan included everything from setting up goals to analysing the markets and compiling a concrete step-by-step plan on how to achieve the goal. Our case company was Harvia, a Finnish sauna stove manufacturer, and at the end of the course we presented our plan for the company representatives. We got the best possible feedback as they said that they could hire all of us immediately, because the plan was so good that ‘it could have been presented for the senior management of the company’.
For Essi, that particular group work also made it clear that they were not studying for the school assignments but actually learning things that they can immediately apply in the working life.
– Another memorable experience is from a course where we had to come up with an internationalisation plan for a company. We chose a Swedish company that makes ice cream for dogs, and we made a plan on how to launch the product in Japan. It was super fun to search for information and present the results to other students.
Also, the freedom to choose minor studies that the UEF offers is a huge advantage that has helped Essi to direct her studies based on her various interests.
– I love learning about new things, and therefore I have many minor subjects. In my Master’s I have studied also media culture and sports management. I also wanted to study abroad so I spent a semester in the US, at Western Carolina University, where the studies were highly sales-focused and practical.
Many doors open
The relationship between studies and working life enticed Essi so much that she decided to focus on it in her Master’s thesis from the management perspective.
– I studied the perceptions that UEF business students have on how technology will change leadership and management in the future, as well as on how these topics are integrated into the business studies at UEF. One finding was that the connection to working life could be even stronger. The more hands-on projects the students can work on, the more likely they will find employment. Also, despite being called diginatives who have grown up with smart devices, the millennials crave for more “humane” management. It is something that every smart company should take into account when the millennials enter the workplaces.
Soon Essi’s research results will be read by scholars around the world as her thesis supervisor Dr. Jonna Koponen suggested that a short version of the thesis would be submitted to the Journal of Management Education.
– It is such an honour, and I’m super grateful for Jonna for all the help.
The future looks indeed bright for Essi. Just recently she landed a job that fits her background perfectly, as she will start working as a sales manager at a media corporation, focusing on helping companies to find better ways of advertising in their media network.
– I felt confident answering the questions in the job interview because I could easily tell that the studies had prepared me for that. I could describe the different stages of a sales process or answer some other practical questions based on my experiences both at the UEF and in the States.
However, it is no wonder that the graduation and the shift from the ‘free’ student life to working life is causing some concern.
– Of course, you think whether you are good enough or whether you are ready to start a new life, so to speak. However, I try to reassure myself that also my friends share similar feelings so I have a lot of peer support. Besides, all the students in the IBS programme that I know have found employment.
The student group in the IBS programme has truly been a close-knit one – consisting of Finnish students, international degree students as well as visiting exchange student, due to the language of instruction being English.
– I think we all share a similar mindset and we are open and sociable people, so it is easy to get along and spend time together.
So, whether it will be a grocery store, a start-up or a global corporation that Essi will run in the future, she is confident that the skills learnt in the IBS programme will be of great help.
– I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grow up, so for someone like me this kind of education is an excellent choice as it opens so many doors. During my studies I have built networks and learned so much about business that it will never go to waste in any profession.