Aalto Executive MBA Experiences
Aalto Executive MBA 2015 cohort participants shared their insights on the program and reflected on their experience on their graduation day in November 2016. Watch the videos
"The EMBA gave me tremendous courage and confidence in my own abilities.”
Chief Physician, Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa
Leena Soininen works as a Chief Physician at HUS, the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa. A medical doctor and university docent by training, Soininen has focused most of her career on healing. Approximately five years ago, however, Soininen found herself in a managerial position with some 20-30 doctors to supervise. To her surprise, she enjoyed her new work immensely.
“My interest towards the business side of the hospital world grew sharply. I took part in some business studies arranged for doctors, but I wanted more,” she explains.
“My supervisor suggested I look into an EMBA. I started asking around and Aalto was recommended to me by a number of people. After finishing my EMBA at Aalto EE I understand all the ardent recommendations – it really is an exceptional program,” Soininen affirms.
“For me, the EMBA was a journey to widen my world view. I found the learning methods very effective, and looking back, everything we were taught was beneficial. There was nothing unnecessary or uninteresting in the curriculum,” she asserts.
Soininen praises the Self Development Process highly, calling it the backbone of the entire program, but emphasizes that she found every module useful and interesting.
“Of course certain modules stood out: study tours abroad at Stanford and Harvard were extremely valuable, and the strategy module changed my perspective completely – us doctors have a bad habit of dismissing strategy as gibberish, but after this module I not only understood the value of strategy but also knew how to communicate it to others,” Soininen describes.
She says studies dealing with finance and economics were tough for her, because her prior education had not even touched upon these topics – but this also made these modules particularly interesting and rewarding.
“The economics module especially was marvelous,” Soininen thanks. She underlines that put together, her studies and the EMBA group had such an impact, they changed her as a person.
“I feel that one of the greatest values of Aalto EMBA is the fact that you learn in a group and overcome challenges together. Our group was exceptionally good; we worked together so well and over the course of our studies, the group became an extended family of sorts,” Soininen reminisces.
“The EMBA gave me tremendous courage and confidence in my own abilities. I now know my strengths and how I need to improve. I have wider shoulders to take things forward, and I have the competence to achieve my goals. All this definitely shows in my everyday work,” she adds.
Soininen still works for HUS as a chief physician. From the beginning of 2017 she has been in charge of a large internal project to build a counselling service for people with sudden health problems.
“I am extremely enthusiastic about the project. I have quite free hands to push the vision forward, and I have been able to utilize all the valuable things I learned during my studies at Aalto EE. This is a job I could not do without my EMBA education. My employer paid for my degree and I know it was a good investment – the benefits reaped so far already surpass the costs of my studies,” she points out.
Soininen says that the EMBA gave her a great deal more than she ever considered possible.
“I certainly wish to endorse Aalto EMBA. I warmly recommend it to anyone who is ready to change as a person, and eager to change things in their own industry. These studies are highly demanding, but the payback is great. I feel that the more you throw yourself into the experience the more rewarding it is.”
“I was inspired and motivated after every single module.”
Jonas Tallqvist has over 25 years of experience in sales and marketing in various fields in the beverage industry, primarily from the wine and spirit, brewing and soft drinks industry. He recently finished his EMBA studies at Aalto EE.
“After a long career there’s a danger of becoming overspecialized if you don’t push your boundaries. Quite some time had passed since I got my first master’s degree in business back in 1993. Although I’ve always actively developed my professional skills, I felt the time had come to challenge myself more. I wanted systematic studies that lead to a degree,” Tallqvist explains.
Tallqvist looked into several EMBA alternatives both in Finland and abroad before he opted for Aalto EE.
“The accreditations were a very important factor for me. Aalto has a great reputation and the studies are highly interactive, which I considered a tremendous benefit. I had also heard that it’s the best place to learn about everything digital – and that was quite high on my agenda,” he lists.
Tallqvist says he found his EMBA studies very intensive, fairly tough and extremely rewarding.
“I was inspired and motivated after every single module. My favorite areas of study included a divers set of courses from Mergers and Acquisitions and Managing Creativity to the Self Development Process,” he ponders.
“One of the most intriguing individual concepts I learned was Stanford Professor Kathleen Eisenhardt’s ‘simple rules’. Her notion is that if your business is in an industry in which forecasting is either impossible or impossibly expensive, you should bypass the lengthy strategy process and set up a few simple rules that decision making and action are based on. This idea really hit home,” he reminisces.
The EMBA offers elective studies and study tours abroad and Tallqvist participated in studies arranged in Palo Alto, Poznan, Boston, and Singapore.
“The Boston study tour was remarkably good; we were guided by absolutely brilliant professors. And likewise, both Palo Alto and Singapore were eye-opening opportunities to learn a great deal about digitalization. All of the studies abroad during the EMBA were very invigorating,” he affirms.
Tallqvist says he was positively surprised to find many modules not only gave him new ideas, but also validated his own leadership methods. He mentions the business strategy project as an example.
“I was fortunate to be a part of an outstanding team in the business strategy project and so pleased that I was chosen team leader. We worked on a Big Data project that gave me a chance to put many of the things I had learned during Aalto EMBA into practice. Although everyone was under a great deal of pressure, I was happy to see once again that leading professionals can be quite simple when you do it right. The entire team was tremendously committed to the project and we got exciting results,” Tallqvist commends his team.
Tallqvist’s main goals for the EMBA were to update his own competence as a leader and gain a deeper understanding of digitalization. Looking back, he confirms that the EMBA definitely met his expectations.
“I certainly got what I came for and I am happy to recommend the Aalto EMBA. It provides experienced experts a unique opportunity to learn together. One of the best parts of the experience was sharing thoughts with the other participants, all of whom were accomplished professionals in their own fields. It was stimulating learning from them and gratifying to see how much I could give to the discussions,” he describes.
“We had an amazing group – although every single one of us was ambitious and enthusiastic to compete, we were also all keen to share our insight and work together. The comradeship born during the EMBA was truly marvelous,” Tallqvist adds.
“The EMBA connected the dots.”
Operational Excellence, Wärtsilä
Domenico Dargenio’s career is characterised by step after another towards a broader business outlook. Armed with two master’s degrees in engineering, he first joined Wärtsilä to work in Project Management and Supply Chain Planning in Trieste, Italy. Next, he took on a global role in volume planning, after which he was given responsibility within LEAN excellence. Today, he is based in Helsinki and is responsible for Operational Excellence at Wärtsilä.
“During my career I tried to constantly expand my perspective. My current job is stimulating: one day I might be supporting our business plan renewal and the next envisioning how to improve our market position. It is fast-paced, and one of the best aspect of my job is that I am asked to genuinely challenge the status quo and think outside the box,” Dargenio says. He decided to pursue an EMBA around the same time as he started his current job. Dargenio confirms that in his books, Aalto EE was the only real alternative for someone aspiring to obtain an EMBA in Finland.
“I felt it was time I continue developing myself. I wanted to expand my theoretical proficiency in business and grow both personally and professionally. Aalto Executive MBA program is very clearly structured, the professors are excellent, Aalto EE has triple accreditation – and I had heard highly positive feedback from people who had an EMBA from Aalto EE. For me, Aalto EE was a clear choice,” Dargenio emphasises.
The key benefit Dargenio describes having received from the EMBA is the enhanced holistic perspective with which he now approaches his work.
“The program builds bridges between the academic and business world, and above all it gives you a holistic view. Most often people look at a business from their own field of expertise: accounting, engineering, finance and so on. The program opens your eyes to see the complete picture – essentially, the EMBA connected the dots,” he says.
Dargenio admits that upon starting the program he had expected it to be very focused on main stream business approach based purely on financial return. He ended up getting more than he expected.
“Aalto EE has a mission of creating a better world through better leadership, which was tied into the program in many ways, as also emphasized during our study trip to Singapore. For me, this was a very positive surprise. Sustainable business is never driven by profit alone. The added human touch in the EMBA curriculum was very refreshing and highly useful – I believe that this kind of view is a prerequisite to all businesses wishing to move forward.”
Time management is a common challenge most EMBA participants face. Dargenio was no exception: “During a two-year period, I started my new job, got married and we had a child – all while I was working towards the EMBA degree. At a certain point, I admit schedules were near overwhelming, but in the end it was definitely worth it. Looking back, the EMBA experience was absolutely positive,” he affirms.
Dargenio emphasises the strong bond formed between Aalto EMBA participants. “The EMBA group is a place where executives feel comfortable taking away any business masks and openly discussing their ideas, challenging each other, and also speak about their development areas and weaknesses. This is one of the reasons why it is worthwhile participating in modules that require you to be physically present, instead of studying online. The support and insights you gain from others enrich the learning experience a great deal.”
“The weekend modules of two to three days each month were in a way a world of their own. It was time set aside specifically to learn and develop, which was very rewarding,” Dargenio reflects. “Throughout the program, I was continuously looking forward to going to class and diving into the new topics and discussions. There was always something exciting to learn, and sharing this journey with everyone in the group was thoroughly enjoyable. I made some lifelong friends – now that the program is finished I find myself missing our stimulating discussions during Aalto Executive MBA.”
“The EMBA is a treasure chest of knowledge.”
Anne Tarkiainen is a professional in the training field. For over a decade she has worked as a Director for Sovelto, where she is in charge of one of the company’s three business areas: the top 200 companies in Finland, and acts as a direct supervisor for 15 employees. Tarkiainen recently fulfilled a long-time dream and obtained an EMBA from Aalto EE: “The Aalto EMBA program gave me what I wished for. I am happy to recommend it.”
Sovelto was founded in 2000 and for a long time, it focused on providing ICT training. “In early 2014 we renewed our strategy and broadened our offering. Today, we are a strong change driver for our customers. I thoroughly enjoy my job. At Sovelto I always get to be at the forefront of development.”
A higher degree in business had been on Tarkiainen’s mind for quite some time. “After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in business administration I was rapidly swept into working life. Around the time of our strategic shift at Sovelto my supervisor, Sovelto’s CEO, made my MBA aspirations possible. I was given free hands to choose the best program. I weighed the pros and cons of either an MBA or an EMBA and soon saw that with my experience the EMBA was definitely the way to go.”
When choosing where to obtain her EMBA degree, Tarkiainen opted for Aalto EE after considering all available programs. “Aalto EE had clear and well-structured information and references online. I participated in an EMBA information event and was sold. Its approach is fresh and genuinely international. Aalto EE’s good reputation also spoke in its favour.”
“I knew the studies would be time consuming and demanding, this fact was well communicated by Aalto EE. Despite this, I was at some point struck with the realization that I was in for an even more time consuming ride than I thought. The EMBA program is, however, worth every effort. I learned so much,” Tarkiainen underlines and mentions the business strategy project as perhaps her biggest surprise – a highly positive one.
“I was impressed by the scope and depth of the project. The organisation my group focused on represented a new field of business for me – B2C. Everyone in our project team had demanding jobs, but despite our hectic schedules, we achieved excellent results and gained a great deal of in-depth, strategic understanding.”
Other highlights Tarkiainen mentions were the EMBA study trips Palo Alto and Singapore, as well as the self-development process that spanned the entire program. “Especially the Palo Alto trip gave much food for thought and many useful ideas which I have been able to use in my work. As for the self-development process, I have nothing but praise. It was very well put together and worked tremendously well.”
An additional bonus for Tarkiainen was the chance to use English: “It has been quite a few years since I last used English regularly at work. The EMBA served as an intensive language course for me as well,” she says.
“At Sovelto, we make a point of sharing our knowledge to best benefit the entire organisation. Sometime after finishing the EMBA, I decided together with my supervisor that I would go through all I learned and make up an 8-point list of development ideas we could use at Sovelto. Together, we then chose 3 issues from the list to first implement into our business, and we are currently working on these ideas.”
“Throughout the EMBA studies, I took notes using OneNote – something I highly recommend to everyone. It was rewarding going through everything I learned after some time. The EMBA is a treasure chest of knowledge – and its true value depends on how you implement your knowledge into practise after the program. I have new ideas for developing our customer offering that stemmed from the EMBA, and for example the HR course gave me many useful notions that can be directly linked to our customer interface. I am extremely satisfied I decided to pursue an EMBA degree at Aalto EE. It was an arduous, but tremendously inspiring experience.”