Participant: Tommi Laitio
“I suppose I had grown accustomed to perceiving training days nearly as a day off. Well, I am no longer under such an illusion. The hard work that EMBA entails has been truly exciting. I am participating in a program tailored for the top management of the City of Helsinki. The city seeks to improve its leadership. A tight budget management calls for skillful leadership.
I spend every other Saturday with EMBA tasks: The program comprises of 17 modules. There is a preliminary assignment before every module, and an assignment afterwards. Advance reading and an essay are often required, too.
For me the part on economics was the most challenging. We have shared some of the agony amongst classmates: is this really insanely difficult, or am I simply this dumb?
I require my employees to continuously learn new things. The program has reminded how difficult it is to begin from scratch. At times I have thought that I am not able to do this, but see: here I am! It is not impossible at all.
The most interesting module so far involved reflection on one’s executive skills. Midway through the second day of the module I was completely worn out. A manager easily ends up in a situation where they only receive compliments. This module shows that there is still quite a bit of work to do. It does not provide teachings on how to be a good executive, but rather it instructs on how to apply your individual characteristics on management.
I run the city’s Youth Department, and we are in the middle of a strategic rethinking exercise. The program has provided many concrete tools for me to use in my work. For example, during the self-leadership module I realized something about the way I communicate. I sometimes relate matters so quickly that others are not able to keep up. It is important to learn to communicate calmly. The most recent course was also very useful. Now, I really understand the meaning of Euribor. Economics equals trust systems equals social science!
What is most significant and inspiring about the program is that the management of the City of Helsinki is changing: we are learning to work together.
I have enjoyed the discussion with my classmates. During one module, our discussion focused on the importance of fairness as a value for the City of Helsinki. During the discussion, we realized that we were addressing different issues. My perspective on fairness starts from the weakest ones and from inequality. For others, it meant that citizens of the municipality should know, what they are entitled to. It was truly an eye-opener: I realized that by listening to each other we come to see why someone may perceive things as they do; they may not even be talking about the same thing as I am.”
Tommi Laitio is the Executive Director for Culture and Leisure for the City of Helsinki. In the past, Laitio has worked at the Youth Department for the City of Helsinki, think tank Demos Helsinki, headed a video festival in Amsterdam, and worked as a reporter. Laitio is participating in the Aalto University Executive Education’s EMBA program tailored for the City of Helsinki.