Head of Business Development Katri Kennedy has versatile responsibilities at If P&C Insurance. The focal point of Kennedy’s work is leading strategy and business development in Finland. She is in charge of two units: one focusing on business development, and another providing business intelligence to support managerial decision making. Kennedy works in close cooperation with If’s country manager and also coordinates the management team’s agenda.
Prior to joining If nearly six years ago, Kennedy worked in management consulting – a vocation that sparked her ardent passion for development work.
“My job is remarkably versatile. It feels fresh even after several years, because my job changes continuously and I have considerable influence on our development direction and focus areas,” Kennedy describes.
Kennedy recently participated in the Certificate in Digital Business Strategy and Innovation Agility program, which is jointly arranged by Aalto EE and Stanford Center for Professional Development. The six-month program includes face-to-face days in Silicon Valley and Helsinki, in addition to online courses, keynotes and webinars held by Stanford and Aalto professors.
“The time was right to expose myself to new ideas. This program seemed like just the ticket to evoke new approaches to ensure our development work heads in the right direction,” Kennedy explains.
I had little experience of online learning. It turned out to be a very positive experience. The lectures were tremendously good at activating learning."
She says the program gave her valuable food for thought, new perspectives for leadership, and practical tools and methods that she is now incorporating into If’s strategy and development work.
“In short, it gave me exactly what I was looking for. The program was both highly enjoyable and beneficial,” she emphasizes.
“An insight I found particularly appealing was the idea of ‘Living at the intersection’ in innovation work. This means stepping outside your reference group and actively seeking new ideas. I am currently evaluating how we shall make the most of this idea at If,” she adds.
Kennedy confirms that the face-to-face days in California and Helsinki provided her with the exposure to new ideas she had sought for – and that the online learning experience exceeded her expectations.
“I had little experience of online learning. It turned out to be a very positive experience. The lectures were tremendously good at activating learning. Our professors prompted us to reflect on all issues from our own organization’s viewpoint and provided insightful feedback on everything we shared,” Kennedy reminisces.
Kennedy describes learning on-site at Stanford campus as a particularly meaningful experience. She notes that the ecosystem Stanford has created with startups provides a unique atmosphere, which has strongly influenced how the professors think.
“Some of the greatest names Stanford has to offer were teaching us. They all live and breathe the startup world. They had incredible sense of pedagogy, and extensive experience paired with vision about what will be the next breakthrough. All in all, I found Stanford extraordinarily inspiring,” she says.
While the teaching at Stanford focused on innovation and business strategy, face-to-face days in Helsinki had digital transformation as their focal point. Kennedy depicts these modules as highly educational.
“In Helsinki, we again learned from the best in the business. The insights I gained have enabled me to have meaningful internal discussions about the role digital technology will play in our future and what pilots we will next instigate,” she contemplates.
Kennedy asserts that she has already been able to introduce many ideas from the program at work.
The program is a journey in itself. You can apply everything you learn and start reaping practical benefits right away, yet you also have ample time to reflect on issues.”
"I have for example adjusted the way we look at strategy in different time horizons in our management team and applied certain frameworks I picked up during the program to our business development roadmap. Some of the most direct benefits for my own leadership stemmed from the startup world – developmental insights that are just as relevant for a large company,” she remarks.
Kennedy says she also gained a network of like-minded peers, which was an added bonus she had not anticipated.
“Our group was marvelous, and we got to know each other quite well. We came from companies of all sizes, and we all shared great enthusiasm toward innovation and development. This all led to extremely rewarding discussions,” she mentions.
Kennedy affirms that the program was a good investment of time and money and says she is happy to endorse it:
“The program is a journey in itself. You can apply everything you learn and start reaping practical benefits right away, yet you also have ample time to reflect on issues. I expect anybody whose job is related to development work will find this program highly beneficial.”