"Companies should perceive the Aalto EMBA as a strategic change management tool.”

Lauri Toivonen and Markus Sillanpää
SOK

SOK’s (S Group) marketing unit is the same size as a medium-large Finnish company – and the group’s brands impact the lives of every Finn on a daily basis. During recent years, SOK’s marketing has accomplished a 180-degree transformation. For example investment management, talent management, and marketing’s role in leading the business have been entirely renewed.

This transformation was accelerated with tools and insights that SOK’s SVP, Head of Marketing Lauri Toivonen and SVP Marketing Markus Sillanpää obtained while participating in the Aalto EMBA together in 2019-2020.

Sillanpää and Toivonen assert that companies should see the Aalto EMBA as a strategic change management tool.

“You naturally have to carefully consider who you send to the program: they must be able to impact decision making and budgets – and have the ability to implement change. If your organization wishes to achieve significant transformation, your best bet is to send more than one person at a time to the program,” Sillanpää underlines.

A renewed personal operating system

Sillanpää and Toivonen opted for the Aalto EMBA after comparing degree programs both in Finland and abroad.

If your organization wishes to achieve significant transformation, your best bet is to send more than one person at a time to the program."

“The global transformation of the trade sector is causing immensely challenging and interesting problems. We compete in a global field, so having top international names as instructors was pivotal to us. Aalto EMBA met this criterion and the program’s content seemed extremely high quality,” says Toivonen.

“In addition, the program’s modularity allowed a deeper dive into certain topics and the structure enabled combining studies with the hectic schedule of a busy leader,” he points out.

Strategic thinking, finance, leadership and the changing field of HR were topics that Sillanpää and Toivonen found especially relevant. Both feel that the program’s most powerful experience was the Personal and Organizational Leadership module.

“It was just outstanding, Aalto EE succeeded brilliantly. If you wish to grow into a better leader and person – and you are ready to work hard – the Aalto EMBA ensures you have every chance for success,” Sillanpää notes.

“The program as a whole is an immensely well-planned holistic change journey. It completely changes the way you think about yourself as a person and a leader, and consequently the way in which you lead the ecosystem around you. Your personal operating system is updated to a new level,” Toivonen emphasizes.

The program is an immensely well-planned holistic change journey."

Tools for accelerating change

Participating in the program together helped accelerate change at SOK.

”Aalto EMBA gave us the tools to raise the level of ambition in all our goals. The teaching was business relevant throughout the program: the methods supported leadership in everyday work and the training was designed to help you directly implement all the lessons learned,” says Sillanpää.

”Participating together and thoroughly reflecting on everything from SOK’s perspective heightened this impact. It enabled extremely effective change implementation in our organization. We accelerated change in our marketing organization significantly on a weekly level,” Toivonen describes.

Sillanpää and Toivonen remind that the studies require a great deal of effort.

”Our aspiration was to gain impact and efficiency in our leadership and a systematic framework for continuous improvement. The program gave us exactly what we were looking for, but we had to put in the hours,” Sillanpää remarks.

Aalto EMBA gave us the tools to raise the level of ambition in all our goals."

”Combining a demanding job, studies and family life is challenging, even when you are enormously motivated. Everything was doable, however, and prioritizing got you through it. Some nights you had to prioritize writing, and on other nights, sleep,” Toivonen says with a laugh.

Sillanpää and Toivonen affirm that they are pleased to recommend the Aalto EMBA program.

“It was a marvelous experience. We’ll miss Saturday mornings at Aalto EE. Mind-blowing revelations in a group setting, new marvelous friends – it is hard to imagine where else you could experience such a growth journey at this age,” Toivonen ponders.

“I enrolled in the Aalto EMBA to become a better leader. At that time I had no idea it would also make me a better person. I recommend participating. The program is a big investment for the participant and their employer alike, but the payback is immense,” Sillanpää concludes.

Aalto Executive MBA