AYY 6th anniversary was celebrated on Saturday 14th of May. If you didin’t manage to come to the ball you can still sense some the atmosphere by reading this thought-proviking speech given by AYY honorary council member Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko. The topic is future working life. Enjoy!
Honorary Aalto University President, Vice President, Aalto University Student Union Board, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great joy to be here tonight to celebrate with you the 6-year-old Aalto University Student Union. While preparing for the Annual Ball, I was running through in my mind my own, fun years of studying in the then Helsinki School of Economics. I contemplated especially the pivotal experiences that had an impact on me when it comes to my current career. A certain situation came to my mind instantly.
I majored in International Business and one of the last courses that I took was International Design Business Management which gathered students from the Business School as well as the then University of Technology and University of Art and Design Helsinki. Being at the final stages of our studies, we had already established a refined, efficient way of approaching Case studies. So when we were divided into small groups comprising students from different schools, we together decided to start cracking the questions in the way proven successful and divided the questions among ourselves. Finally, we would just combine our answers together. We were all happy with the approach and went ahead each to work on our own assignment. A couple of days before the deadline, we reconvened and began going through our outcomes for the different questions of the Case. Oops. System alert. This did not work as planned. We were all equally confused.
We had understood the questions differently and approached them purely from the perspective of the discipline familiar to ourselves. It felt like we all spoke a different language. And we had only a few more days to return the Case assignment and hence a short time left to find a common language and create an analysis and outcomes accounting for the different points of view.
The reason why this particular situation came to my mind as an impactful incident during my studies was that when after graduation I began my career at Marimekko – where bold design tradition meets business and technical knowledge – I realized quite concretely that success in creativity and innovation can only be found through a dialogue between different spheres and disciplines. Where some decades ago in certain traditional industries, companies could still function quite successfully with people working in their respective silos, the reality is very different in today’s working life, let alone in the future. Building and strengthening bridges between different functions, disciplines and industries, finding a common language, is what defines the champions, be they in the more traditional territories or innovative new start-ups.
So, what other aspects would characterize the future professional life and the skills and qualities needed for it? It goes without saying that working life will be global and multicultural, diversified as well as uncertain in a new way, requiring a new kind of agility and openness. New roles emerge while some old jobs may disappear with automation and robots paving the way. The future working life requires courage, going outside of your comfort zone, humble self-confidence, social skills as well as a deeper understanding of cultures. And most of all, it calls for both willingness and skill to learn new things fast – in the end, the whole life is about continuous learning and developing oneself.
Is there something that doesn’t change? I believe so. After all, working life is about people. Encountering people with their emotions in different types of situations. It is about doing things together, developing people and getting everyone on board. About shared victories and building on learning from mistakes. In an uncertain world, the importance of real, authentic leadership increases and simultaneously the understanding of what leadership means changes. Far are the times when people were led from ivory towers. Modern leadership is about showing a clear vision and direction, simplifying the multifaceted world into a more understandable one, and coaching people to flourish both as individuals and as teams.
How about creativity then? Methods and ways of creative working continuously evolve, but at the same time the core principles of creativity stay the same. The best innovations are born in teams of highest diversity, in teams with shared trust and respect, where people are not afraid to fail and have the courage to think boldly.
The reason why I wanted to talk about these topics to you tonight was because I hope that they provide points of reflection for you when you now gear up for your own career paths. The Aalto University – basing on my own personal experience as well – offers the best possible cross-disciplinary opportunities in the world for learning and preparing for your future working life. The most important thing in all of this though is to remember that you build your profession and career for you, so make it your own. Think outside the box, listen to your heart – where do you find passion, what makes you tick. In the world of today and the future, the possibilities for different kinds of career paths are endless. Remember that you can impact the future working life yourself as well!
With these cheering thoughts, I would like to wish you all a memorable Annual Ball evening.