Kristiina’s story: Expertise through university studies and employer-provided training opportunities

Career story

I never had an obvious goal for my professional life. I have taken a winding path through my studies and career, and I am sure there have been many coincidences as well to guide me in the right direction. Now at 30, I can honestly say that I have a truly inspiring job where I can really have an impact on big things by promoting solutions for a cleaner and sustainable future.

My name is Kristiina and my job is to develop new business in the energy sector, with a particular focus on grid energy and electricity demand response. Grid energy and demand response make it possible to balance the consumption and production of electricity, which allows us to increase the production of wind and solar power, among other things.

I was always good at school, especially at theoretical subjects. To balance out maths, I also loved doing crafts and drawing and painting. I was accepted to an upper secondary school with a focus on visual arts, and after graduating, I had a few options in mind. I was really fascinated by jewellery design, so I applied to study that in Lahti. At the same time, I was and still am interested in the human mind and helping others, which is why I also seriously considered studies in sociology or psychology. However, my summer job at an old people’s home convinced me that, no matter how important health care professions are, I might not have the mental strength to be in that field my entire career. I did well at natural sciences in upper secondary school, so I ended up studying physics at the University of Jyväskylä. As I learned more and more over the years, I realised I was on the right path. It was interesting to learn the causes and consequences of phenomena that I might wonder about in everyday life, like why does the air pressure in bike tyres vary by season.

When I thought about my future and career at university, I used an exclusion tactic: I knew that I would not become a researcher or teacher. In my opinion, research-oriented university education has room for improvement compared to applied education when it comes to offering opportunities for networking and teaching people how to gain skills that will match the needs of commercial companies as future employers. I have to thank my lucky stars and energy company Helen for trusting me; I discovered a topic for my master's degree thesis in energy storage, and the company accepted me as a part of their work community.

While writing my thesis, I noticed how theoretical my studies in Jyväskylä had been, and I wished I understood business better while I continued working as a project manager at Helen. I got accepted in a master’s programme at the University of Tampere, where I completed studies in industrial engineering and software business over three years while working at Helen. I was able to carry out the studies in a very flexible way as multiform studies at the University Consortium of Pori.

Helen has given me a great vantage point to the transition of the energy sector while also providing me with constant opportunities for professional growth and development. I have had the opportunity to lead research projects at Helen as well as broader endeavours where Finland participated in EU projects; I have been a part of product development and the commercialisation of energy storage products and services. The growing significance of service provision in business has led me to take a genuine interest in customers’ problems instead of just focusing on solutions like a true engineer. Before my current role as business development manager, I worked a couple of years as a business designer in the development of Helen’s new services, where I also had the opportunity to learn design thinking. As I work to grow the business area of grid energy storage and demand response, I use everything I have learned at university and training events and opportunities offered by Helen: all the new methods and ways of working and thinking I have been introduced to.

There can be no development unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone. For me, that has meant an open mind when it comes to invitations to give speeches or presentations. The first time was naturally terrible, but I have actually learned to actually enjoy public speaking.

Even if you do not have a direct answer to “what will I be when I grow up”, I encourage everyone to pick a direction. The path to your dream job can be winding or straightforward, but it is sure to be educational!

Kristiina Siilin