I learned to recognize my different abilities - Aalto Executive MBA studies - Vol 4

One might think that the head lawyer at a big international company has no lack of selfconfidence in work-related issues.

Paula Salovaara, 19.04.2016

Survey by Paula Salovaara, Journalist, Aalto EMBA: Did the Executive MBA change something in your life? This question went to the Aalto Executive MBA cohort 2013, and the answer was “oh yes it did!”

The role of company lawyer can be a box where you get stuck, says Sami Pauni, Senior Vice President, Huhtamäki.

Sami Pauni

Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Legal, Group General Counsel,Huhtamäki Oyj

“I gained huge amounts of self-confidence from the Aalto Executive MBA program”, says Sami Pauni, Senior Vice President at Huhtamäki Oyj, a global specialist in food and drink packaging operating in 34 countries with some 16,700 employees.

I gained huge amounts of self-confidence from the Aalto Executive MBA program.”

One might think that the head lawyer at a big international company has no lack of selfconfidence in work-related issues. But the role of company lawyer can be a box where you get stuck, says Pauni. It’s an expert role, you have a specific field of knowledge, and you aren’t often expected to find solutions to questions outside your box. The program offered him such a broad new knowledge base, and strengthened his tacit knowledge so much that it became possible for him to handle a great variety of matters in the company.

“The perception of your capacity can be very limited, both in your own mind and in the minds of others”, he says. “After the EMBA the perception has clearly changed.”

The method of analyzing cases in smaller groups during the modules also gave a great boost to confidence. Pauni says it felt good to see that he could share and compare practices with the other cohort members, even if they came from very different industries and had extremely different backgrounds.

The status here comes from doing your job, collaborating with others, and achieving a good result – not from having a title.”

The company culture in Huhtamäki is very much based on knowledge and doing things. Pauni says that nobody is a “big boss”, not even the CEO. “The status here comes from doing your job, collaborating with others, and achieving a good result – not from having a title.”

After graduation, Pauni was appointed to the Group Executive Team of the company. He also gained a new role at work, with whole new areas of responsibility.

The new job description is something he worked out with his CEO, who is also his immediate supervisor. Pauni was asked to write a list of the different areas he was interested in. After thinking over his strengths and interests during the Christmas holiday, he was ready with a list at the beginning of the year. “Of course I didn’t get to do everything on the list, it was quite long, but my job now is very different from the one I had before.”

Even the job definition has grown. When he’s asked to give a short version of it, this is what you get: global responsibility for legal, compliance, risk management, IPR management and non-financial reporting.

“After the program I know I have an understanding of the world of business, of communication, of HR and even quite a good knowledge of how to work with questions of strategy. ”The tight box of a work identity as the legal expert is gone.

His supervisor backed him up with enthusiasm."

Studying for an EMBA degree was Pauni’s own idea, but his supervisor backed him up with enthusiasm. “When I started stalling and thinking maybe it wasn’t the best time to get involved with such a big project, my boss told me to do it right away.”

For those who are starting, or planning, an EMBA program, Pauni says: “There isn’t just one way to study but many, all of them good. Know why you want to study, and go and get what you are interested in. Make sure you enjoy the experience, and if possible go on the study tours because they are the best.”

The greatest benefit Sami gained from the program is the big picture, and his fondest memories are from the study tours, especially the Palo Alto tour. The Self Development process, which runs the length of the entire program, was important to Pauni, after some initial skepticism. He says he almost skipped the first individual meeting with Ben Nothnagel, the teacher in charge of the process. He didn’t think he needed the discussion.

In hindsight, it was a good decision to go to the meeting. Pauni says he learned a lot about himself. As a result of the process, he is now more relaxed about himself, and his role and image at work.

“I have learned to recognize the different abilities I possess, and I have been able to use those in my work. Work is an important part of my life, and I have invested a lot in it. It feels good to be able to be myself in all different situations.” 

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