I was surprised at the impact - Aalto Executive MBA studies - Vol 1

Pekka Haataja, Country Director, Elisa Videra says that he has been able to change a lot of things in the way he works.

Paula Salovaara, 07.03.2016

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!”

Pekka Haataja, Country Director, Elisa Videra says that he has been able to change a lot of things in the way he works, and even in his personal life, due to the insights he gained during the Self Development process, as well as in many other modules which he first considered to be "soft".

Ongoing development

Pekka Haataja, Country Director for Elisa Videra, based in London, looks back at the busy time spent studying in the Aalto Executive MBA program. He did not expect the impact to be found where it was. He says that he has been able to change a lot of things in the way he works, and even in his personal life, due to the insights he gained during the Self Development process, as well as in many other modules which he first considered to be "soft".

He did not quite know what to expect when starting the program, maybe a more traditional kind of injection of knowledge about business. "Before the program I thought that maybe I would learn the secret recipe for doing business, but of course I didn’t. Instead I learned a lot about strategy and how to present my ideas to others."

Almost a year after graduation, he still works with a list of five personal entities to develop."

Almost a year after graduation, he still works with a list of five personal entities to develop. He wrote the list during the program, and decided to write some words weekly about how he was doing. The weekly routine has not happened quite as planned, but he says that the issues on the list are constantly on his radar, and being worked on.

Family, EMBA and work

Pekka Haataja had a lot going on at the same time; he has a family with small children, a changing work environment, organizational changes, and on top of this the EMBA program. Coping with all this was not easy but doable, says Pekka Haataja. At one point during the program he had a hard time with everything piling up and fell seriously ill, but got to his feet again and worked on. "I have learned to master my calendar, which is critical for my occupational efficiency, and personal well-being," he says.

I have learned to master my calendar, which is critical for my occupational efficiency, and personal well-being."

Gone are the days when he would spend the whole evening looking at his computer, skip lunch and still feel like he didn't get enough done. Now he sets a time for doing paperwork during the day, reduces the number of meetings and has a clear sense of better efficiency at work. At home he concentrates on family matters and hobbies. "People have all these funny habits. During the EMBA I learned to spot my habits, and also gained some tools to change them. Very concrete changes can be made, and it is easier than one would imagine," he says.

He says his employer, and especially his previous CEO, strongly supported the idea of him studying for an EMBA degree. He is now doing a different job, in London instead of Helsinki, still working for the same company and happy with the new situation. He says the EMBA degree was not the main reason for the new position, but the new knowledge he gained while studying helps him every day at work.

New skills

"I already knew how to count before the EMBA," says Pekka Haataja. The financial modules were quite generic, he thinks, but after these modules he can now have more relevant discussions with the CFO and knows what can be expected from the finance department.

He encountered new, exciting and useful knowledge unexpectedly in the Power and Influence module during Aalto EE International week. The module, taught by Rich Cox, gave Pekka Haataja tools to use in his everyday work. Much of his job is about presenting ideas and projects, and influencing listeners with his message. These skills were practiced in endless rehearsals in the Power and Influence module.

He believes this kind of competence and technique should be taught in many modules in the EMBA program: "How well you get your message over, and how well you present your work will have an impact on the bottom line of a company," says Pekka Haataja. He thinks it is crucial for executives to learn how to communicate, how to make their speeches and slide shows matter – and ultimately how to be successful.

Wishing for more

He says he tries to stick to the decisions and promises he made and tries to keep up the new habits, but admits that, as so often with any new knowledge, after a while you fail to use it and fall in to your old ways of doing things, even when you know there is a better way.

He wishes there was a refresher course, or several, a kind of maintenance program. It would be healthy to go back and take a look at what those who graduated have been able to implement, or remember, from the EMBA program. "Maybe Aalto EE could offer a short program for graduates, with a focus on updating our skills," he says, "people take their cars regularly to be serviced, why not their knowledge and management toolkit?"

When asked if it had been a wise decision to enrol in the EMBA when so many other changes were happening in his life, He doesn’t hesitate: "Absolutely! I would still choose the same way, even knowing how hard the pressure can get."

Read more about the Aalto Executive MBA program.

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