MBA is an opportunity to reinvent yourself

Aalto EE alumni Tuomas Laakso describes how he managed to reach his professional dreams through studies.

Reetta Räty, 27.09.2017

“Studying while working and in between jobs gives some time to think about where you want to head in your career.”

Hands-on hotel management training in Switzerland

1995 Institute Hotelier ‘Cesar Ritz’
1996 International College of Hospitality Management ‘Cesar Ritz’, Washington

“I first wanted to become a pilot. I lived near Pori and used to visit the Finnish Aviation Academy nearby to see pilots in action. I completed my matriculation exams during a time of recession. More than a hundred pilots were unemployed, and Finnair decided to close the academy and begin training pilots in Estonia instead.

I somehow came across a hotel management institute in Switzerland. I was interested in travel­ling, so why not study somewhere else. The hotel institute provided me with a good foundation.

The institute in Switzerland was very hands-on; you learned theory as well as cooking, serving and other practical skills. Later on I came to realize how important it was that the institute taught “professional attitude.” In recruiting people, you see how some have the right skills, but lack the right attitude – not everyone has it.

Many Swiss hotel management institutes are expensive. They also attract rich kids, who expect to become directors as soon as they leave school. While studying in Switzerland, already the first work placement gives you a realistic idea of work work­ing life. You have to be humble and there’s a lot to learn. You can and should teach this type of attitude, and it’s something that left a lasting im­pression. Turning up late for work or school, for instance, meant losing some professional attitude points.

The studies included practical work placements. During the second stint, I went to the U.S. and stayed there to work.”

Theoretical hospitality management studies in Britain

1999–2000 Bournemouth University, England
A (Hons) International Hospitality Management

”After a few years spent working abroad, I de­cided to continue my studies in England. Com­pared to the very hands-on hotel institute, it was very theoretical and classic English schooling: whether or not you showed up at lectures, the main thing was to do well in exams and finish your final work.

I carried on studying, because I’ve always want­ed to develop myself further – I’m just in the middle of a theory course in sailing, which is an­other example of my constant desire for self-de­velopment.

I’ve noticed that studying while working and in between jobs gives some time to think about where you want to head in your career. The eve­ryday humdrum doesn’t necessarily leave enough time or peace of mind to think along these lines.”

Back to Finland for an MBA

2006–2007 Aalto University (former Helsinki School of Economics)
Nanyang Business School, NTU, Singapore

“At work, I felt I mastered operations, while the investment side was new to me and something I wanted to learn in more depth. I applied to busi­ness school and ended up at Aalto EE in Helsinki for a number of reasons. I’d been living outside of Finland for eleven years. I wanted to get back in touch with my roots and a chance to spend time If some element was given a low rating, things were done differently. There was no fixed, permanent system in place that couldn’t be changed.

The Aalto MBA program includes the possibil­ity to complete studies at a partner university. I took hold of the opportunity in spring 2007 and moved to Singapore. I wanted to strengthen my financial modeling skills in completely new sur­roundings.

When thinking about what I gained through the MBA, a few major points come to mind.

1. I wanted to avoid the situation where some new opportunity would be down to me not hav­ing this qualification. In a situation where you have two similar candidates for a job, the one with an MBA could make all the difference. In one recruit­ment situation, the employer told me that my MBA had been concretely counted in my advan­tage.

2. An MBA gives you a good network. Part of the price tag goes towards a group of alumni that you can build during and after the program.

3. Although you learn by working, my principle is that you can develop yourself through studying. An MBA is an opportunity to reinvent yourself.

4. The program helps to see the big picture: you don’t look at things from the vantage point of a single industry or field. You learn to understand how owners or investors view a company. Grasp­ing the big picture is useful when pushing issues forward as a manager. The case study gives an un­derstanding of different sectors, their particular problems and what you can learn from them for your own field.

5. I could have continued my studies in hospitality, but was after a broader understanding and skills that the MBA was able to provide. It dem­onstrates my interest in business on the whole, rather than being stuck in the confines of the ho­tel industry. “  

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Tuomas Laakso in Brief

  • Tuomas Laakso is Vice President, International Hotel Development at Marriott International, Inc. & The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC, Zurich.
  • He is responsible for Marriot International’s hotel development efforts in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Nordic Countries for all brands.
  • He completed the MBA program in 2006–2007 at Aalto EE, Helsinki, Finland and in Nanyang Business School, NTU, Singapore. Laakso is from Helsinki, Finland, and now lives in Switzerland.
  • He is also a trained fire fighter & rescue diver.

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