Alumnus of ISM: Ville Sillanpää

Would you shortly introduce yourself

I’m Ville Sillanpää, 33 years young ISM Alumni. I did my B. Sc in Business Technology (2011) and M.Sc in ISM (2013). Since then I’ve worked as a Supply Chain Analyst, Supply Chain Consultant, PhD Student in Operations research and now – most recently – as a product owner in a software company specializing in software for retail operations. My current role is mostly about steering the product development of statistical software that produces large amounts of forecasts for retail demand.

I live in Kallio with my spouse, 7 month old child and two cats who are too lively. In my free time I do gym exercise, read, practice singing and do creative writing.

What made you choose ISM & what was your specialization?

I got interested in operations management and operations research in the first year course on Operations Management. That was a major factor for me to choose Business Technology. I ended up choosing the Business Analytics track, since I felt drawn towards statistics and mathematical modeling of business problems. That same draw led me to do a Phd in operations research, during which I further deepened my understanding of statistics and machine learning.

Lately I’ve been more interested in managing software development. Thus I’m really glad I did a bunch of information systems science course in the program as well. Those courses gave a lot of perspective for managing software development as well as understanding the role of IT systems in business.

What 3 top skills did you learn from your studies? Retrospectively, what do you wish you would have studied more?

I value the good command of algebra and calculus I got from completing all of the mathematics and statistics courses on bachelor level. The ability to read mathematical documents and – even superficially – understand mathematically complex algorithms goes a long way when you have to have discussions about developing statistically advanced software. I also appreciate the communications skills from the mandatory communications courses, since the ability to communicate efficiently is necessary pretty much everywhere. I also appreciate the good work ethic ISM instilled in me. Most of the courses I did required daily focus and completion of regular exercises. I’m glad I got the rhythm for that sort of thing during my university years.

In retrospect, I should have probably invested more time to learn a new language during my degree. However, I did love almost everything i studied, so I don’t know what I should have replaced!

What were your favorite courses?

Simulation by Tomi Seppälä, Introduction to Programming by Anssi Öörni, Operations Management by Mikko Tarkkala, Information Economy by Virpi Tuunainen

How did your studies relate to your current work?

In every imaginable way really. For me personally all of the themes in the ISM program have been relevant.

The statistics and mathematics part comes in because the software that we develop does statistical inference. Programming and database fundamentals come in because I work with developers who do software and database development. Supply Chain and Operations management stuff is important because that’s the focus area of our software. And finally, all the stuff in Information Systems Science really helps to understand how our customers think when they make IT investments.

Can you tell of what kind of things / projects / etc. have you been working with this year?

I’ve been a development lead in a project, where very recent innovations in time series forecasting are applied to forecasting retail demand at a scale of tens of millions of forecast models.

What current students need to learn to be more prepared for work life?

I think that the most important things are capability for abstract thinking and persistence. Both of those things will come, if you do your ISM program with good grades though. So I guess my advice is to just take the studies seriously, even though their practical applicability might not be very clear at first sight.

What are your favorite sources of knowledge? E.g. websites or news sources

For work related things I mostly read scientific articles about machine learning and applied statistics. For the same topics I frequent stack overflow and cross validated. Most likely I will need to brush up on some supply chain stuff as well, and for that I probably will want to find an online course.

How do you stay motivated?

Have a good balance between work and leisure. I’ve had the privilege of working in a company that values the well being of its employees, and I’ve felt that to be really important for my motivation.