Would you shortly introduce yourself?
I’m Jani Kurki, a 26-year-old student at Aalto School of Business majoring in Information and Service Management (ISM) and minoring in Computer Science. Previously, I’ve been quite heavily involved at KY and Slush, and currently I’m writing my Master’s thesis on predictive modeling.
What made you choose ISM? What are you specializing in?
Back in high school, I was wondering whether I should apply to law school or business school, as I was interested in social sciences rather than natural sciences. My interest in tech arose only later during my first year of studies, when I volunteered at Slush for the first time. I realized how technology is a driving force for development in society, but tech also needs business to reach its full potential and impact. I was excited to learn more and therefore ISM, at the intersection of business and tech, was a natural choice for me. I also like the forward-looking attitude of ISM, where studies adapt to new things quickly. For instance, no new technology is too early in its lifecycle to be studied in a thesis.
My specialization is a balance between Business Analytics and Information Systems Science, which provides a good mixture of both quantitative and qualitative skills.
What skills have you learned in ISM that you find valuable?
I consider the role of many ISM students, including me, to be building and developing companies after graduation. Nowadays companies are increasingly data-driven businesses with lots of digital operations. This shift requires one to be able to both crunch their way through internal and external data for meaningful insights, and then act upon them in digital business context. The concrete analytical skill set as well as the wide understanding of digital business provided by ISM help one achieve it.
It is also worth noting that even though the technical background of ISM students is (naturally) not as strong as of technical students, it is still appreciated by various employers. For example, after my Bachelor’s studies I got elected to Huawei’s global flagship student program in China for hands-on training in ICT technologies. Technical students were the target group, but the contents of ISM studies convinced the company that I had what it takes to participate in the training.
How have you translated your acquired skills to your work life?
The skills have been highly beneficial in various places. While I was working as Junior Data Scientist at Supercell, my analytical skill set was fully in use, since my job was to analyze customers and some of the firm’s digital operations. The wider understanding of digital business has also been valuable. At a private equity firm, I was given the responsibility to screen through software companies and understand their business models and market dynamics in order to figure out if they would be good investments for the fund.
There have also been occasions when the combination of these skills was highly needed. In 2018, I worked at Slush and was responsible on our side for a joint project with the London-based venture capital firm Atomico. We created the State of European Tech report, which is the single, most comprehensive data-driven analysis of the European tech ecosystem. We crunched a massive pile of data and put it into the wider tech context for new insights. I also had the pleasure to spend quite a lot of time in London working with Atomico.
The skills are also applicable in non-digital context. The general understanding of business and analytics helped me a lot when I did an internship in the field of management consulting a couple of years ago. One rather surprising place, where I got to put analytical skills to good use, was the political campaign of a candidate who was running for the Finnish Parliament. I helped in making data-driven decisions for marketing and budgeting by analyzing publicly available data. Fortunately, he eventually got elected to the Parliament.
What has been your favourite course?
I have to mention two instead of one, so definitely both of the Data Science for Business courses! They introduce the most common algorithms for predictive modeling and through hands-on coding exercises students get to see what kinds of challenges can be tackled with them. Frankly, the courses were a lot of fun and professor Pekka Malo is just amazing. The courses inspired me to continue the topic in Master’s thesis as well.
What inspires you at the moment?
The dream of spring! The sun itself, of course, makes people happy and energized again after an exceptionally dark winter, but furthermore I’m graduating after I finish the Master’s thesis this spring. So, I’m going through a big life change, but I’m excited to see what the future holds.
What would you like to tell prospective or existing ISM students?
Even though ISM studies have given me a lot, most of the learning still occurs outside classroom. The studies give a solid basis to build on, but in order to turn learnings into practical skills, they need to be practised. I’d recommend being active in both work life and extracurricular activities during studies to achieve it.
Still, do things that actually give you joy. Enjoy life and experience new things. Don’t do anything because it is ‘expected of you’. Do things that excite you and make you happy and see where it takes you. Make the most of your student life, because it is over faster than you think.