An open-minded optimist

Heikki Hämäläinen graduated from the University of Jyväskylä as a Master of Science (Economics and Business Administration) in 1990. A resident of Mikkeli, Hämäläinen has managed Osuuskauppa Suur-Savo (a regional co-op covering the Savo area) since 2007. In his career he has also managed Pohjois-Karjalan Osuuskauppa (a regional coop of North-Karelia) and been the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Southern Savo, among other positions. In summer 2018 he received the Finnish honorary title of kauppaneuvos.

Hämäläinen originally comes from Juva, which is located at the heart of southern Savo. This intelligent young man would certainly have been welcome as a student at any university: the average of his marks in the upper secondary school-leaving certificate was 9.5 and the overall grade for his matriculation examination was laudatur. The idea of applying to the University of Jyväskylä came from his best friend’s sister, who was pursuing business studies in Jyväskylä and praised the University. “It was traditional word-of-mouth marketing,” Heikki laughs. An advantage of Jyväskylä was also its location near his home region. The idea of moving farther away did not feel sensible.

“When the University’s letter of admittance came, I felt that now I had the keys to success in my pocket!”

Heikki Hämäläinen has always been inclined to work efficiently, as he himself puts it. He completed his extensive degree in four years and with high grades. He majored in marketing with several minor subjects. There was little time for student life, since active competitive skiing took a large share of his free time. “The terrain in Laajavuori became very familiar, and visiting the student restaurant Rentukka was easy and relaxed,” says Heikki, summing up his free-time activities.

Hämäläinen received his master’s degree in 1990. “I was really lucky because I got a job right after graduation, just before the recession,” Heikki explains. He had in mind three alternatives for employers: SOK, Valio and Kesko, of which SOK offered a chance to participate in field training. He seized the opportunity at once:

“I had gained a good theoretical foundation from university, which I got a chance to apply in practice right away in the field training. It was the best possible option in that situation.”

From there, Hämäläinen’s professional career follows a steep upward trajectory; at the age of 26 he was already the youngest Prisma hypermarket manager in Finland. Ten years later he was the youngest manager of a regional co-op business organisation in Finland. He says that the most important working life skill received from university is broad-based thinking. The ability to see things from many different angles: “The skill to look at things from a helicopter perspective cannot be overemphasised,” Heikki emphasises, “and of course information acquisition skills are important.”

The world of work has undergone a total upheaval during Hämäläinen’s work career. Continuous learning is needed. Hämäläinen, too, has completed an MBA for Entrepreneurs degree. In fact, he thinks that in-service training is something that universities could offer more actively to their alumni.

“I am indeed a true advocate of lifelong learning. You have to face things with an open and an optimistic mindset.”

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