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"Before you can lead someone, you must create a connection with them: Connect, then lead. This lesson resonated particularly strongly with me. After the Aalto EMBA, I’ve strived to apply this principle as a leader.”

Jari Mennala
Managing Director, John Deere Forestry Oy

Jari Mennala, a Master of Science in Industrial Management, has worked for John Deere for most of his career. In February 2024 he was appointed Managing Director for John Deere Forestry Oy in Finland.

Mennala says he enjoys working at John Deere, for a variety of reasons.

“In our industry, pioneering technology converges with demanding mechanical engineering. Innovations that many other sectors are now eagerly adopting, such as digital machine control systems, real-time connectivity, and sensor fusion-based data analytics, have been in use in forestry machinery for quite some time,” Mennala explains.

“In my line of work, I also get to visit customers, dealer operations and forests around the world. I have been to many incredible places that ordinary tourists never get the chance to see.”

Mennala has enhanced his business skills in the Aalto Executive MBA program.

“The idea of pursuing an MBA or EMBA had been on my mind for a long time, probably for about 15 years. I had been working in the US, and when my family and I moved back to Finland a few years ago, the timing seemed right.”

“We were also going through relatively big changes at John Deere at the time. It felt like a good idea to look into fresh perspectives and hear what kind of approaches are used elsewhere in similar situations.”

Good experiences from Aalto EE programs

Before embarking on his EMBA journey, Mennala was already well-acquainted with Aalto EE, as he had participated in three executive training programs: Strategic Foresight in Business Management, Leading Change, and Strategic Pricing.

I chose Aalto EMBA because it best met my needs.”

“Leading Change and Strategic Foresight were still so fresh in my memory that I was able to include them as modules in my EMBA studies,” Mennala mentions.

However, Mennala’s decision to pursue the Aalto EMBA was not solely based on his positive experiences with Aalto EE.

“I thoroughly researched various EMBA programs, evaluating their curricula,” he explains.

“In the end, I chose Aalto EMBA because it best met my needs.”

New insights into leadership

Mennala describes studying in the Aalto EMBA program as a rewarding experience. He estimates that he obtained the most direct benefit for his work from modules related to general management.

“I gained particularly valuable perspectives from the Strategic People Management, Corporate Communication, and Personal and Organizational Leadership modules. Managing Change in Organizations – an elective I took at KEDGE Business School in France – was also highly relevant,” Mennala lists.

“The modules that centered on strategy and business direction also provided a lot of beneficial insight. They broadened my outlook and instilled a sense of calm in my leadership: I understood that no matter how promising an idea might seem, charging ahead isn’t always the right move. Often, it’s best to take a step back, analyze, and examine plans from different perspectives,” Mennala underlines.

According to Mennala, the Self Leadership module led by Esa Saarinen and the two-year Self Development Process led by Ben Nothnagel were also especially rewarding experiences.

“Before you can lead someone, you must create a connection and a level trust with them: Connect, then lead. This lesson resonated particularly strongly with me. After the EMBA, I’ve strived to apply this principle as a leader.”

“I also want to highlight the Marketing module; it was very good. I have over 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and their management, so I was naturally familiar with many topics. However, the module also introduced new ideas that piqued my interest and motivated me to experiment with them in real-world scenarios. The lessons proved to be very useful,” says Mennala.

Great instructors and valuable insights from other participants

Mennala has many positive things to say about the Aalto EMBA instructors and interaction with other participants.

“The instructors were highly knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects, which made studying fun. Learning is always much more enjoyable when the instructors are enthusiastic about what they teach."

Group work enriched learning, broadened perspectives, and gave a lot.”

Mennala admits that initially, he had some reservations about the significant emphasis on group work as a teaching method.

“The further our studies progressed – and the more trust we gained in our group – the more I noticed that my prejudices were unfounded. Group work enriched learning, broadened perspectives, and gave a lot.”

“The standout quality of our group was undoubtedly a big contributing factor to this. By the end of the studies, my notes included a wealth of valuable insights gained directly from conversations with other participants.”

Clear structure brought good routine

Mennala affirms that the Aalto EMBA program is structured and scheduled in a way that ensures motivated individuals are able to complete it alongside demanding work.

“The clear structure quickly gave me a good routine for studying. Each module had pre-reading and pre-assignments, three-day intensive on-site sessions, followed by enough time to complete the post-assignments before the next module.”

“I often found it easy to connect the take-home assignments directly to my own work. In at least 2/3 of the tasks, I was able to address topics relevant to our company, which was, of course, beneficial,” he notes.

Mennala was an efficient student. He completed an exceptional number of elective modules.

“I ended up taking the maximum number of electives and a couple more on top of that. I delved into M&A studies so enthusiastically that I think I got a small additional bill from Aalto EE for the extra modules I took,” Mennala reminisces.

I often found it easy to connect the take-home assignments directly to my own work."

“I completed elective modules at a rather brisk pace in the beginning of my studies. This provided me with a nice buffer, giving me more time to focus on the demanding project work in the final stages of the EMBA program.”

EMBA requires commitment and motivation

Mennala succinctly sums up the Aalto EMBA’s key takeaway: “An extended level set.”

“I now look, listen, and reflect on things from a broader perspective, with a longer-term view. I am more present, and I feel more grounded.”

“It also sharpened my time-management skills. I prioritize, focus on the essentials, and get things done in time without last-minute stress.”

Mennala says he is pleased to endorse the Aalto EMBA program.

“Absolutely, I recommend it. This said, you have to have a passion for learning, because the EMBA isn’t easy. If you have the motivation, you’ll have a thoroughly positive experience.”

“I’m glad I decided to pursue an EMBA. If I hadn’t gone for it, I know I’d be regretting it now,” Mennala says with a laugh.

“If you’re unsure whether you can juggle it alongside a demanding job, I suggest starting with a few standalone modules. You’ll get a good idea of the teaching methods, how challenging the studies are – and gain firsthand experience of the exceptional education offered at Aalto EE.”

Aalto Executive MBA Program