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"I now have an even broader and more in-depth understanding of business to support my thinking.”

Silja Varmola
Head of External Equities, Keva

Finland’s largest pension provider, Keva, is also Finland’s largest investor. Head of External Equities Silja Varmola has worked for Keva for 15 years.

Varmola emphasizes that meaningful work is very important to her.

“Firstly, Keva has a significant societal role: we are ensuring the pension security of Finns.”

“I find personal meaning in the broad scope of my work and the intellectual challenge it offers. I never get tired of it. I also greatly appreciate Keva’s work culture and the marvelous team that I work with,” Varmola says.

Varmola has updated her business skills in the Aalto EMBA program.

“If I were to describe the program with one word, that word would be quality,” Varmola remarks.

“The teaching, structure, practical arrangements, staff – everything in the Aalto EMBA is always professional and of a high standard.”

Varmola points out that although she did not choose her EMBA program based on the study environment, Aalto EE’s facilities located on Runeberginkatu in Helsinki merit a special mention. 

Everything in the Aalto EMBA is always professional and of a high standard.”

“The beautiful building is familiar to me from years ago. Before Aalto University was founded, it housed Helsinki School of Economics, where I got my master’s degree in finance. It was fun to get a chance to study again in the same location.”

A strong sense of solidarity from the start

Varmola praises the way that trust is built among Aalto EMBA participants.

“All EMBA alumni always highlight the importance of interaction and discussions with other participants, alongside the excellent teaching.”

“Aalto EE excelled in fostering a strong sense of solidarity within our EMBA group from the outset of our studies. We developed a confidential atmosphere, which laid the foundation for the entire first-class learning experience.”

When Varmola was appointed Head of Keva’s External Equities team during her EMBA studies, interaction with other participants provided valuable insights for her new role.

Aalto EE excelled in fostering a strong sense of solidarity within our EMBA group from the outset of our studies."

“Many participants had years of experience of acting as supervisors and I received valuable peer support from them. It helped me comprehend what kind of culture I want to create as a leader.”

An across-the-board understanding of business

For Varmola, Aalto EMBA’s biggest takeaway was the broad understanding it provided on business.

“The EMBA offered a lot: fresh perspectives, analytical frameworks, tools for a wide range of development work – but the most important thing was the holistic view it provided. I now have an even broader and deeper understanding of business to support my thinking,” Varmola underlines.

According to Varmola, it was rewarding to explore familiar topics with new eyes. Years of work experience helped her derive many new insights from subjects she had studied in the past.

“The managerial responsibilities I took on during the EMBA program made the leadership and strategy modules particularly rewarding for me.”

“It was also quite different to study strategy now as an experienced professional than it was as a 22-year-old student. Besides, the world has changed significantly over the years, so updating my skills was definitely useful,” Varmola notes.

Varmola points out that during the EMBA, she also got to explore topics she had never studied before.

“Many insights related to marketing and processes, for example, were new to me. Studying them was refreshing and fun.”

“As my studies progressed, it was also highly interesting to observe all the links between lessons I learned in different modules: in business, everything is interconnected, and no learning goes to waste.”

Varmola commends Aalto EE for designing a program that caters to diverse learning preferences, ensuring that different types of learners can get the most out of the experience.

As my studies progressed, it was also highly interesting to observe all the links between lessons I learned in different modules."

“For instance, I was thoroughly impressed by the instructors’ personalized reading recommendations. In today’s world of information overload, it was a real privilege to receive curated suggestions from experts,” Varmola mentions.

Completing modules in advance brought flexibility to the EMBA

Before starting her EMBA journey, Varmola completed the Self-leadership, Global Strategy, and Strategic Foresight in Business Management programs at Aalto EE.

“It was a result of a series of coincidences. In working life, everyone occasionally feels a need for new challenges – and my employer has consistently risen to the occasion. When I mentioned my interest in goal-oriented studies to my supervisor, it wasn’t long before I learned that Keva would support my EMBA studies,” Varmola explains.

“I wanted to start my studies at the beginning of the year, but the next EMBA program at Aalto EE wasn’t starting until autumn. I was offered the opportunity to have a flexible start to my studies. I chose these three modules because they were particularly relevant and interesting.”

Varmola says the flexible start was a good solution.

“I gained good practice in studying, and a better understanding of the time needed to finish a module.”

“A flexible start also introduced some breathing room into my schedule. The EMBA is fairly demanding, and at a certain point during the studies, many begin to feel pressed for time. Pre-completed modules took away the sense of urgency from my studies.”

Varmola noticed early on, during the modules she completed in advance, that she thoroughly enjoyed the consistent structure of her studies.

“I’m a very methodical and organized person. I liked that the studies progressed according to a clear pattern. Workloads could vary: sometimes a pre-assignment might be just a page of text, and sometimes 10 pages – but all the modules maintained the same balanced mix of assignments, theory, case exercises, and discussions. This really suited my personality. The structure was familiar, I always knew what to expect, and the deadlines were kept.”

It’s a luxury to immerse yourself in learning

According to Varmola, studying in the Aalto EMBA program was a positive experience in all respects.

“I have many warm memories from my EMBA journey: the study module I completed at Aalto EE’s partner school in France, the two-year Self-development Process, and the Business Strategy Project – but for me the very best part of the Aalto EMBA was simply the basic experience of studying, in every single module I took.”

“It was a true luxury to fully immerse myself in learning during the on-site days. Being able to switch off my phone, delve into topics, and have very rewarding discussions with other participants”, Varmola reminisces.

“It’s worth mentioning that the enjoyable discussions in great company don’t end when the EMBA does. I just marked our next EMBA-Ladies sauna evening in my calendar,” she points out.

Varmola says she is happy to recommend Aalto EMBA studies.

“For some, an EMBA serves as an incentive to switch career paths, but for me, it was quite the opposite. I’ve come to appreciate my work and my employer even more now. The studies elevated my motivation and deepened my understanding of the significance of our work,” Varmola says, smiling.

“If you’re wondering if the timing is right for EMBA studies, the answer is easy to find: the right time is when you have motivation.”

“The studies last for a limited time, and there’s always the option to complete modules in advance. Once you dive into your studies, the time invested certainly won’t feel like a sacrifice. The Aalto EMBA gives so much more than it takes.”

Aalto Executive MBA Program