“The ability gained at university to assess the reliability of information is a valued skill in business"

University of Helsinki alum Matti Aarnio, PhD, works as an education specialist at Nordea. He encourages people to pursue doctoral education, as research-based knowledge and skills are appreciated by businesses too.

Training in the promotion of sustainable development, the management of ethics risks and information security. Coaching in the provision of feedback and problem-solving. Developing employees’ learning skills.

Matti Aarnio, a doctoral graduate from the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Educational Sciences, works as an education specialist at the Learning and Development unit of Nordea.

His duties include developing training solutions and offering support for learning for the needs of the Group’s employees as a whole. The format his duties take can range from managing online courses to developing large-scale training programmes or identifying qualified trainers.

“The most important goal is to develop skills as efficiently as possible, as training takes time away from completing the actual work-related duties. And the training has to hit the mark,” Aarnio says.

Consequently, careful advance planning and mapping are an integral part of the job.

“I discuss the goals of education together with representatives of our business areas and content specialists.”

Tenets of educational sciences are broadly applicable to a range of fields

Aarnio completed his doctoral thesis on medical pedagogy in 2015, investigating collaborative knowledge-building in problem-based learning. In practice, this meant the ways in which student groups handled situations where conflicting information or views occurred, and the types of support teachers could provide in such situations.

At the same time, Aarnio was involved in the development of medical education at the University’s Faculty of Medicine. In addition, he trained supervising doctors at Helsinki University Hospital in how to effectively supervise the learning of junior doctors in the middle of busy everyday work.

“I have a very strong and practical keep-it-simple approach, even though I’m educated as a researcher,” Aarnio says.

“Instead of complex theorising, I want to know how things should be done. What research evidence is there for or against a certain approach? This is also a great strength in my current work in the financial sector.”

Before assuming his current position in 2019, Aarnio had the opportunity to work in education in the largest company providing online learning environments in Europe and a large Finnish listed company, as well as to take a one-year substitute position as a university lecturer at the University of Helsinki.

Aarnio sees the applicability of studies in educational sciences as one of the positives. The learning gained is useful in fields as diverse as medicine and finance.

“It’s been exciting to see that none of my prior learning has gone to waste. Instead, the basic principles of learning can be applied similarly in different contexts.”

Learning scholarly thinking was the biggest benefit career-wise

According to Aarnio, the University of Helsinki provided him with good basic expertise in the field. However, the most significant skill gained has been the capacity for scholarly thinking provided by academic education. Aarnio finds it gives you the ability to assess whether information is credible, reliable and usable. Such competence is useful in the labour market, for example, in his current position as an education specialist.

“Business training is a pretty wild field, with a wide range of service providers. Thanks to doctoral education and academic experience, I’m able to assess which ones are actually great and which do not match our needs. And if someone is wondering whether there’s any sense in a specific training offering, I’ll be able to help.”

Aarnio highlights another way academic backgrounds benefit employers. Training and learning founded on research-based knowledge function well and effectively. Time is not wasted on trying out pointless measures.

From the University, Aarnio also gained an approach based on wide-ranging curiosity. He believes in self-improvement, no matter the context. In fact, he encourages others to pursue doctoral education.

“Even though it’s laborious, it pays off. It’s evident that doctoral graduates and their skills are appreciated by businesses too.”

Science, research and education are the building blocks of our wellbeing. Investing in them is crucial for our future. Read more about how research and education affect society and get to know our vision for the next Finnish government term 2023–2027.