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Our alum Harri Ojala: COO at Business Tampere strives to bring growth in the region

Published on 17.11.2022
updated on 7.3.2024
Tampere University
Harri Ojala’s career path has been guided by his passion to help businesses grow and thrive, and this ambition has stuck with him since student days. Harri has completed a master’s degree in administrative science at the University of Tampere and now works as Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Business Tampere. In this position, he works together with customers to find the critical factors that help achieve new competitive advantages. This mission requires not only solid financial and business understanding but often also a sales-oriented and starkly realistic mentality.

Business Tampere elevates businesses in the region

Harri Ojala’s employer, Business Tampere, is an economic development agency owned by the municipalities in the Tampere region. It promotes investments and strives to create an attractive environment for sustainable business in the region while also helping companies find the right partners and growth opportunities locally and internationally. It offers companies its expertise in business development, investing, and internationalisation.

Having worked as Director of Investments and global operations and now as a Chief Operating Officer at Business Tampere since 2018, Harri’s own job description is highly versatile. One important part of it is leading a large expert unit.

“I am very proud of my team. We have achieved great improvements in the Tampere region in these past years. One highlight was the opening of airBaltic’s new base at Tampere-Pirkkala. Global transport connections are of great importance for the business of local companies,” Harri says.

Harri Ojala feels he currently works in his dream job, as nothing is more intriguing to him than understanding different businesses and their competitive factors. He says he feels privileged to be promoting the causes of Finnish industry, high technology, and various knowledge-intensive fields.

“The university is one of the key partners for Business Tampere and our customers. I have discussions with university representatives several times a week, and many of my team members have solid university backgrounds. We also collaborate around the strong expertise areas in our region, such as imaging technology, photonics, microchip development and the renewing automotive industry,” Harri notes.

Alongside growing businesses, Ojala’s own team has also expanded in the past years and doubled in size since Ojala started in his position. The past years have been fast-paced, and the wide sphere of activities has kept him busy. Added motivation comes from the fact that he can do this work specifically in the Tampere region.

“I would not want to do this work anywhere else. Tampere as a city is well positioned, and we are clearly establishing a profile as an international growth centre. I’m happy to contribute to the growth, and also enjoy it for my own part. Right now, there is strong development. Despite the challenges looming ahead, we are living an era of growth,” Harri points out.

Emotional intelligence and integrity

Ojala’s educational background is in administrative science. He holds a Master of Science degree, having majored in financial management and the public sector. As his minors, he studied accounting, municipal finances, and business management. On top of that, he had previously completed a BBA degree in International Business.

Even though Ojala’s career has mainly focused on the world of business – currently at Business Tampere and previously at Tampere Chamber of Commerce – he has also found it highly useful to understand the public sector. Even in his current position, he deals a lot with municipal finances.

“I was relatively mature when I started my university studies at the age of 24, and I had been in working life for several years by then. Overall, my university degree was a fantastic package of finances and management, on macro and micro levels, both public and private. One of the topics that was particularly useful within financial administration was investment calculation. In many contexts, it is helpful to understand these aspects when working with companies,” Harri says.

My university degree was a fantastic package of finances and management, on macro and micro levels, both public and private.

Harri Ojala, Chief Operating Officer, Business Tampere

Harri also wanted to continue his studies after graduation, so he pursued doctoral studies. He managed to complete the required course studies and even wrote 150 pages of the dissertation.

“I practically had to put the dissertation on pause the minute I started in my current position, as the number of working hours skyrocketed. A dissertation requires raw work, and I simply lacked the capacity. Reconciling family time and work life has been challenging enough. But I hope that I’ll be able to get back to my dissertation sometime in the coming years,” Harri says.

Harri has a few tips to share with current students. Firstly, he encourages everyone to seize the opportunity to study abroad and to challenge oneself while doing so. Even if the social side of things remains the main outcome from that period, the experience itself and moving to a different environment can genuinely cultivate you as a person. This is also what happened to Harri during his exchange period in Switzerland.

Secondly, Harri speaks for seeking various jobs – also outside your comfort zone. The size of the paycheck does not determine how much a job can build you up as a person. In one way or another, all experiences make you wiser.

Thirdly, Harri emphasises emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence and integrity are key in working life. You cannot buy them, but you can develop them. As for knowledge, you can always absorb new information and learn through working.

Harri Ojala, Chief Operating Officer, Business Tampere

“Emotional intelligence and integrity are key in working life. You cannot buy them, but you can develop them. As for knowledge, you can always absorb new information and learn through working,” Ojala says.



Who: Harri Ojala

Position: Chief Operating Officer at Business Tampere

Degree: Master of Science (Admin), Financial Management and Public Sector

Other: Has also been a member and chair of corporate boards, and finds these positions inspiring, grounding, and educational. They involve great responsibility even though they are not paid work per se.

Quote: “Investment work is tied to decisions made by companies. These decisions are significant for the companies and sometimes even determine their future. Our duty is to guide and accelerate this process but without having the actual decision-making powers. Therefore, we must also learn to accept disappointments. The final outcome does not always correlate with the work we’ve done or how well we’ve done it.”


Text: Tiina Leivo
Picture: Jonne Renvall

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