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Our Alumna Karen Ahtiainen: TAMK was the perfect place for me to update my skills

Published on 13.6.2022
updated on 28.12.2023
Tampere University of Applied Sciences
Karen Ahtiainen standing on the street
When Karen began her studies at TAMK, she already had a lot of work experience. She wanted to update her skills and learn about new trends in business. She chose TAMK for her studies because of the practical approach in teaching. Karen has followed her passion in her career and is now working with internationalisation; attracting other internationals to work or study in Tampere, a city she loves.


Where were you and what did you do before you applied to TAMK? 

I come from Malaysia. I met my husband in Singapore and when he was posted to work in Finland, we moved to Tampere. When our son went to daycare, I started looking for a job, which turned out to be difficult. So I decided to go back to school and get a qualification from Finland. That is when I chose to study International Business in TAMK.

As a child, what was your dream profession?

As a child I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to help people feel better. However, in Malaysia higher education is not free and my family, despite not being poor, could not afford to pay for me to study a degree in the university.

Why did you choose TAMK for your studies?

There are two reasons why I chose TAMK for my studies. I participated in a programme from the Unemployment Office which was hosted by TAMK. It was called International Export Training and that was a really good experience for me since I got a job out of that training. I learn better by doing compared to just burying my face in a book and taking exams. Therefore, I felt that TAMK would be the best place for me to study, because of the practical approach in teaching.

What is your best memory of the time when you studied?

There were a lot of good memories. One of the things I remember very well is how approachable the staff and the lecturers were. They were always there to make sure they would help you with anything. Even now I am still in contact with some of them. It was like one big family.

Another memorable thing was being given the chance to work on a project for TAMK by organizing the International Business Week. As project manager, I lead the Week’s organizing team. We received a lot of good feedback for our work from the guest lecturers. It was a great experience, because I was able to adopt things I had learned so far into that project.

What was difficult in your studies?

The difficulties in my studies had actually nothing to do with the studies. It was challenging for me to balance between being a mom and a full-time student. Before I started at TAMK, my husband was posted to work abroad. I stayed in Tampere, as to not interrupt our son’s studies. So I was kind of a single mother and trying to be full time student at the same time.  It was a challenge to balance both.

What was the most important thing that you learned in your studies?

When I started at TAMK in International Business Degree I already had more than ten years of work experience. It was important for me to update my skills. I learned the current business trends and compared how things were done before and how they are done nowadays.

What does it mean to you that you have studied at TAMK?

I really miss studying at TAMK sometimes. Studying gave me a life outside being just a mother. I got to be a student all over again and it was a great community. And despite the big age difference between me and most of the other students, I made a lot of friends even with other degree students. And that is what I think TAMK is all about – the community, the learning by doing method and the skills you learn along the way during your studies.

What is the best thing in your current job?

The best thing in my work is that I help the internationals living here in Tampere, as well as support companies with internationalization. My role in a summary is to attract international talents to live in Tampere; students, working people or families. Helping others has always been my dream. In this job, I help both companies and people. The fact that I can combine both, helping the internationals and companies, as well as promoting the city I love, really makes it enjoyable for me. It is something I am passionate about.

What is your motto?

This is a motto that I actually live by every day: Take a chance, you never know what happens till you try. In life I think everyone should take a chance.  Go for something, try new ideas. If you don’t take a chance, the result will always be a definite negative. But if you do, then there is a chance that there can be a positive result.

What would you like to say to the current and future students of TAMK?

Don’t just concentrate on the studies. Take advantage of the practice in soft skills that TAMK includes to the curriculum as well. Problem solving and team work, for example, are important skills. Companies are not just looking at your technical skills. They are also interested in other skills, like these kinds of soft skills.

What is your future dream or goal?

One day, I would like to see Tampere as a place where age, nationality, language or the physics of a person is not in focus, especially in the business world. I believe everyone should be judged by their skills to do the job and how motivated they are to do the job rather than those aspects.


Name: Karen Ahtiainen

Where did you graduate and when? Bachelor of International Business, Marketing and Experience Economy (2017-2020)

What do you do nowadays? Business coordinator at International House Tampere. Co-founder of Bloom Association.

Motto? Take a chance, you never know what happens till you try!


Text: Riikka Mölkänen

Picture: Dimitra Panopoulou-Huovila

Video: Dimitra Panopoulou-Huovila and Saara Lehtonen


Here you can read other alumni stories.