Story

Our alumna Yuliya Salorenko: Growth marketer by day, public speaker by night

It was in high school that Yuliya Salorenko, born and raised in the steppes of Kazakhstan, realized she wanted to embark to Europe to study. She hardly spoke any English at the time and knew no one who had studied in Europe, let alone Finland. As most of her classmates went ahead to study at domestic or Russian universities, she pursued her dream and after a few twists and turns, ended up in TAMK.

“After browsing the internet for study opportunities abroad, I found out that Finland offered free higher education in English. I immediately started to prepare for the entry exams, in secrecy of even my own parents. After passing the initial online test I was invited to Saint Petersburg to take another exam. As it turned out, I passed the exam and got accepted to Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences. It was time to tell my parents the truth and ask for their permission to go. After all, I was only 17 years old”, Yuliya laughs.

After spending a year at MAMK, Yuliya decided to apply for TAMK as a transfer student in order to continue her studies in International Business in Tampere.

“I considered several cities to move to in Finland, but somehow I was always drawn to Tampere. I contacted people who studied at TAMK and asked their opinion about the courses and the overall program. They all seemed very happy about their education. My interests particularly laid in internship opportunities and practical training, which is such an important part of the degree programs at TAMK. And, of course, there was the city of Tampere itself, which was love at first sight.”

Studying at TAMK – the best time ever

Yuliya reminisces about her time at TAMK with great fondness. At a time, she hadn't yet figured out her true professional calling, but soon after starting at TAMK, Yuliya found herself immersed in her chosen study path - consulting academy and marketing. Specializing in two subjects earned her double credits and helped her graduate in only 2,5 years, a year ahead of her peers.

“I loved studying at TAMK, it was a truly amazing time in my life that, in many ways, defined who I am today. When I got to TAMK, my options and opportunities were very clear from day one. For instance, we had this really amazing social counsellor, Mirja Onduso. She helped me with all the things, even beyond the studies.”

For Yuliya it was clear from the very beginning that if she wanted to make most of her time at TAMK, she would have to be proactive and search for different services and activities herself. While all the information is out there, students are expected to look for it independently. This sometimes comes as a surprise to foreign students, but Yuliya claims she quickly got a hang of things.

“During my time at TAMK I used both the sport facilities and library almost daily. Services were available, and what is even more important, everything was available in English. I remember thinking just how cool is this.”

Leadership skills, Demola and the importance of practical training

When asked about her most striking memories of TAMK, Yuliya immediately comes up with an answer.

“There are four things that deserve to be mentioned here. Firstly, at TAMK we did a lot of group work, which undoubtedly shaped my leadership skills. I had to work with all kinds of people from different backgrounds and mindsets – in short, learn how to lead and to be led.

Secondly, there was Mauri, one of many significant mentors on my study path, who taught us the importance of critical thinking, problem-solving and discussion.

Thirdly, I was lucky to be part of several Demola projects, which were crucial for my future career. These projects helped me to build my professional networks and acquire new skills such as prototyping and public speaking. I also learned a great deal from startups.

Lastly, it’s the infamous TAMK atmosphere, its vibe and dynamism. There is nothing quite like it!”

As part of her degree program, Yuliya did two internships that paved the way for her future career in business. Her first internship was with a company called Team Up, upon which she wrote her Bachelor thesis (“The tipping point in the Finnish social media start-up companies”). Second one was in a small media company located in the UK, which meant Yuliya had to work remotely. As an intern she was in charge of writing content, attracting leads and building partnerships.

“I got my first internship through volunteer work at a Twinkle event. As the networking began, I approached the keynote speaker who happened to be a founder of Team up. I was so immensely inspired by this woman, that I went ahead and asked without hesitation “Can I do an internship for you”?  Donna Kivirauma became my first mentor in Finland. I can say with all the gratitude that my marketing career kick started from there.”

When it comes to the importance of practical training, Yuliya soon realized she had made the right choice in coming to TAMK.

“You can only truly grasp what it is like to be in a working life when you have these trainings. True, TAMK gives you the tools and methodology, but it is only during these internships that you can put your skills into practice.”

Your network is your net worth

Networking has played a major role in Yuliya’s professional development, as she has been headhunted to all her jobs. Therefore, it is probably only natural that she is a huge advocate of networking. The simple idea is that you help others and are also being helped by others. Through her newly established co-op Building bridges, Yuliya and her colleagues help internationals to land jobs and matchmake different business ventures. They already have around 400 people in the loop and the number is growing.

“Due to the current pandemic, networking is made even easier, you can do it online, on virtual platforms. When we are looking for an internship as students, we are put into a test on how well we can network. It’s not just about doing some random work but making a first step towards your future career. 80% of the jobs aren’t advertised anywhere. You get them through referrals. The magnitude is huge. To build a career and brand, you need connections and networks.”

Growth marketer by day, public speaker by night

Currently, Yuliya is a Growth Marketing Manager at a data-driven company called Catapult. While the company’s main office is located in Helsinki, Yuliya is firmly based in Tampere, and, according to her words, has no intentions to move to the capital. As of now, anyway.

Alongside her daily “nine-to-five” work in Catapult, Yuliya also runs a side business in public speaking. She coaches startups on pitching, hosts events, organizes workshops on personal branding and LinkedIn as well as gives keynotes on causes close to her heart and journey, like diversity, immigration, active citizenship etc. She is also a TEDx speaker and a published poet. Or, as Yuliya herself likes to sum up, “growth marketer by day, public speaker by night.”

While pursuing a successful career in business and marketing, Yuliya is also a working mom and a wife – two roles the importance of which she cannot stress enough.

“Being a parent gives you a completely new perspective on life and equips you with an essential set of skills. You learn how to manage time better, to prioritize wiser, to have an improved stress resilience and reflective skills. When the time comes for me to leave this world, my children will definitely be the most important impact I have made to this world, my greatest achievement.”

In making these observations Yuliya touches an important topic. Recent alumni surveys are showing that TAMK graduates feel they lack the much-needed skills in stress and time management, prioritizing and how to balance working life with family time.

“Work-life balance is becoming an increasingly important topic, but it was not stressed enough during studies when preparing for the big scary world that awaits all graduates. There are so many burnouts and depression among young people these days. We need more education in relation to self-care, mental well-being, prioritization and stress management – they are essential in today’s working life. They are the skills that shape us as future employees and leaders. I had one burnout myself, which in hindsight could have been avoided had I better understood the importance of self-care and work-life balance early on.”

Thriving Alumni community serves us all

Having a day job, running a side business and bringing up a family has taken Yuliya’s time, leaving no space for building relations with her former classmates or Alma mater. This, she hopes, will change in the future.

“I graduated in April 2015, which is almost 6 years ago. The same month I got a fulltime job in Tampere. As I graduated earlier and jumped straight into the working life, my lifestyle changed, and it became considerably harder to keep in touch with fellow classmates. Even though our paths separated, with many we are still connected virtually updating each other on our career changes and growth.”

When asked about Alumni events or what does it mean to be a TAMK alumna, Yuliya ponders her answer for a while.

“I have attended a few alumni events, but that was it. Although I would have loved to engage more. After graduation, I didn’t feel there was a clear alumni path drawn for me. There were many question marks in the air: what does being alumni mean in practice, what virtual groups to join, what value does the alumni community provide and how to contribute more?”

Meanwhile, Yuliya agrees there is a lot of potential in alumni work, like the network she so strongly values. Many of Yuliya’s former classmates are now professionals with high positions in local and global companies, freelancers, startup founders. These are valuable connections. As an entrepreneur herself, Yuliya sees the importance of nurturing one’s network for future hires, joint projects, learning and growth.

“I would want to have stronger ties with alumni and TAMK to explore this untapped potential. Graduation is not the end, it is just the beginning.”

When asked about her own possible role as a TAMK alumna, Yuliya comes up with an answer straight away. It is teaching and lecturing she is most interested in.

“My job as a Demola facilitator has sparked my interest in coaching and mentoring. I’d like to think that someday an opportunity presents itself, and I may return to TAMK with a few lectures or workshops. I have even considered enrolling in pedagogical studies at TAMK. Building a bridge between working life and studies as well as bringing my accumulative worklife and entrepreneurial experience would be something very exciting for me to do in a role of a guest lecturer at TAMK. There is so much value in this work, especially now. Pandemic has left many fearing the unknown and the future, especially students that are at the tipping point in their life and career. If I could answer some of those doubts and shed light on future possibilities - I’d consider that a mission worth pursuing!”

Text: Kirsi Popova
Picture: Ashley von Schulman

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