Educational sciences and entrepreneurial skills gave a strong foundation for daily work

Ukrainian Viera Karam enrolled in the Education and Globalisation Master's programme (nowadays Education for Global Futures) at the University of Oulu in 2017. Now, five years later, she is working for BusinessOulu, an organisation dedicated to fostering and developing new businesses in the region. Karam works as a business advisor who helps and advises members of the international community to start and run their businesses in Oulu and Finland.
Alumna standing in front of a purple wall.

Strong reputation in education

Karam arrived in Oulu with the attitude of making the most of her time here. This meant immersing herself in her studies and other activities.

“I felt this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was young, I had my Bachelor's degree, I was coming to another country and so I wanted to use my opportunities to the fullest and engage in all extracurricular activities,” Karam says.

Karam's degree was in linguistics and when she was considering her next move, she wanted to move away from the obvious career choices such as interpreter or translator. Rather, she wanted to turn the linguistics background into something tangible for herself.

“I was looking around and the Education and Globalisation programme seemed like a great way to do that. Finland has such a strong reputation in education and that really was the core of why I came here. And it really clicked for me.”

Enthralled by the startup scene

Oulu has a well-established startup community, which Karam discovered fully when she moved to Oulu. She had heard of events like Polar Bear Pitching and communities like Oulu Entrepreneurship Society when she did her research on Oulu. When she arrived in town, she soon was deeply involved in the student-start-up activities. She volunteered with Polar Bear Pitching, an event where startups can pitch their business ideas to a group of investors while immersed in freezing water in an icehole in the Oulu river delta, and ended up being a co-host for the event.

The zany nature of the Oulu startup scene swept Karam along and she got into the Oulu Entrepreneur Society, went on “startup crawls” (think bar crawl, but from startup to startup) and got to go to Slush, a renowned startup event organised in Helsinki, to promote Polar Bear Pitching.

Her interest is not necessarily in entrepreneurship per se, even if she might start a business of her own in the future, but in entrepreneurship skills. This distinction is something she picked up at Oulu Entrepreneurship Society.

“It is more about acquiring skills to help you in your work life and your personal life. It's a mindset, it's getting social skills, research skills, sales skills, branding and marketing skills. Many entrepreneurs don't realise how much of their work is socialising, talking to clients and understanding their problems,” Karam explains.

A new outlook on business and life

Her time in Oulu has given her a different understanding of business. In Ukraine, business is seen as something that is for élites, people who have the means and can navigate the bureaucracy.

“Here in Finland, it seems like investing and starting a business is a much more realistic opportunity for a greater number of people. Everything is so much closer to you and in fact fairly easy, even if people tend to complain about Finnish bureaucracy, too. For starters, a lot of the services are digital and can be done online very quickly. Then you need to build your network, socialise, communicate and after that you'll see a lot more things starting to happen,” Karam says.

In addition, her studies in the Education and Globalisation master's programme have given her a strong foundation that she can use in her work.

“The programme is built for people who want to take on international and global issues and interact with international people. In my work, I try to understand people from different backgrounds and help them understand the Finnish system in a business context. My Master's degree helps me in my job daily, one hundred percent.”

Aside from studies and work, Viera Karam says that she has gained a new outlook on life during her time in Oulu. Coming from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, she was used to a different rhythm.

“Life is very fast-paced in a big city like Kyiv. You are working long hours and a lot of your life revolves around work. In Oulu I have found a better work-life balance. And of course the nature is really beautiful here,” Karam says.

Text and photos: Janne-Pekka Manninen

Viera Karam says there are many opportunities for entrepreneurship-minded people in Oulu. “There is a strong community here where you are bound to get creative ideas.”

Viera Karam

• MSc. Education and Globalisation, University of Oulu
• Business advisor, BusinessOulu

“I played the piano for eleven years, from three to fourteen years old. I have only recently picked it up again, but I really enjoy it and play whenever I can. Music is a big part of my life.”