Studying in Finland was the first trip abroad for Mai. Quite a change compared to her native Vietnam. But what would she do differently if she had a time machine and started her studies today? And would you guess what's her secret weapon for job interviews?
Mai Phuong Ha, BBA 2012
Main subject: International Business
Home country and city: Vietnam, Hanoi
Career during and after studies:
- After 2nd year, I was eager to go back to my hometown to look for a practical training place. I worked at a small hotel located in Hanoi Old Quarter, more than half of customers were foreigners. In my opinion, practical training is one of the best ways to practice your learnings from the IB program. I was embraced to give new development idea and be involved in different business activities especially in International Marketing.
- When coming back, I wished to join a local International enterprise right here in Vaasa. I was lucky and grateful to become a trainee at Wärtsilä Finland in 2012. I have been working there since then, assuming different positions.
Tell us about the company you are working for at this moment?
I work at Wärtsilä. Wärtsilä is a global leader in smart technologies and complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets. It focuses on sustainable innovation, total efficiency and data analytics to maximises the environmental and economic performance of the vessels and power plants of our customers.
The company has operations in over 200 locations in more than 80 countries around the world with approximately 19,000 personnel.
Which are your main tasks for the moment at your job?
I am a Business controller, in Reporting Development team. My main responsibilities are to
- Coordinate and participate the SAP Finance & Control developments to meet the Wärtsilä group requirements
- Support users, communicate to stakeholders, provide training, follow-up and creating action plans based on feedback
- Contribute to develop and build new reports according to the requirements from Business management
What does a typical working day look like?
I usually start my day with a cup of coffee and reading internal news to get up to date with the happenings at our company, some news might have impact to our tasks.
And right after that, I usually try to "eat the frogs". In this, frogs mean the less interesting things or the least "sexy" tasks that you don't want to do but you need to do. They are mostly administrative tasks, so completing those tasks give me great energy because I get the feeling I've accomplished something worthwhile.
The during the day, I have one or two big events, important tasks for example meeting with stakeholders, finishing one report. I try not to put more than two of such big tasks, so it will allow me to add the urgent things when they come, and if time allows, I can add the little things as well. My rule is there is limited time to do everything, but I need to make sure that I time to do important things.
Finally, having lunch with my team is always a relaxing part of the day. At lunch, we try not to talk about work and talk more about our families. Friday coffee is also an activity that we try to have whenever we can.
What kind of working life skills did your studies give you?
Schooling prepares us with the needed skills succeed in work life. It provides us academic knowledge, allows us to develop our communication and interactive skills, and trains us with time management, etc.. which I think are all useful for life and work.
One of the skills I appreciate the most is Internationality. I had not lived aboard before coming to Vaasa, so one can say I did not have international experience at all.
Vaasa is an international city, reflecting in my classmates coming from different countries and cultures.
This prepared and gave me so much confidence when I started to work for Wärtsilä, where I need to work with colleagues from all over the world.
Another skill is creativity. I used this skill a lot when I prepare instructions or give trainings, even if they are all finance related topics as I want end users to understand and remember them in an easy and effective ways. I also came up with more creative way to talk/marketing myself during interviews when applying to new jobs. I have applied for 4 different positions during my time at Wärtsilä and I got them all. So, I guess my creativity helps me to be impressed interviewee.
What tips would you give to new students at VAMK?
I spent too much time studying so I felt like I wish I'd joined a society or a club and learnt something new. I really recommend that you find a balance between studies and social life. Once you're in university, it's not only fun to get involved with all the social aspects of student life but you will be surprised at how many opportunities are there for students.
Explore options – explore what you want to do, what you're good at. During your university years, you have the chance to taste-test different programmes, explore your passions to tailor your academic and career paths.
Ask for help when you need it. Talk to someone to share your opinions. For example, tell our lecturers and your close friends if you don't like your course, or find it difficult. This is good feedback to improve the coursework. Also remember to contact your student's union or make an appointment with an academic guidance counsellor to search for help if you feel like you need help managing a heavy workload. Feel homesick and burned out? Don't be afraid to reach out to people you trust or university's student health services for guidance.
Is there anything that you would have liked to study more of?
I would like to see more Finance-related courses. The IB program provides the students with the knowledge and skills in various areas, from marketing, foreign trade to finance, and from law to business culture to human resource. I think the program suits the best for students who want to become entrepreneurs. However, after doing my practical training at Wärtsilä, I have been enjoying so much what I work in Finance, plus I have no business idea which I would like to start up a business. So I wish I could have more time to take some advance Finance courses at the University.
Best memories from your study life?
My student years have certainly equipped me with the knowledge and practical skills needed in an international business environment. Especially for the ones who wish to jump into working life as soon as possible like I wished. It is fascinating, how much more mature I became after these years. However, the most valuable gift from my student life in Vaasa is good friends I have made (one of them became my husband and one of them became my best friend forever). There is nothing better than getting to know all these different personalities with their unique backgrounds from all around the world.
VAMK lets you grow academically and socially!