Career Outlooks, Minna Pohjola

Career Outlooks

My career story began over twenty years ago, in 2000, when I started studying marketing at the University of Oulu. I had already spent a couple of years in the commerce sector, working in a fashion store. At that time, I became interested in workplace issues and people management. Back then, the University of Oulu didn’t offer the possibility to study management, but this opportunity arose during my studies, and I switched my major to management. I graduated with a Master’s degree in 2004. During my studies, I became a mother for the first time and looking back, I realize I completed my studies quite efficiently. Today, I would not rush as much, but back then, I was eager to enter the workforce.


I started my career at the university, working in the lifelong education department. After a couple of years, I moved to the private sector and worked as a human resources specialist in two different companies. Following the birth of my second child, I applied for and was selected for a position in the public sector, as a human resources specialist. In this role, and after the birth of my third child, I advanced to become a human resource manager in a large organization in the education and culture field. I worked in this position for six years, which was incredibly educational. In this organization, there happened a significant merger of organizations. Five different organizations came together as one entity, which meant a lot of construction work in terms of processes and practices from a human resources management perspective. In hindsight, this role, leading human resources in an organization of five thousand employees, was like a second university for me.


After this period, I moved to an entirely different industry, the construction industry, where I worked for two and a half years, first as a human resources manager and then in a role as a human resources and communications director. When I was selected for my current position in an educational organization as a human resources and communications director, I strongly felt that I had returned to my professional home. I feel that I am at my best in an expert organization. A few years ago, I also completed a teacher’s qualification, which helped me understand people and business in the education sector.


What have I learned over these past twenty years in human resources management roles? HR is a very interesting and diverse field of work. There is a significant difference between working as a generalist across the entire HR field or specializing as a deep expert in a specific area of HR, such as onboarding and recruitment. Both are interesting and have their advantages. There are many aspects of the HR field that I could not have imagined during my university studies. For example, in company adaptation situations, HR is the function of legal and organizational development expertise. These situations are often challenging for HR, and it is advisable to seek professional support. A few years ago, I realized the importance of being able to translate human issues into financial terms. That is, when pushing for reforms or people development, crucial to be able to calculate the benefit in euros. After this, it becomes much easier to talk with businesses about developing and managing people or culture.


I still think, as I did twenty years ago, that people and their management are the most interesting parts of business. In this fascinating field, one can never be fully finished, and there is still another 20 years’ worth of learning to do. That is great because continual learning is what motivates me in my professional life.


Writer profile:

  • Name: Minna Pohjola
  • Role: Taitotalo Oy, Chief HR Officer, Board member at Helsingin Ekonomit, Business Coach at Empatio Oy
  • Studies: Management & Organization, University of Oulu
  • Interests: Sports, Doglife, Decoration, Secondhand shopping