Sadeem Elbasyouni, Egypt, Marketing Executive
Sadeem Elbasyuoni might never have visited Finland if it wasn’t for the Erasmus+ study exchange programme. Sadeem was finishing her pharmacy bachelor’s degree in Egypt when she got a chance to do an exchange at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio in the autumn of 2018. Impressed by the hands-on laboratory work she could do in Finland, Sadeem decided to apply for a master’s programme in the country.
In 2020, Sadeem was accepted to three Finnish universities and chose to study biochemistry and molecular medicine at the University of Oulu. There she got interested in the popularisation of science and became the first person in the faculty to do their master’s thesis in bioinformatics. When looking to transition to work life, Sadeem happened to tap into another programme. She was hired by a company participating in Business Finland’s Talent Explorer [now Talent Funding] funding programme, which helps businesses to improve their capacity for international growth.
Sadeem brought her expertise in bioinformatics and Arabic skills to the company, and gained market intelligence and built her professional networks. Today, Sadeem lives in Espoo and works as a marketing executive in the same company, which specialises in clinical genomic data analysis.
Sadeem participated in various science popularisation of science activities at the University of Oulu, including hosting podcasts.Sadeem Elbasyouni
Doing a master’s degree in Finland was… a new journey for me. It meant studying in an Arctic city in the North. There I got the opportunity to do flexible laboratory rotations in different research groups, which ranged from learning techniques in molecular and structural biology to doing cell culture and studying histology.
As exciting as it was to learn new things in every lab, I noticed a surprising pattern in academia. Even if clinical research results in new innovation and a publication [in an academic journal], this is often the end of the story. The results are never implemented in a clinical setting in hospitals.
Because of this, I got involved in some science popularisation projects at the university, such as hosting podcasts and broadcasts where we interviewed researchers. This is how I learnt about the rise of bioinformatics and how to harness big data to get useful, actionable insights. Then, I decided to do my master’s thesis in bioinformatics, which was a turning point in my study direction. I got involved with the industry and connected with web developers and programmers who helped me to learn different techniques to retrieve and assemble genomic data from pan-cancer.
How I got my current job is… I was in the middle of my master’s thesis work when I started looking for PhD opportunities to build on my thesis. The challenge was the requirement of several years of programming experience and knowledge of heavy statistical methods. At that time, I was only a beginner in the field with a clinical pharmacy background. I realised I was under the mercy of a potential PhD opportunity from the research group I did my master’s in, and the chances were slim for that to happen.
Moving to a city close to the Arctic Circle was a significant change for Sadeem.Sadeem Elbasyouni
Then, in early 2022, the Academy of Finland announced they would cut their research funding by 50 per cent. [The cuts were later cancelled]. Under these circumstances, I started exploring opportunities in scientific communication, brand awareness and marketing for healthtech companies. I was already doing some projects in this area to strengthen my portfolio. This helped me land an internship in a biotechnology startup focused on cell and gene therapy. I created content and hosted podcasts on their website and social media channels for their innovation project in Uppsala, Sweden.
Around the same time, I had my first interview with a Finnish bioinformatics company specialising in clinical genomics. After a couple of interviews with their CEO Tommi Kaasalainen, I learned they would be doing a market research project to explore the Middle East market and were looking for an Arabic speaker who could communicate complex genomic information to clinical geneticists and bioinformaticians. I was hired to execute the Middle East market research project for 10 months, and now I have a permanent position in the company.
“My work is at the intersection of biochemistry and science popularisation.”
My experience with the Talent Explorer programme is… that it works well in a two-way manner: the company gets to explore the skills that the new employee can bring to the team from their culture and study background, and the employee gets to explore if the Finnish company is the perfect match for their career ambitions.
That was my situation, as the Talent Explorer programme was good support for the company, allowing them to investigate the Middle Eastern market. At the same time, I got coaching from the senior team about their software and how it works in the local context. It also enriched my market intelligence and helped me build stronger relationships. Based on this, our market strategy changed after 10 months from ‘direct selling’ to ‘brand awareness’ as we realised that the market was in low-volume demand.
I studied biochemistry, but I work in marketing because… the combination of my background in molecular biology and biochemistry complemented by my Arabic skills. This is why I got hired in a marketing position. The complicated biological discussions I need to have with clinical geneticists, molecular pathologists and bioinformaticians can be challenging for a person with only a marketing degree to understand, as can be identifying important keywords in search engine optimisation and content creation. Let’s say my work is at the intersection of biochemistry and science popularisation, I use various marketing campaigns to build brand awareness and attract customers.
Sadeem appreciates the lack of hierarchy in her company.Sadeem Elbasyouni
The main differences in working life in Finland compared to other countries where I have worked are… I enjoy the lack of hierarchy in my current company. My opinions are valued by my seniors in the company. As I have gained experience in my role, this has built my confidence to propose different ideas on how to do marketing campaigns.
The organisations that have been helpful for my professional growth in Finland include… the Erasmus+ Student Exchange Mobility programme. It was the sole reason I could visit Finland in the first place. It offered a safe environment to enjoy a new perspective on education with intensive hands-on experiences during academic studies.
Also, the Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine (FBMM) at the University of Oulu lies in that category. More specifically, it was Alexander Kastaniotis and Jari Heikkinen who made my studies and transition to career life smooth and prosperous in terms of professional growth. Alex helped me a lot by offering flexible opportunities to study whatever subjects I desired in my modules. These included science popularisation projects, for example leading video production for five research groups to film introductory videos about their research work in the faculty. I was even allowed to bend the traditions by doing the faculty’s first master’s thesis in bioinformatics.
In addition, Jari helped me get financial scholarships to do two internships in Finland and abroad.
Sadeem loves Finnish summers.Sadeem Elbasyouni
My favourite thing about Finland is… the summertime. It is like heaven on Earth, with nice weather to meet friends and do several outdoor activities like cycling and many water sports. You can swim at nearby beaches or rent a summer cottage to do barbecue.
What I enjoy most about living in Espoo is… I love the calm forests and nature where I live. Still, I’m just a 10-minute bus ride from Matinkylä, where city life and many facilities are at my fingertips. I get to do ice skating on a frozen lake near where I live, and even chasing Aurora Borealis is possible in Espoo, not only in Northern Finland.