“International influence is necessary for Finland to continue to thrive.”

 Get to know more about Kelly via LinkedIn Image: Kelly Keodara
Finland Works

My career: From start to Finnish

Kelly Keodara, USA
Marketing communications manager

20.01.2021

Kelly came to Finland in 2015 looking for a new adventure. She started out as a business English instructor at various technology companies and folk high schools in the Satakunta region, and completed her master’s degree in media communications. Nowadays, she works as marketing communications manager in the aerospace and systems intelligence industry and is a Tampere Talent Ambassador, helping to attract international skills and expertise to Finland’s third-largest city.

I found my current job… during the most uncertain time of my life. I had just been let go from a startup that was experiencing financial instability. I had just graduated with my master’s degree, wondering what will happen now. I had only a few months to find a job in order to stay in Finland. There were many days staring at the screen, filling out hundreds of job applications – to ones that I qualified for and ones that I didn’t. And sometimes to my dismay, I received many rejection letters. However, the one stance that did not quiver was my determination. After months of searching, I came across a job posting through one of the many job search portals. The title was marketing communications manager, and the post was completely in English! That was surprising within itself as most job postings are not completely in English, usually just the title.

woman standing next leaning against Tampere University sign

Kelly decided to stay in Finland after receiving her master’s degree. Image: Kelly Keodara

As I went through the checklist of qualifications, I deemed myself worthy of the position until I reached the bottom, where it noted that I needed to have fluent Finnish skills to meet the requirements. My spirits fell quite quickly. I am learning Finnish and I love the language, but it is definitely not the easiest to pick up. But the sisu in me pushed forth and I emailed the person of contact asking for a meeting. Needless to say, that person became my boss. And I am the first ever international to join my team.

The piece of advice I would give to someone seeking employment in Finland at the moment is… be brave. Finding a job in Finland or starting a business here can be daunting at first. The language and regulations can be a large barrier in many ways. But don’t let that stop you. As you can take away from my personal story, rules can be slightly bent. Mindsets can be changed. International influence is necessary for Finland to continue to thrive. Find people who support you and believe in you. Genuinely grow your network and you will find that, with the right timing, you will get to where you want to be.

The Finnish word that best describes working here is… ‘mielenkiintoista’, which means interesting. Work life in Finland is interesting in that it makes me smile, chuckle and confused all at once sometimes.

Working in Finland’s aerospace and systems intelligence industry has… solidified my belief that anything is possible. This can go both ways. What happens today may not be pertinent tomorrow. The leading innovations that I have witnessed in this industry can be unbelievable at times. It is always exciting to come to work because honestly, I never know what to expect of my day, and I enjoy that!

woman presenting at TEDx conference

Kelly hosted a TEDx conference in Tampere in 2019. Image: Kelly Keodara

What I enjoy most about living in Tampere is… my great network of supporters. This ranges from my family, partner and friends to colleagues and more. I believe that to achieve the ultimate success, that must include personal happiness and an overall feeling of contentment. The quality of life isn’t just about work, it is also about balancing all aspects of life that matter to you. And I find that balance here in Tampere.

The qualities that foreign employees bring to the workplace are… what I like to call spunk and diversity. Internationals can bring something different to the table. We can bring a new perspective to light. We can provide expertise and knowledge from other countries. We hold the capacity to help Finnish companies thrive more, if we just receive that one opportunity to show it.

My experience when studying in Finland was… a dream. I never thought I would have had the opportunity to study my master’s at a Finnish university. But again, I said, ‘why not’, applied and got accepted. It was so different from American university life in so many ways. I had the greatest time understanding the student life here, as well as immersing myself into the culture. During my studies was when I first started connecting with people in my field of interest and growing a network from local to national to international. I grew a lot, personally and professionally, in those couple of years there – and it is a moment in my life that I would not change a thing about.

The transition from studies to working life here was… quite okay. After securing a permanent position, the stress evaporated. Luckily through the associations that I was involved in and having many Finns as friends, I was able to understand the Finnish culture in depth to the point that I adapted well to the workplace. My colleagues are just the kindest people I have ever worked with. The only barrier still is the language, as many of the internal messages are predominantly in Finnish, but I look at this as a new opportunity to learn the language. And as I tell my co-workers all the time, I am so grateful to be around Finnish daily so that I can pick up words and phrases here and there. Getting better, step by step!

woman posing for camera in front with lake as backdrop

Kelly’s favourite thing about Finland is the tie between nature and the sauna. Image: Kelly Keodara

Whilst working as a Tampere Talent Ambassador, I have observed that… in order to better accommodate our international community, we – and that includes internationals and locals – must support diversity and inclusion. We must understand that we are not here to take away jobs from locals, we want to expand opportunities for all. We must acknowledge that English as a working language is possible and beneficial to all. We must convey the message that internationals can help Finland thrive even more, if we just allow it. Sometimes, it almost feels like there is a stigma in hiring international experts here. I truly believe that this stigma exists because of fear. And the only way to rid of that fear is to face it and hire an international.

The organisations that have supported my professional growth in Finland are… many! Since I have been in Finland, on top of the companies I work and have worked for, these are the local, national and international associations, that I have been a part of that supported my professional growth: UNICEF Rauma, Suomen Punainen Risti, Finnish Model United Nations, AIESEC Tampere, Tampere United Nations Association, United Nations Youth Association Network, Tampere University Student Ambassadorship, City of Tampere Ambassadorship, Tampere Entrepreneurship Society, EU Aid Volunteers of DG EU Commission Humanitarian Aid Office, United Nations, Tampere Ilves Hockey Media Team, WeWorld Italy, and most recently the association that I founded to help internationals better integrate into Finnish society, Bloom.

The main difference in working life in Finland compared to other countries where I have worked… is the work-life balance. I treasure this because I do know how rare it can be in the professional life in other countries. I am able to do my best at work and, if I have an obligation at home, I am able to be flexible with my schedule. It is such a relief, and much less stress, to have this versatility, which can in turn only help the company. When employees are content, better work is naturally radiated.

Businesspeople sat at a desk

Kelly truly values the work-life balance in Finland. Image: Kelly Keodara

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