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My Career: From Start to Finnish

The Finnish startup ecosystem has impressed Hoang-Mai

Get to know more about Hoang-Mai Nguyen via LinkedIn.

Hoang-Mai Nguyen

Hoang-Mai Nguyen, Vietnam, Brand Manager

Nokia and free high-quality education. Those were the two main things Hoang-Mai Nguyen, originally from Vietnam, knew about Finland before moving here. But a few of her friends had moved to Finland to study and recommended she consider the option.

After graduating from high school, Mai applied and was accepted to study business administration at Vaasa University of Applied Sciences (UAS) in 2015. A year later, she moved to Helsinki to continue her studies at Haaga-Helia UAS and made the jump to Finnish working life. It kicked off a career working with tech startups and led Mai to find her passion in marketing.

Today, Mai is a brand manager at a Helsinki-based quantum computing startup and has learnt to appreciate Finnish nature and the long, bright summer days.

How I started at my current place of work is… that I actually applied for a different position. But my manager thought I would be a better fit for another position related to brand and design and offered me that one instead. So I started the job [as a marketing specialist] in August 2021.

Photography is Mai's new hobby.

Hoang-Mai Nguyen

I've always worked in marketing and design. I started as a graphic designer in a small sales and marketing agency in 2016, during the second year of my studies. I've never officially studied graphic design, but I learned the tools when I was still in middle school. These skills have been useful as being a graphic designer doesn't require Finnish skills or many years of work experience. A nice portfolio should do the trick. So I got the job and learned more about working life in Finland.

At the same time, I continued my studies and decided I wanted to work in marketing, instead of focusing solely on design. Finding a marketing job was trickier, since I don't speak Finnish, but my graphic design skills came in handy again and helped me to get my first job in marketing. I started as a marketing coordinator in a software company, and I've worked in tech companies since then.

I believe it's good to have experience in the same industry. For example, I'm pretty sure I was hired by my current employer because I previously worked in a similar deep-tech company.

I found the transition from studying to working… quite easy as I was studying at a university of applied sciences (UAS), and there were many practical projects similar to real working life. The most difficult part was balancing my studies and my job. I only worked part-time during the school months, but it still took quite a lot of my energy.

Mai has started to appreciate nature and clean air after moving to Finland.

Hoang-Mai Nguyen

Otherwise, studying in a UAS and working life are pretty similar. You are responsible for your own projects. You don't always know everything, and you usually have to learn on the go. In work, there are no grades or exams but your performance matters, and you have to push yourself because no one else will.

The main differences in working life in Finland compared to other countries where I have worked are… I've never worked in another country but based on what I heard from my friends, the work-life balance is much better in Finland. You get more paid days off here, and you can leave work after five and get your mind off work. In Asian countries, it's not that easy. The competition is incredibly tough, pushing everyone to work hard. Also, the salary level in Vietnam is lower, and in some cases, you must work hard to make a living.

Furthermore, the work hierarchy in Finland is very different compared to Vietnam or most Asian countries. I was surprised that my managers, or even C-level people, are very accessible. I can always chat with them and discuss either work or personal issues by the coffee machine, during lunch, or over a glass of wine during the company's after-work hours.

What I enjoy most about working in marketing is… that it is a creative field, and you can do many different things. For example, as I work in brand and design, I'm responsible for how the company is presented to external audiences. That can mean organising an event, building up a booth at an exhibition, designing new marketing brochures, creating new web pages or taking care of our social media channels. Even though you don't usually see the results immediately, you will surely notice the impact you've made on the company brand over time.

“The Finnish quantum computing ecosystem is one of the best in Europe.”

Also, the connections and the opportunity to work with others are great. I used to be very shy and introverted, but working in marketing pushed me out of my comfort zone. I've had a chance to work with many talented people in our marketing team and other teams and companies. During events, I get the opportunity to meet many new people, and that helps to broaden my world a lot.

The Finnish quantum computing ecosystem is... strong and one of the best in Europe. It's very impressive, especially when you compare it to the country's population of merely 5.5 million people.

We've attracted many international talents here thanks to the quantum ecosystem's reputation as well developed. The roots of that reputation lie in the cutting-edge low-temperature physics research that started in Finland already in the 1960s. We have many players in the field, from universities to non-profit research organisations, like VTT, to private companies that provide quantum computing hardware, algorithms and software.

Mai’s parents have visited Finland as well.

Hoang-Mai Nguyen

Working with Finnish startups has taught me… that Finland has a great ecosystem for startups. There are many different grants and support available and events for startups to connect with potential investors. (Slush is a good example.)

The Finnish startup ecosystem has also significantly evolved during my time here. There are now many more startups, many of which have been founded by an expat living in Finland. As a non-Finnish person, that means a lot to me.

The organisations that have been helpful for my professional growth in Finland include… my university, Haaga-Helia UAS, and all the companies where I've had the opportunity to work.

Haaga-Helia provided the learning experience and connected students with local companies for school projects, which was really useful for my work CV. Of course, the companies where I've worked have also contributed significantly to my professional growth. My current employer and manager have helped me to grow, not just as a professional but also as a human being.

My favourite thing about Finland is… without doubt or hesitation, Finnish tap water. After tasting it, I find it really difficult to drink water anywhere else.

I also love the honesty of Finnish people. And everyone usually treats each other with lots of respect.


Mai advises students to volunteer at startup events as they are good places to meet potential employers.

Hoang-Mai Nguyen

I would advise anyone considering moving to Finland for work to… network. Finland is a small country, and many opportunities are not advertised. You can find your next job by talking to the right person.

I advise students to volunteer at events like Slush, to have a chance to meet company reps at their booth and discuss potential job opportunities.

What I enjoy most about living in Helsinki is… I love the city during the summer months when everything turns green and becomes different in just a few days.

When I was small, I always wanted to live in a big city. But, since I moved to Finland, I've learned to appreciate nature, clean air and the long summer days. In particular, I enjoy having a nice walk or a picnic in the nearby park or along the sea, and exploring a small restaurant and having lunch on the terrace.

The hobbies that I have really enjoyed in Finland are… Recently, I've found a new hobby: photography. The long, dark winter months have taught me to appreciate the beautiful summer and the long summer days, and I want to capture it all when I can.

Дата публикации 09.10.2023