• News
  • People
  • Long Read
  • Opinion
  • Weekend Wrap

My Career: From Start to Finnish

Erica found love, Moomins and weightlifting in Finland

Get to know more about Erica via LinkedIn.

Erica Terranova

Erica Terranova, Italy. Growth Marketing Lead.

Coming to Finland wasn’t initially on Erica Terranova’s radar. It was more of a serendipitous journey. Erica initially studied cultural sociology in her home country of Italy, had a stint in Denmark and became interested in the Nordics. She had a few contacts in Finnish universities, and when the opportunity arose to do a PhD exchange here, she decided to take the plunge. 

Fast-forward 12 years, and Erica now calls Helsinki home, serving as the marketing lead for a beloved Finnish brand. But the road to this point hasn’t been without its ups and downs. On the one hand, while studying at Tampere University, she crossed paths with her future husband and discovered an affinity for the Nordic lifestyle. On the other, the transition from academia to the job market proved to be a daunting task. But Erica persevered. After the first door opened, she started to build a career in growth marketing, worked at tech firms and eventually landed her dream role at Moomin Characters.

Erica does regular public speaking on growth marketing and career building in Finland.

Dafne Meneses & Nayeli Ortiz /Nordic Inclusify Ry

Today, Erica pays it forward by sharing her expertise and experiences, particularly within the startup and international communities. She is a prolific public speaker, mentors entrepreneurs and has established a resourceful website to guide international talent seeking opportunities in Finland.

A new start up north

On my first day in Finland… I met the person who is now my husband. The longer I've lived in Finland, the more I've recognised this is a great place for me. I didn't realise before coming here that I'm an introvert because it isn't really possible to be one in Italy. I've always loved the Nordic countries and contact with nature. And I don't like the heat, even though I'm from Sicily, so many factors made me think I could stay here.

But it was difficult to move away from academia and start my career. At some point, I thought I'd leave if I couldn't find a job soon. There were fewer initiatives and free resources 10 years ago than there are now. LinkedIn wasn't big yet and it was so much harder to find information. I had been a bit sheltered because I had been in academia, so I didn't know how to package my skills and how to make the transition to the private sector. Or even what I could or wanted to do. 

Also, in the beginning, I was in Tampere, and it wasn't international at all. It has become much more international now. There were a lot of obstacles in that sense, and it took me quite a while to figure out what I could do, but once I got my foot in the door, [my career] has been ongoing ever since. 

Olympic weightlifting is a new hobby for Erica. 

Erica Terranova

How I got into marketing is… through organising events. I realised this is super interesting. I kind of fell into it. As an ex-academic, I find it very important to be in a field where you must keep learning new things. This happens in marketing: you're constantly upskilling and the landscape changes all the time. What was working last week is not going to work this week. So, for me, that's a perfect fit.

I always tell people that if they learn how to study and learn new things efficiently, they will always be fine because that's the biggest skill that they need.

National icon goes international

As the first foreigner hired at Moomin Characters… they had to change many things to accommodate me. They had to change the working language and adjust to the fact that somebody from a different culture was coming in, but it has been absolutely wonderful. I've been made to feel very welcome.

I got the job [in 2020] when I managed to catch the only open position the company had had in a very long time.I applied the same second I spotted it. It was a position that required Finnish and Swedish skills, but in the end, they decided they needed my skills more than those languages. I always advise people to look at what technical skills are in demand and try to develop those skills as much as possible. Then, language doesn't matter as much. 

The company language is now English. I understand and speak some Finnish, but we are an international company and work all around the world, so it makes sense.

When I tell people I work with Moomins… they often don’t get it at first because nobody thinks of Moomins as a company. But then people are really lovely and want to know more. 

Finnish nature, in particular hiking in Lapland, is close to Erica’s heart. 

Erica Terranova

Everybody in the organisation is committed to honouring Tove Jansson's legacy. We want to be really careful about the brand, the stories and the values. You have a much stronger emotional connection than with most employers because it's much more than just a company. It's really a cultural icon, and it means so much to so many people. Many people tell me I have their dream job, and it's my dream job, too.

A changing career

Compared to when I started my career, I see many positive changes… with international talent finding work in Finland. However, there is still a long way to go. There is a lot more discussion about these topics and more awareness about the fact that there is plenty of international talent ready to work. There are also more organisations, like International Working Women of Finland, Women in Tech, Tech Nordic Advocates and The Shortcut, working towards international integration. There is still much work to be done, but at least there is more discussion about diversity and inclusion.

I think there needs to be much more integration between different services here. For example, there is a huge mismatch between employment offices and what companies require. 

I'd advise every international person to… do a couple of things when job hunting here. Number one: understand networking. It's essential because Finland is a small market based on trust. People are also likely to hire based on trust. Finding a job is much harder if you don't have experience in a Finnish company or Finnish people who can refer you. Every international person should start networking from day one, and many opportunities will come from that. 

The second one is to really understand your field. How your sector works in your country can be very different from how it works here. You need to talk with recruiters and people who work in your field and ask what the skills that are most in demand are and what you need to understand. 

Erica has experienced first-hand how Moomins are a cultural icon in Finland.

Laura Vanzo / Tampere Moomin Museum

The third thing is to focus. Many people think I will just apply to every single job with the same application, and that doesn't work. You really have to do tailored applications and build relationships with the companies that are likely to hire you.

What works living in Finland

The work hierarchy in Finland… is lower than in many countries. In Italy, you wouldn't necessarily use first names with your superiors. And the relationship between employees and employers is more balanced here because of the strong trade union system. I definitely recommend everybody join a union. 

There is also more focus on work-life balance, which isn't always realistic in other countries where people are expected to work a lot more than their official hours. 

Work-life balance means… more time to dedicate to other things in life. I write fiction, and I wrote my first book in Finland. I'm currently looking for a publisher for it. I also recently started weightlifting, which is very different from anything I've done before, and I've taken on ice swimming in the winter, which has been really interesting experience. 

One of my favourite things in Finland is hiking in Lapland. It’s so beautiful there. 

I enjoy Helsinki’s close proximity to nature… I live one minute from the forest and five minutes from the sea. There is a lot of greenery and nature around, which is amazing. I like the slower pace and quieter life here, it isn't a crowded metropolis. 

Дата публикации 24.04.2024