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Taking the driver’s seat for your own career and personal development

Etti Seppä, currently a strategic designer in the Strategic Design for Innovation team, just moved to Rome, Italy to combine her work with the Entrepreneurship and Innovation master’s program. Etti’s journey with KONE started in 2015 and is full of interesting moves from IT to R&D Innovation as well as inspiring learnings! Read Etti’s story below.

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Taking the driver’s seat for your own career and personal development

My career journey in brief

I started my working life in ABB, Marine & Cranes, and back then I was already very into customer focus and working in an international environment. At the time, cloud technologies were evolving, and luckily I had the opportunity to combine my interests in business and technology when I first joined KONE IT in 2015. During almost four years in IT, my roles evolved from senior business analyst to solution owner and project manager. I completed six projects in total, including implementations of the learning system and IT operating model, and the creation of the Microsoft Teams vision.

I appreciate the fact that KONE’s international work environment provides me with many opportunities to move between countries and work with various units. During my career I have proactively looked for international projects and was happy to take part in assignments in the USA, China and Singapore. It has been a great and rewarding experience!

What I liked in the project manager role is that there is a clear start and end for each project. However, something that was a bit missing for me in the implementation of IT projects was the bigger purpose - I was constantly looking for the 'why'.

That search for 'why' led me to make my biggest career move in 2019 when I changed from IT to R&D. I found out that business design is a new developing area on the side of service design, and realized that this would be a great fit for my aspirations. I got excited as the role involved an approach to innovation that centered on creating desirability, feasibility, and viability . I approached our R&D organization’s Head of Service Design and, to my surprise, they were actually looking for a person exactly with my profile. So, I became the first business designer in KONE – we shaped the new role from scratch with my manager and team members.

”I have all the keys in my hands – but I might need to create the door. With that my manager can help - so long as I know what I want”

In my current role, I focus on understanding the future needs of our customers and looking for business potential for them and KONE. We are developing new business models and iterating new concepts with customers.

Creating something new and developing innovative solutions are my big passions, too. It's about the ambiguity – first comes the stage of knowing nothing and then, via various iterations and experiments, moving towards something more concrete. My role contains a good combination of theory and practice.

“KONE is a great place for horizontal movements”

A career does not necessarily only develop vertically, you might get a much wider perspective by taking a horizontal move. For me personally, going back from the manager role I had in IT to my expert role in R&D was very rewarding.

I went through a huge mindset shift when I started working in the R&D Innovation team – I learned to take a stronger customer perspective and therefore started to understand and appreciate customer value much better. Learning new working methods and content was not easy and I often felt that I couldn’t keep up with my managers and colleagues.

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Shaping my own role and pushing my limits

“I focus on strengths - improving them is much more motivating than fixing weaknesses”

I have never tied myself into specific role descriptions. Instead, I often take responsibilities outside of my role and that way get to develop my role to further fit my interests.

I recommend everyone to go a bit beyond your own role all the time. Obviously, it needs to be discussed with your manager and it also helps to set official targets for professional growth. Additionally, I encourage everyone to communicate to your boss how you want to be led. This is the key to finding synergies. I am really grateful that all my managers (Tia Jähi, Timo Tiainen) have actively supported me to grow as a professional.

For me, the process of shaping my own role started with understanding what I want, then expressing this and asking out loud where this is possible. Finally, you need to make the jump yourself. That is how I ended up studying in Italy – this fuels my current role in KONE and helps me to be close to the customers. Another example of pushing my own limits is that I started taking French courses weekly after having met French customers. Now after patient practice I can already use my French in customer interactions, which helps to open new boundaries.

”I have always wanted to push my limits and to see what I am capable of. I want to be a better version of myself. I am not actually so interested in competing with others – my most challenging opponent is myself”
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Moving forward

I define a target I want to reach each year. A vision of where you want to go with your career really helps to move forward. I am a dreamer and want to move towards my inspiration and my goal.. At the same time, I try not to be too fixed on the plan, to stay open to unexpected surprises. In the end it is not about the destination, it's the journey that matters.

Innovating in a co-creation mode with the customer is what motivates me the most, as well as looking at the world through the customers’ eyes, outside-in. Curiosity and being mindful that there will be always unknown things keep me proceeding to the next steps.

In a hectic corporate environment, the best ideas do not come in amongst all the noise – the focus can disappear, as well as the big picture. You need to have rest. Sport and sleep are vital for me, and my best ideas come to me not while I’m sitting in front of the PC, but while I‘m out jogging, for instance. I then need to run back home to sketch it down while it is still fresh in my head. As for what is next, I would like to continue in the innovation area, but I would like to expand into innovative leadership, as well as managing innovative activities in a corporate environment and KONE is a great place in that respect.

Some tips from Etti

Be curious and keep learning!

  • You have the keys in your own hands always - most of the times you need to build your door as well.
  • Be humble – always willing to learn something new!
  • In order to lead others, learn how to lead yourself and how you want to be led, and communicate that.

Dream big and be passionate!

  • Find out what drives you and what you want – it’s easy to get passionate about that!
  • Change is constant and inevitable – stay resilient and let the change guide your way rather than fighting against it

Work hard and don’t give up!

  • I have my CV always up to date and plan each year how I am going to develop myself
  • Not all progress is vertical. Horizontal moves are also important and might be better in the long run. Do not only look for quick wins!

Rest well

  • Fall in love with regular sports and sleeping – that’s when my brain works the best and my best ideas are being created!
  • Keep in mind those things which you are not willing to sacrifice
  • Surround yourself with people who believe in you

If you are looking for your next growth opportunity, visit our KONE career page, we want to hear from you!

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