"This is the community that I wanna be a part of"

Meet our alumni: Jaakko Laiho

Jaakko Laiho is the new treasurer of the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation. He finished the EIT Digital Master School Programme Embedded Systems in 2020 and is breeding on two business ideas for a start-up in the area of Digital Wellbeing or Digital Finance. The practice as a board member gives him new insights into the world of accounting. “It is a kind of market research that I am doing for my business.”  

The EIT Digital Alumni Foundation established a new board this summer. That is a reason to talk to the new board members about their motivation and their work and to reflect on their education. Laiho is the third of the seven members. He studied Embedded Systems at the EIT Digital Master School at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Aalto University.

How did you learn about the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation?

“At my entry year at Aalto University, there was a hackathon called Junction, where I participated with friends. The alumni foundation held a network meeting in a space near the event. That is where I became aware of the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation. As soon as I graduated, I became a member as well. I participated in some events. The main reason to join was that I wanted to take part in the board. To do that, I needed to be a member of course.”

Why do you want to be a board member?

“This is the community that I wanna be a part of. The mission speaks to me. The networking aspect makes sense. Both professionally speaking and personal. You meet similar people and are making friends. I like to contribute to the board so I can help people who had the same challenges as I had. The EIT Digital Alumni community resonates well with me. It helps alumni who move to places where they have no friends yet. It organises local events. I like to be supporting other students and alumni to join the community as well. The alumni community is quite special; we have members throughout the globe on all continents. I want to be supportive to this community.”

You are the treasurer of the EIT Digital Alumni Board. What does that mean?

“I am supporting the board members so they don’t have to worry about the bureaucratic aspects of things. I keep track of the foundations’ bank account: I approve expenses and I keep track of the spending for sponsoring local events or for the annual meeting. In practice, I have quite a lot of online calls. We have a growing excitement since a new board meeting is coming up. This will be an in-person meeting. I am excited about meeting the new board members. This is the team with whom I will spend the next two years creating value for the alumni community. I am very excited about it.”

What is your goal with this position?

“My purpose is to gain, operational experience in running a business, in this case, a foundation. The learning curve as a treasurer is interesting. The challenge is going forward. We will have an interesting conversation about budgeting for the upcoming year since we are still restricted due to Corona. How are we going to spend the budgets? It is a kind of market research that I am doing. I can use these experience for my ambitions in that direction.”

What kind of business are you thinking of starting?

"I have a passion for wearable technology. When I go to bed and when I wake up, I have a business idea in my head about hand motion tracking or human behaviour tracking. There is a large space where we see an intersection between wellbeing and behaviour. The world is challenging. Mental wellbeing is a challenge. We are not aware in society that many people suffer needlessly from mental issues. Stress, for example, is like the flu, we have to accept it and learn how to deal and learn with it. Technology can support living with mental problems. This keeps my mind busy."

"At the same time, I am thinking about using Artificial Intelligence for auditing and accounting in an entrepreneurial context. There is a lack of use of technology in the accounting sector. I believe in the value of data-driven intelligence in helping shareholders to take better business decisions. I am exploring this field with a colleague in the family network. I do need to choose between Wellbeing or Finance for I like to go deep into the project I will choose."

Why did you choose the EIT Digital Master School?

“Towards the end of my bachelor (Industrial Engineering and Management at Aalto University, ed.), I had the understanding that industrial engineering management is not my passion. I was looking for alternative directions. I found a flyer in the university hall about the EIT Digital Master School and went to an introduction session at Aalto for potential applicants. I liked the European mobility (studying at two universities). I was excited because of two main reasons. First, the international aspect, how often can you get this fantastic opportunity to meet people from all over the world. That is an enriching experience. The second reason is the entrepreneurial aspect that EIT Digital gives you. I notice now, that I have a different perspective on business ecosystems than my friends have. They envision a conventional career path: graduate, finding a job and make a career. From my perspective, I can be in an employee position or be the employer when I start my own business. The EIT Digital Master School provides me with good baggage to start my career. The unique combination of personal and technical skills, hard and soft skills that you learn, speaks well for the programme. Also, my partner was looking for a masters in Sweden. And this programme offered to study the first year in Stockholm at KTH University, so this also created a perfect living opportunity for my partner and me.”

Why did you choose Embedded Systems?

“At the introduction meeting, I discovered that I was interested in the EIT Digital Master programme Embedded Systems. I am a huge fan of gadgets and electrical things. Making a career based on embedded items sounded like a career of interest to me. Hence, embedded systems seems a logical choice.”

What did you do after graduation?

“The intention was to stay at Accenture. I did an internship at Accenture. Accenture has a department called Liquid studio in the application development space. Here, Accenture prototypes and delivers software to companies. The newest technologies are put into use cases to solve peoples problems. I figured that is what I am interested in. I talked to recruitment. They have such a lab also in the Netherlands. Again, my girlfriend moved for her studies to Utrecht, I wanted to live with my girlfriend, so I ended up in Utrecht. But then Corona happened.  Accenture was not hiring anymore. My girlfriend and I decided to escape Utrecht. Utrecht in the lockdown period was not pleasant. Now we live at her parents’ house in Valkenswaard, a village in the south of Eindhoven. There is a lot more nature. I was seeking employment in Eindhoven. In the meantime, I am upskilling myself and am working on my entrepreneurial ideas.”

Where will you be in 20 years?

“I will have a senior management position in a large global company. I want to have created an impact on society through my venture. Probably, I will never retire. I wanna keep learning more things.”

The Next interview will be with Júlia Hermann, the Secretary of the  EIT Digital Alumni Foundation Board.

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