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Alumni Talk: Virva Haltsonen

After completing an undergraduate degree in Business, Virva Haltsonen returned to the Helsinki School of Economics (today’s Aalto University School of Business) in 1998 to study in the IDBM program.

Although Virva had gotten to appreciate and deal with the complexities of business during her formal undergraduate studies, she was constantly wondering how people with different educational backgrounds could aid the development of solutions to the challenges she and her fellow students were facing in business school. Giving her the unique opportunity to work with people with engineering and design backgrounds at a time when multidisciplinary education was still in its infancy in Finland, Virva chose to join the IDBM program where she worked on a project with Kone in a team of four.

"It’s about understanding different point of views and working with different kinds of people"

Not only did the program put her in the position to work on a nine-month long project with a multinational company. It also taught her to develop the skills necessary to manage and combine vastly different individual skills to collaboratively tackle a complex business problem. To this day, Virva appreciates the opportunity the program gave her to learn how to juggle, at times, volatile team dynamics and client expectations, a skill that she still finds very useful in her role as a design planner at Pentagon Design. Moreover, the exercise of framing and reframing open questions, briefs, and challenges made her realize that, often, defining the right question is as important for a successful project outcome as developing viable solution.

Although the industry project was a cornerstone in her IDBM studies, the degree structure also allowed Virva to meaningfully extent her horizons by taking courses from all three schools of Aalto University, reaching as far out of her own domain as ‘History of contemporary design’.

"I really made the degree my own by combining courses from all three schools"

After finishing her degree, Virva remained at the Helsinki School of Economics where she became program coordinator for the IDBM program and started her doctoral studies. She is today consulting international brands in design strategy, product and service development as well as branding related challenges in her role as a design planner at Pentagon Design.


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