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The Power of Teamwork, Communication, And Maintaining Great Balance – Aino Äijö: Aalto University School of Business

Aino Äijö
Aino Äijö

Determination, resilience, an appetite for success and a dedication to self-improvement. Such qualities can be typically found on the CV or personal statement of anyone seeking to gain entry to the C-Suite – a seat at the table in the boardroom. The same skillset can also be found in the locker rooms and on the courts and pitches of any sport in the world – from ping-pong to football.

Indeed, professional athletes share a skillset and an attitude akin to many of the most successful and ambitious leaders in industry today, so it’s hardly a surprise that so many of the world’s sporting elite find their way to business education, and excel at it. Whether to satisfy their consistent desire for professional growth and improvement or to set in place a plan B – a way to continue their legacies when their sporting glories are behind them, business schools around the world are opening their doors to students from less stereotypical backgrounds such as sports, recognising the value such individuals can bring.

In this BlueSky Thinking mini-series, we sit down with sporting stars around the world, transforming the attitudes, values and ambitions developed through lifelong competition to the classroom. Here they share how their own experiences have helped to shape their futures, and provide learning opportunities for those around them.

Name: Aino Äijö

School: Aalto University School of Business

Programme: Bachelor’s in Business

Nationality: Finnish

Tell us a little about yourself. Where did your journey in competitive sports begin? How have you grown as an athlete over the years?

I am a first-year bachelor’s student at Aalto University School of Business in Finland. Apart from being a university student, I am also a synchronised skater. I have skated for 14 years; first as a figure skater and for the past nine years in synchronised skating. Currently, I’m a skater in Team Unique.

Team Unique is Helsingfors Skridskoklubb’s (HSK) Finnish Championship senior team and we placed 3rd in the World Synchronised Skating Championships in April. We train as a team for approximately 25 hours a week. I have been participating in competitions for as long as I can remember, from local club competitions for children to the World Synchronised Skating Championships this spring. 

Over the years, I have grown as an athlete in several ways. I have learned to work hard to achieve my goals, compete under pressure and tolerate challenging situations. I know my strengths as an athlete and the importance of teamwork and open communication. 

Studying and training for competitions must take up a lot of time. How do you balance your busy timetable, so that you are able to perform both academically and athletically? 

Balancing my academic studies and athletics requires personal discipline, effective planning, and flexibility. It is important to find a routine and an approach that works best for you while keeping your long-term goals in mind. At Aalto University School of Business, I’ve especially appreciated the possibility of being able to create your own study schedules for the busy parts of the athletic season.

During my first academic year, I have completed basic courses in business and economics in different subjects and had an opportunity to become part of the student community.

Are there scholarships/schemes/facilities at Aalto that have helped you keep competing in sports while studying? If so, how have they helped you?

A cooperation between Aalto University School of Business and Sports Academy URHEA has been created to offer help to student athletes in their studies. During the first academic year, I have received valuable information about different possibilities to combine my studies with sports.

I’ve also appreciated having a contact person through URHEA for example in case in need of extending coursework deadlines.

“Balancing my academic studies and athletics requires personal discipline, effective planning, and flexibility. It is important to find a routine and an approach that works best for you while keeping your long-term goals in mind.”

Business and sports are both highly competitive environments. Have you found there are advantages from having a foot in both worlds? And if so, how have these advantages shaped your time at business school?

It is true that business and sports are both competitive environments and require a competitive mindset. These two environments have much in common psychologically. It is an advantage to have them both in my life. I’m definitely going to use everything that I have learned from skating and competing during my time at business school.

What are your future plans? How do you see your time as a sportsperson shaping the rest of your career? And how will your studies also provide career opportunities in the short and the long-term?

In the long run, I see business and sports will both be part of my life. I would love to be able to combine these two elements in my future career. On the other hand, it would be interesting to find and create new opportunities in other fields based on the knowledge I have.

At the moment I am looking forward to starting my major studies, hopefully in marketing during the next academic year. 

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