Fanny Vainionpää, University of Oulu
"In high school, I used to be jealous of those who had a clear career choice in mind. Later, I realised that even if you don't know what you want to do in high school, you don't have to worry about it."
What have you studied and how did you choose this option?
I was encouraged by my family to go into IT and I took a programming course in high school, but I didn't feel I was particularly mathematical. I found a computer science course called Business IT at the University of Applied Sciences, from which I graduated as a Bachelor of Business Administration. I liked art subjects and thought that making a website would be a nice visual and creative thing to do. After the polytechnic, I applied for a Master's degree in Computer Science at the University of Oulu.
How did you become a researcher?
From the master's thesis, the journey continued straight to the dissertation, encouraged by my supervisor. I was investigating the reasons why girls of secondary school age were not applying to engineering. Being a researcher has allowed me to get involved in interesting things and it has led me down interesting paths. I'm interested in the broader issue of how technology affects individuals and society.
What is the best thing about your job?
The pleasure of learning new things. There is always something new to discover. You meet a lot of people in this job and you also work a lot together, which feels meaningful. The enthusiasm of your colleagues is also contagious. Everyone is so interested in what they are doing. Another nice thing is the travelling. I go to conferences all over the world. You also get to experience internationality in your own workplace, at the university.
What have been the highlights and most important lessons of your career?
There are certain milestones in PhD work, such as publishing an article and getting a PhD. Reaching these milestones gives you a sense of competence and achievement. Other highlights include successful events organised together. When you have to challenge yourself and push yourself into uncomfortable territory in your work, you learn an awful lot. A good working community goes a long way.
What are your expectations for the future?
I still don't really know where this road will lead, and that's a nice thing. There are a lot of opportunities and I would like to stay open to them. I try to keep my eyes open for different opportunities and follow my own interests with curiosity, as I have done so far.
For whom is this a suitable career option?
A researcher's career can focus on research, teaching or project work, so you can tailor your work according to your interests. It's good to be someone who likes to read and write, as there's a lot of that involved. The most important thing is your own interest in the subject, so that you can keep on researching it. Different qualities bring different strengths.
What greetings would you like to send to a young person considering a career choice?
In high school, I used to be jealous of those who had a clear career choice in mind. Later, I realised that even if you don't know what you want to do in high school, you don't have to worry about it. Following your interests in your studies can lead you to a job that interests you. You can also change your field of study later if you feel like it. Certainly, none of your studies will be wasted.