Johanna Småros, RELEX Solutions

Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer

"There isn’t just one path forward – you’ll discover a multitude of cross-roads and new choices to make along the way."

Johanna Småros, Co-founder and CMO of RELEX Solutions

What have you studied and what influenced this choice back in the day?

I studied industrial engineering and management at Aalto University (which was Helsinki University of Technology back when I was a student.) I didn’t really know what I wanted to study but as I was good at math and physics, yet not really interested in technology, my brother, who was studying electrical engineering, suggested that I’d apply for the industrial engineering and management program, which combines engineering, process management, and economics. 

What was your first job after graduation? How did you end up in your current position from there?

I got a summer job in the Logistics Research Group, went on to do my master’s thesis as part of group’s research, and ended up continuing as a researcher and D.Sc. student in that same research group. My future co-founders were colleagues of mine in the research group and after two out of three co-founders had finalized our doctoral studies, we founded RELEX Solutions to further develop and commercialize solutions we had started developing as researchers. 

What is the best thing about your job?

As co-founder you don’t have any excuses. If you don’t like the way things are, you either change them or decide some things are just minor annoyances not worth spending time fixing. If something needs to be done, you find a way of getting it done. There is no room for complaining, which fosters a healthy attitude of focusing on the things you can and want to change and not worrying about the rest. 

What have been the highlights and key lessons of your career?

RELEX Solutions has grown from a few people to more than 1800 people across the globe and from zero hundreds of clients, including some of the world’s biggest retailers. Since we founded RELEX in 2005, there have been so many firsts and so many highlights that it’s impossible to pick out just a few. What still motivates me the most is seeing the measurable impact our solutions have on our clients’ processes. The efficiency gains also go hand in hand with sustainability improvements. 

All my key lessons learned are related to understanding people – understanding different motivations, different personalities, different cultures, and different contexts – because every business is built by people for people. 

What are your plans and goals in the future?

We aim to further grow RELEX Solutions by continuously leveraging technology to bring increasingly more value to more clients. At the same time, we want to be a great company to work with and work for. 

When it comes to my personal life, I don’t have plans or goals. What’s important to me is to live my life in accordance with my values. 

What kind of person is suitable for your profession?

Founders come in many shapes and forms. As a founder, one has huge opportunities to shape how things are done but, at the same time, there is quite a lot of pressure to really get those things done. Entrepreneurship may come with bigger ups and downs than a regular job and it typically requires quite a bit of persistence, resilience, and creative problem-solving.

Your greetings for young women in high school deliberating their future career?

Don’t stress too much about if you don’t know what you want to do in the future or what choices you make at this point. In many cases, a person needs to try out different things to discover what they really enjoy, what their strengths are, and what keeps them motivated. There isn’t just one path forward – you’ll discover a multitude of cross-roads and new choices to make along the way. Technology can be a great option due to the versatility of the field as well as the opportunity to drive significant impact at scale. 

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