Alumni of the month is a news series of interviews where we feature Henley Business School alumni from various fields of business. In the interviews, our alumni share what were the most important lessons they learned during their studies and how studying at Henley has impacted both the career and personal life. In addition, you will also get insights on what are the keys to success in each alumnus’ field of business.
Reflection, reflection, reflection
Mirkka Rautala works at Live Nation Entertainment Finland as Head of Development. She has spent the past year and a half putting the skills she learned at Henley to the test as the pandemic shut the industry down.
Working in the dynamic, fast-paced entertainment industry gives one limited chances for stopping and reflecting – whether in the business context or on a personal level. For Mirkka, the biggest takeaways from her studies were the ability and the tools to stop and reflect; think holistically and utilize the frameworks in the practical business environment.
For Mirkka, the Henley MBA was about gaining confidence and learning to understand business holistically. She wanted to enhance her career as well as develop skills that would enable her to grow and contribute more. But it also gave her more than she expected: “I feel like I got everything I wanted out of the program – and way more than I could’ve anticipated! The relationships you build with people, the conversations you have with fellow students from around the world, the networks you build and become part of through the experience are invaluable”, says Mirkka.
The personal development journey throughout the Henley experience was something she has come to value increasingly after her studies. The journey is ever evolving and the learning never stops: “I feel like I reflect a lot more on my personal strengths and weaknesses now. Especially my weaknesses!” she laughs. “I feel like I have the tools now to look at my career path objectively and make decisions that ultimately serve my values best”.
Exploration and growth
“I’ve always been curious and eager to learn”, says Mirkka. “But I wasn’t very focused about learning until Henley.”
For Mirkka, the biggest change the program has brought her has been the courage to change and revise course when needed. “Being ready to admit something isn’t working and having the confidence to say let’s figure it out is critical in the current business environment – especially as live entertainment comes back after the pandemic”, she says.
Mirkka feels that exploration and growth are a mindset that she has learned to cultivate during her time at Henley. To her, every problem presents an opportunity to learn – either about what’s not working in the business context, or about herself. “The pandemic hit our industry hard. We all had to pivot in our roles and suddenly become experts in governmental and legislative processes related to restrictions, or epidemiology and vaccinations! Without a skill set to focus my learning and a dedication to growth and exploration, I would not have been able to pivot effectively. And I have Henley to thank for that”, Mirkka says.
It’s all about the people
Mirkka consistently names the people she met at Henley as the biggest value she has gotten from the program. Learning to see business through a varied set of lenses, most of the time from an international focus point, has broadened her view significantly.
She credits her study cohort as a great support system – and values the friendships she made during the programme. “I know I can still call on them for advice if I need it – even though it’s been a few years since we graduated”, says Mirkka.
To Mirkka, networks are important – but it’s important that they are diverse: “A network of people within your own industry is not enough. You need different viewpoints, different cultures, different business complexities to build a holistic picture.”
“Live entertainment is slowly bouncing back after being shut down for a year and a half during the pandemic. Consumer appetite is strong, fans are looking forward to getting back to events, and we’re looking forward to the roaring 20’s!”, says Mirkka.
Mirkka says her employer took the opportunity during the shutdown to improve internal processes and focused on developing operations. “We’ve really focused on our sustainability efforts, including diversity and inclusion and CSR as a a whole, and that work will continue now that we ramp up operations” she mentions.
“The phrase “changing business environment” really came true for us in the beginning of 2020”, she muses, and continues “and we quickly had to adopt strong change leadership skills. Henley really gave me the tools to be able to adapt”.
Going forward, she is looking forward to resuming business with newly cultivated leadership skills. “We’re really good at listening to our customers and partners. But it is increasingly important that we listen to our people as well and keep them excited about growing the business. Leading through our values, both externally and internally, has become a focus for us.”