A supportive working environment is essential for anyone and especially those who are taking their first steps in professional life. From a trainee's point of view, it’s usually co-workers and leaders who can turn the experience one way or another.
We sat down with three of VTT’s trainees – Sofia, Henry and Maija – from different units of this diverse house. Young professionals shared their thoughts on what it’s like to be a trainee in one of Europe’s leading research institutions.
- Research trainee in Materials in Extreme Environments
- Studies Biomaterials Engineering at Aalto University
- Research trainee in Connectivity Services and Solutions
- Studies Computer Science at Helsinki University
- Communications trainee in Communications Team
- Studies Area and Cultural Studies at Helsinki University
“I feel like here you can come to work as who you are”, says Sofia Ojasalo. Ojasalo, working in Materials in Extreme Environments team, is grateful for having the opportunity to do a wide range of tasks and learn from a wide range of professionals during her traineeship.
“I have always felt respected and seen although I am not an expert yet. Here people are keen on learning new things and developing their skills. It’s a vital part of the culture.”
Her colleagues Henry Blue and Maija Leermakers are on the same page. Blue (Connectivity services and solutions) and Leermakers (Communications) both highlight the importance of finding the right balance between autonomy and support.
“During my time at VTT, my team leader and team members have always helped to guide and support me. Still, I have a lot of input into how I complete the tasks I receive. In that sense, I get to be very self-guided”, Blue clarifies.
“I have always felt like I could ask anything from anybody. I have had a lot of autonomy in terms of deciding what I want to do and been given significant responsibilities in various projects”, Leermakers says.
Work community that values everyone
Working together to solve global challenges in science and technology is certainly meaningful – but it can be fun too. The three trainees are each impressed by VTT’s relaxed working environment and approachable colleagues.
“Having good people around and a fun atmosphere is something that supports my well-being a lot. I think that is the most important thing”, Ojasalo says.
For Leermakers, it was a positive surprise that trainees are treated as an equal part of the team – and given responsibility and freedom as well.
“I have always felt like they truly value everyone here. As a trainee, I am less experienced than everybody else in my team but still, I feel valued.”
Another thing is taking care of employees’ stamina and well-being. Arrangements for functional hybrid work receive a big thumbs up from the triplet as well.
“I feel like there is this trust in me that I will still take care of my tasks even if I take a day off. We are encouraged to take care of our well-being and prevent stress levels from getting too high”, Leermakers applauds.
A truly diverse workplace
Having moved to Finland from Canada and carrying out his first desk job, Blue was struck by how flexible the working culture at VTT is. For him, the opportunity to do hybrid work has been great, even though he still prefers working on-site.
“I like the fact that my time is spent how I wish my time to be spent. Some days I work 9 or 10 hours just because I want to. On the other hand, you are encouraged to not work too much, and you get to leave your work at work”, Blue says.
VTT has over 2000 employees from over 50 different nationalities, and this year they offered traineeships to 80 young professionals. For trainees, the past summer has served as a great opportunity to explore topical issues in research and learn from leading experts from different fields.
“In the beginning, I was surprised by how diverse of a place VTT actually is. I knew that there is a huge variety of very cool research done here but I guess I didn’t know the extent of it”, Ojasalo recalls.
Leermakers had a similar experience. “I have been amazed by how much I’ve been learning about current research happening at VTT. I feel like I have more knowledge now than I did a few months ago.”
Toimittaja: Väinö Vasara
Kuvat: Niko Jekkonen / Maija Leermakers
This article has been made in collaboration with Oikotie.