Moving to a new country is always challenging and especially so when that happens in the middle of a global pandemic. Carlos Hernández is a Mexican who found himself in Turku after some time studying in Germany. We got to know Carlos when he participated in our career coaching My Finnish Career* in spring 2022 and later was recruited to a local company. We sat down to have a chat with him to learn about his experience in Finland.
How do you feel about you IT and engineering studies here at the University of Turku, have they lived up to your expectations?
– Yes and no. I had a good conception about European education and knew about the good reputation of the Finnish school system, and so far, my studies have provided chances to learn valuable skills when it comes to the labor market. When it comes to interaction with other students and getting to know people, my expectations where a bit higher and finding the places where to socialize has taken more effort. Of course, in the studies, we have some projects but since Finland is culturally very different from where I grew up it takes time to break the ice. Covid obviously did not help.
Where have you found the places to socialize?
– Within the uni setting I have been participating and volunteering for ESN, participating in their events and parties. I also joined the Boost community. However, for me it has also been important to do something outside university. That is why I’ve been taking dancing classes, Finnish language courses and found a multicultural community of people interested in Spanish. And of course, I have to mention Villa Järvelä, where you get to understand the sauna tradition and that Finns really open up when they relax.
As in most countries, finding a job or an internship is easier when you have connections – what is your experience of this?
– Well, I started to look for jobs in Finland in October 2021 by scrolling through job portals and LinkedIn, and ended up having one or two interviews, but they never turned into anything. I was becoming less optimistic when spring came and I had nothing. Still, my field is software and embedded systems, so there should be something! I participated in the career coaching course and by applying the knowledge and understandings from that course I was able to do a better market research on what kind of jobs were available. This made it possible to target my applications more and sell myself better. Eventually, I found my internship at Groke through a friend from Boost. I emailed the CEO, introduced myself, what I could offer them (I had done research on what they worked with), and was invited to an interview. My profile fitted their need and I guess my personality also fitted the company culture. I also think the timing was right, so in that sense I was also a bit lucky.
Absolutely, timing is important and in career counseling we often talk about “happenstance” and your story sounds like a case example. What about working in a Finnish company? Where there any surprises?
– I like the way Finnish companies can be agile and serious at the same time. I don’t know if this is a surprise, but definitely something I appreciate. The company’s processes were really organized without being bureaucratic and the atmosphere was relaxed. Flat management structures and no micro-management. This gives you responsibility and a feeling of trust, which I felt was good for the job environment and the results. What might come as a surprise, or at least something that’s good to be aware of, is that many Finns don’t really like to talk about money or salaries. Finding out about wages or how much you can ask for an entry-level position is hard.
You are right, and maybe we will see a shift there in the future. Do you have any other tips regarding finding a job or starting a life in Finland?
– I would say just seize the opportunity to try things without too many expectations! Be open even if you are rejected – whether that’s in job seeking or simply when discussions end abruptly because the lack of small talk. The enjoyment usually comes through getting used to something – be it saunas or cold showers – so a kind of stoic philosophy, to learn to cope with a situation, might help.
Sounds tough, but I guess moving to a new country is never easy. What are your plans for the future?
– Well, I’ve been working after my initial internship as well as working on my thesis, and I’ve always seen Europe as an attractive possibility to live and work in. Some time ago, I was contacted by a recruiter from Germany on LinkedIn and will be moving there to work in spring. But before that I will spend some time back in Mexico for the first time in almost two years.
Wow, that sounds great! Less great for Finland. Maybe we will see you moving back some day?
– Maybe! I’m always open to work and live in Finland again, especially if I have a family some day.
Thank you for sharing your experience, Carlos!
Written by: Lotta Metsärinne, Career Services at UTU
*As of 2023 the coaching will not be offered as such, but similar activities and guidance is found through the Career Services at both University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University.