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Emma Nordbäck, Doctoral Student At Aalto University In Finland.

Emma Nordbäck, Doctoral Student at Aalto University in Finland. Emma is currently based in Washington D.C. working on her PhD.

Emma Nordbäck, Doctoral Student at Aalto University in Finland. Emma is currently based in Washington D.C. working on her PhD.

Emma, what do you consider typical characteristics of your generation?
What distinguishes us from our parents is that we are initially more lost in this world. Very few of us can tell by an early age what we want to do when we grow up. Even fewer of us actually end up doing what we studied. It’s like an endless road of surprises, which actually keeps us going and motivated. Our generation would not stay with the same job for an entire life. We enjoy learning new things and always seek new challenges. So when trying to orient ourselves towards the future, a 10-year calendar would not do us any good. On this road we take risks, we consider ourselves explorers, not to mention “internet explorers”. As the first generation growing up with technology we really have gone through radical changes in the way we communicate, solve problems and create relationships. Although we are not like the next generation (Gen Z?) who literally have a computer in their hand before they can talk, we do utilize technology flexibly to reach our goals, and find solutions to problems we encounter. We reach out to like-minded people all over the world, and create impressive networks both within and outside work. Shortly put, we need action, we need excitement and we take risks and work hard to reach our goals. Goals, that very likely will change along the way.

What do you expect from corporate leadership in today’s business world?
I like to view leadership across all different levels of the organization emphasizing that, whoever of us can, should participate in leadership to bring the organization forward. Therefore, I would not expect the organization to fail if all corporate leaders suddenly decided to go to Aruba for a few weeks. I expect corporate leaders to work on more long-term goals and decision-making. I expect them to leverage the company’s spirit towards its workers in a continuous interaction with the workforce. Corporate leaders need to bring forward the voice of the workforce while listening to market needs and putting forward necessary changes. In a functioning organization, corporate leaders should be rather unnoticeable for the individual worker. When people are empowered to take care of their work responsibilities independently together with their peers, then the corporate leaders have done a good job.

Emma Nordbäck, Doctoral Student at Aalto University in Finland. Emma is currently based in Washington D.C. working on her PhD.

Emma Nordbäck, Doctoral Student at Aalto University in Finland. Emma is currently based in Washington D.C. working on her PhD.

What engages you most in the workplace and makes you go the extra mile?
Being the enthusiastic researcher that I am, I get blown away by learning new things, networking with new fascinating people and getting the satisfaction of seeing the impact of my work. I enjoy teamwork and in principal, anyone can get me to go the extra mile for a good reason. In practice, however, I am my strongest enemy making myself go the extra mile perhaps a bit too often. Shortly put, I enjoy working hard and combining that with some premium holiday here and there in-between, if that make sense?

What kind of development opportunities do you expect to be offered by your employer?
I expect an employer to allow employees to take part in development work at various levels in the organization. First, I hope that the employer realizes the value of maintaining a strong workforce by investing in people. Hence, the employer should provide workers with intriguing training opportunities beyond PowerPoints to be downloaded online. In addition, or should I say in return, I believe that involving the worker in organizational development will result in not only a committed workforce, but also in more successful implementations of change. Not only do I believe that creativity in the workplace thrives this way, but also work motivation is boosted. For example, wouldn’t you say that you are more likely to adapt to a new process or tool, if you had an opportunity to influence its implementation? The opportunity is key, although every single voice rarely can be heard.

What is your preferred way to communicate in the workplace?
Having promoted flexible work and global teamwork as an important way to conduct work in the future, it is funny how I still think about all the benefits of face-to-face communication. Recently, however, I have engaged more in video calls and must say that I love them. I have become pretty close with people that I haven’t even met face-to-face. Also, communicating via text and pictures keeps maintaining a social presence. The important thing is just to keep communicating, whichever way. Personality and other differences between people, in combination with physical distance, may cause people to fall into their own silos, so you just got to keep pushing communication and keep talking. How you do that is less important.

How does your ideal workplace physically look like?
My ideal workplace differs depending on my current work task, current mood, current location, etc. I am lucky to be a part of today’s workplace transformation, as we see a move towards a more flexible use of various workspaces. When I need to concentrate, I rather stay home or go to a coffee house. If my home is messy, I prefer the latter and presumably a small and cosy one, or a place where you can look up from your computer once in a while to see the streets filled with people rushing by. When I have a meeting, I do not care so much about the surrounding physical workspace, as long as you can feel the presence and attention of the participants.

What are the priorities during this phase of your life?
Currently, my highest priority is to enjoy life while developing my skills to settle into the workplace. Although I highly prioritize to finish my dissertation, I find all other projects I undertake as important and valuable. There is a time after your dissertation, right?

When do you experience “flow” – the mental state in which a person is fully immersed in an energizing activity and is so focused that he/she loses track of time?
I tend to get into a good flow when I am under real pressure. That’s why I tend to cause pressure in order to experience flow and be productive. Or at least, I keep telling me that’s the reason.

Please complete this sentence: For me, my job is…
… what keeps me setting the alarm at 6:30 AM in the morning instead of staying in bed, and makes me forgetting about time in the afternoon.

What do you wish your colleagues from other generations would know about Gen Y?
That we value all the insights we get from our more experienced peers. I would be nothing without my colleagues from other generations. Their presence to me is invaluable, making the whole workforce diversity so exciting.

Thank you, Emma, for these valuable insights!

About the author

Lisa Mangelsdorf

I confess that I work to live rather than live to work. But when I can combine my passions into my work, I work best. This blog brings together discussions about one of my passions which is connecting people. I endeavour to fight the norm by chasing flexible working options and change seekers, hence my involvement with this blog. I'm fortunate to be connected with a global team at GAIA Insights. Retaining Gen Y within the workforce is an issue for most businesses across the globe. For help contact us because we know EXACTLY what they want from the workplace and we can help your business retain that key talent.

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