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Can dyslexic action learner study a Master’s degree?

Am I academic enough? How about my dyslexia, will that effect? English is not even my first language. Will I have enough time and energy to do it part-time, alongside my full-time job?

There were many questions in my head when I started the Master’s course two and half years go. I knew I wasn’t really good ‘student’ as I don’t like sitting down, listening and remembering stuff for exams. I prefer action, learning-by-doing and experiential stuff. Could a girl with these characteristics do a Master’s degree?

My family is not academic and I haven’t had many academic role models either. The reason I studied my undergraduate course was probably because my friends went to University and because I found this entrepreneurship course that was actually for people like me (Tiimiakatemia/Team Academy), so it was all about running your own business and learning through the experience. Getting a BBA was a huge thing for me already, so I never even dreamed about doing a Masters degree.

Things changed when I started working at Northumbria University, in the North East of UK. I was suddenly surrounded by academics and pretty much everyone was studying too (most of them for doctorates though). Soon I was offered to study masters, which felt like an amazing opportunity even though I didn’t have a clue if I would be actually capable of doing it.

I was happy to hear that this course, MSc in Leadership and Management wouldn’t be the most traditional one. First of all, you could only do it part-time and everyone in the course had to be working for an organisation so that they could immediately apply the learned knowledge into practice. Then I was like YAY, that suits for me! And it did, all the modules and assignments were connected to you as a leader, you developing the organisation, researching it challenges and creating strategies to solve them.

During the course, I learned to like reading academic articles, even though it takes me twice as long (thanks dyslexia) and most of the times I fall asleep after few pages, I don’t know why, but that just happens. And I also created an interest in research, which I thought would never happen, I even wrote an academic article with my colleague, can you imagine that?

The last two and half years has been exciting, I have learned so many new things, but I must say that it hasn’t been easy, but then again life doesn’t need to be easy all the time.

So yesterday I did my final presentation, the final dissertation was already handed in a month ago. Now I just need to wait, few more weeks and I will know if I have done it. If I have been able to overcome all my fears and do the ‘impossible’…

If there are others like me, who think they don’t fit the normal University system but want to develop themselves further, don’t give up as there are programmes and courses that suit for us too, we can all do it if we really want to, if we just believe in ourselves and if we don’t give up!

 

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Entrepreneurs by degree

Originally published in BQlive magazine and website on 9/3/2016 http://www.bqlive.co.uk/2016/03/09/entrepreneurs-by-degree/

An entrepreneurial degree achieved without teacher, classroom or exams sounds questionable but Nina Jussila is helping that to come about in North East academia. Brian Nicholls looks into it.

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Once you meet Nina Jussila it shouldn’t surprise you that aspiring entrepreneurs from Newcastle Business School have given Northumbria University the distinction of winning a national contest to find successful start-ups.

A learning support officer, Nina is also a key personality behind the launch of a new entrepreneurial business management degree course, which Northumbria to its credit has been the first of four UK universities to introduce. If the course proves as successful as early results suggest, we shall be justified in asking why UK universities haven’t tried it out long before, since it has been turning out successful entrepreneurs in Finland for around two decades now.

Nina herself is a product, and today is an educational entrepreneur. Jyväskylä University, Finland’s second largest university – in terms of masters degrees conferred, and the birthplace of education in the Finnish language (from 1863)  – has gained Jyväskylä (population 135,591) the soubriquet Athens of Finland, precisely for its contribution to education.

Jyväskylä, though the largest city of central Finland is a much smaller host to academia than Oxford, Edinburgh, and certainly Newcastle, Sunderland or Teesside. Yet its innovative programme for entrepreneurs started easily enough. A lecturer there, wishing to try something different, displayed a poster. “Do you want to travel around the world and learn some marketing?” it asked. The first team of students, on graduating, went on the road with the money they had made.

Newcastle Business School’s course has been developed with what’s called the Team Academy in the Jyväskylä Institute of Science and Technology. A 10-year check of the programme in Finland showed the percentage of Team Academy graduates there starting new businesses was five to 10 times higher than in traditional higher education institutions. One out of every three of the Finnish graduates start a business straight after finishing their studies.

To anyone wavering about a university Nina-02_268x179education the course towards an entrepreneurial business management degree sounds tempting: no teachers, no exams, no classrooms. But there’s always a day of reckoning, and for these students there are still assignments to be done, presentations to be made and reflections expressed – all fully connected with their chosen business.

From the start they’re doing business with real money, cultivating real customers. They’re pushed into the field to talk to people and make contracts. “Everything is real,” Nina points out. She heard about the course when considering her future and thought: “That’s something I’d definitely like to do. It’s made such a huge impact on me. I was able to do things no-one would ever expect me to do,” she recalls.

After graduating at 23 and taking a gap year, she started her own company as an educational coach and working on other projects also. “So many young people feel they don’t fit in the normal model of learning,” she observes. “I wondered how I could help others like that to succeed as well. Afterwards I didn’t want to stay in Finland. I thought Spain could be interesting but decided England’s business culture was closer to Finland’s, and it’s a nice place with the opportunity I was looking for.”

Newcastle and Bristol were the first cities to test the course. “I had the opportunity to come to Newcastle for a few months to help out, and here I am after just over two years involved in running the course,” says Nina, who is 26. Northumbria’s course is going well, she feels, as the success in the competition seems to have borne out. “The first year is always hard for students,” she elaborates. “They have no role models. But some people are passionate about a particular interest and think how to build a business out of it. Many come in with no idea at all. They simply feel that running their own business is how they want to do things.”

By the second of the three years’ study they understand the culture more and can see others who started their business. It’s all about learning by doing. Aspirants are not told what they should do. “When they first come in we lend them £10,” Nina explains. “They must make as much with that £10 as possible. They’re a bit shocked at first but that’s the whole ethos.  That’s their seed fund. They bring in some money with the start of their business and invest that for the next project. It works.”

They obviously have to decide how to learn about marketing. They have to find books, find people who already knowledgeable about marketing, and adapt as necessary to plan their project and improve their concept.

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“It’s just-in-time learning,” Nina explains. “We don’t tell them ‘you must learn all this now’ because they won’t need it all now and may soon forget it. So it’s learning through need. Once you need that information you have to learn it.” Also the students are based in a business rather than a traditional environment of academia, so they can be surrounded by actual entrepreneurs. That’s why the Newcastle course is run at the Northern Design Centre at Gateshead, rather than in Northumbria University itself. They don’t have a work placement because, as Nina puts it, their own company is their work placement.

Around 65 students – team entrepreneurs, they are called – are on the Northumbria course, making up six teams in total. Each team company has one coach – “our academic staff coach rather than teach,” Nina stresses. “I’m not academically inclined and don’t have my own team. But I’m part of every team, running everything other than the academic side.”

When Nina and her team colleagues graduated they closed the company they had been building. But four different companies, which had already been started during the course, continued. “On graduating, you can decide whether you want still to be with the company you have worked on. Our third year students here are now deciding whether to incorporate their businesses,” Nina says.

So what of her own entrepreneurial future? “I’d love to stay a few more years in England, then who knows?” she wonders. “I have a passion about considering how to change education. I’m doing my masters now and it could help me get credibility for a future company. People will listen to me more. But I don’t see myself as a lecturer. Bouncing ideas off other people is what gives me energy.”

Meanwhile her existing endeavours draw appreciation. An associate says: “She’s a lovely, vibrant young woman – a huge support and font of knowledge for the students already firming up their business plans for the future.”

You can also find the article from their North East & Cumbria: Spring 2016 Magazine (pp.64-67):

 

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What you need to know when moving to UK?

Yay, so I did get the job from Northumbria University, so now you can call me Entrepreneurial Learning Support Officer, how cool is that! It took many long months to get to this point but it did payed off in the end so sometimes you just have to be patient and trust the process!

So I got the job now, but because I am not from UK and I haven’t earlier worked in UK officially I have to get myself into the registers like example I have to get National Insurance (NI) number to be able to work in here, also it’s important to open an British Bank Account so I am able to get paid and get myself signed into the local National Health Service (NHS).

So I applied for the National Insurance number and I got it already few months ago (wanted to be prepared if I would get the job), now it was time to sign the contract with the University. But I could not sign it before I would have my banking details which they needed to get me into the payroll system, so next I went to the Bank to open an account. Banks need and official proof about your address, apparently my house rental agreement wasn’t enough for that, but when I would get my Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Tax Coding letter I could open the Bank Account with that. Ok, so next I called to HM Revenue and Customs and asked about my PAYE Tax Coding letter. They told me that for some reason my National Insurance number has not registered for them yet, so they couldn’t do anything before that. After calling them again later they suggested that I would call to the people behind my National Insurance number. Well I did call them and they told that I just need to confirm my NI with this CA5403 form which I can print out from their website, to fill it in and send to them by post and after that they can give my NI number to others, and I just really wonder how come they had not mentioned that anywhere before.

So at the moment I am just waiting again to hear when they have received my filled CA5403 form and if PAYE will get confirmation about my information and if they will send me that Tax Coding letter so I can open the Bank Account and finally sign my contract with the University. How great it is to move into a new country? 😀

I also registered myself into National Health Service (NHS) which was almost too easy, as I just filled few papers, confirmed my address with the house rental agreement (same one which wasn’t enough for the bank) and that’s it. So they promised to contact me in one week after they have got me into the system and after that I can book appointments when ever I want, great, 10 points for NHS!

But in other hand even though it’s not always that simple or if everything does not make sense this is still quite fascinating too, I am learning so much about the British systems as it’s definitely a bit different than Finnish one, so if you are Finnish and moving to UK I am more than happy to help with any questions! 😀

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One way to take your business international

Around seven months ago I was still dreaming about working in United Kingdom, but I knew what I wanted and with help of Akatemia CIC and Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program that dream came true. Now that my five months in the program is over, I would like to go through what really happened on that process and why I would recommend this journey to everyone who is interested to get the first step to go international, but just don´t know how.

How everything started

First time I heard about this program was few years ago and I already got excited of it, but on that time I was still studying at University. So right after I graduated I started to search more about this opportunity. I had thought about starting my own company in future and working abroad would be just amazing.

I started my research by going to their website: http://www.erasmus-entrepreneurs.eu/

I looked for my local contact point from Finland and gave them a call. I was positively surprised about the call, they were super helpful and I got the feeling that they really wanted to make it happen with me. So I had option to just look for random host entrepreneurs in Europe from their system or if I had some company in my mind to do it with.

I knew I would like to improve my skills as a Team Coach and to help education to change their methods to be more entrepreneurial and I knew this company from UK who are working exactly on these areas in there. Soon after that I had chat with Alison Fletcher from Akatemia CIC, she liked the idea and we started our process to apply for the program. So for me it worked well to ask straight from the company, even I am sure it would have been interesting to see what kind of other options there would have been for me.

So who can participate to this program then? “New entrepreneurs, firmly planning to set up their own business or have already started one within the last three years; Or as a Host Entrepreneur: Experienced entrepreneurs who own or manage a Small or Medium-Sized Enterprise in one of the Participating Countries.”

How was the time in UK

I can just say I am super happy I did it! I have been able to train my Team Coaching skills with Northumbria University students from their Entrepreneurial Business Management course, I have made so many new connections in UK which I would have never been able to make without being in here. I have been also able to improve my English as a business language which was one of my big goals, I was also leading international event on Global Entrepreneurship week with four other countries from Tiimiakatemia network. I have learned so much about the University system in here and also little bit about what does it mean to start something totally new and creative in the University world, it’s not that easy believe me. And I think the most important thing has been that I have clarified what I really want to do in future and the next steps for it, but also it has made me a lot hungrier to reach the next levels sooner in future!

I would just recommend this to all the people who are thinking of starting own company or has already started one and want to go international with it, of course this is just one way, but it worked for me so it might also work for you! Or maybe you can have some start-up entrepreneur from Europe working in your company?

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New Year New Goals!

It´s always exciting to start the New Year, you go through what has happened last year, start to think your goals for coming year and how you are going to get the most out of it.

For me the year 2013 was maybe the best year in my life, I had just graduated from the Bachelor of Business Administration degree, I travelled three months around the world and continued travelling a bit more randomly for few more months. I got into Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program and got the opportunity to work in UK with Akatemia CIC, which has been amazing in many ways, I have made a lot new connections and learn so much about Team Coaching, University systems and about my selve. And before Christmas I heard that Northumbria University wants to make a contract with me for the semester 2, so I could stay in Newcastle until end of June. I just feel really lucky and happy that I have had so great year behind.

But now it´s time to look forward and to think how will I make this year even better then the one before. I know that the spring will be amazing at Northumbria Uni, when I can really put my knowledge from the team learning and team coaching into action and to develop my skills on those everyday and also to learn about how to create new cultures and how to get the most of the others into it, because I believe those are something you can only learn by practicing them a lot.

This spring will also crystallize a lot my learning’s from the time I studied at Tiimiakatemia, because I really have to reflect what happened in our journey there and what are the things which helps us to plan how will the Tiimiakatemia degrees second and third year will look like in here and plan what should we change for the new generation who will start in September 2014.

Also health is one big thing people always think when the year changes, everyone things “now I will start to do sports”. And I am not exception, I bought a bike today so I will use only that for moving to work and back and on Monday my membership to Sport Centre will start, even that doesn´t mean anything yet. But I will show I can practice at least four times a week, because I believe this will also give me a lot energy to achieve my other goals and as an extra to get me to the beach condition for summer. 😉 So wish me luck to my goal for healthier lifestyle!

Now some of you might think, so what will happen after June then? But the truth is that even I don´t know yet and actually that makes it exciting and also motivating to do my job as well as possible! So hopefully I will have many options to choose from when the time is right.

Have you thought about your goals for the year? I can promise that the chance to reach them is a lot bigger when you really think them through and create steps “how will I reach these goals” and the most important thing, remember to enjoy of doing that!

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Lot of learning in short time!

One month has passed in UK and I can say I have enjoyed of every moment! I have found amazing new friends, started new hobby (gymnastics) and the work I do is so much fun!

This month has also helped me to understand my business goals better. What do I really want to do and how? I want to specialise and to become master of team learning and team coaching! 

The challenge is how I make a product or service out of that and how do I sell it to people? And how people are even going to find me?

I took my first step toward that few days ago when I bought my own domain name www.dreamster.fi, so now I can start to create my own website, I am so excited of that!

And I am also so lucky that I get to train my skills as a team coach in Northumbia University at the moment, it´s also great to be part of the process, because everything is new in here and they are literally creating the degree as we go forward with this! So I am also learning how to adapt something like this to new environments like to other University´s or Company´s!

I also need more theory to reach my goals and actually I have found the passion to read again, I noticed that I need some action going on be able to read and to be able to put the knowledge right in the action! So at the moment I am working on with Visual Teams from David Sibbet and Innovate or Die from Jack Collis! And they are both very inspiring books, so I can recommend those to everyone!

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Newcastle here I come

It´s starting to become reality. In few weeks I am really moving to Newcastle for four months. It´s really crazy and I am super excited. Thanks to Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program of funding, Akatemia CIC to be my host Entrepreneurs and University of Northumbria that I can locate in your space and to be part of your journey with Entrepreneurship program. It is going to be amazing to get into Tiimiakatemia life in UK, to understand how everything started in there, what´s happening now when first penguins has just started and how can we get even more people involved in future?

Even I am really going there, things are still in the process, I still don´t have flights or I don´t know where I will live. But something I have learned in Tiimiakatemia is to tolerate incompleteness. I believe those things will fall into places somehow, so I it does not help to stress about them, you just have to trust the process. But I still wish I have news to you soon about the details. 😀

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