Robotics and artificial intelligence will steal our jobs, say the most sceptic of us. However, they also open up new pathways, and not just for engineers. The career path of Jenna Hurme, a robotics designer, is proof of this.
- I’m a bit surprised myself that I ended up working in a day job and in banking and insurance of all sectors. I studied catering business when I was young and for long dreamt of setting up a bar of my own. I worked in the sector for years, but gradually realised that this wasn’t my thing, Jenna recounts.
A friend in the UK gave a tip that an international insurance company was looking for customer service and back-office personnel from Finland.
- I had no relevant experience or education, so leaving scared me. The gap between a Finnish rock bar and a UK insurance company was momentous, but I settled in fast and noticed I was enjoying being there. I learned the processes and working with customers through work, and was also able to study business economics alongside work. In addition, I completed a degree in leadership while working so I managed to expand my skills quite broadly.
After some four years abroad, Jenna returned to Finland and joined the payroll of the company’s Helsinki office.
- I’d worked in Helsinki for just a couple of months when we heard that OP was buying our Finnish operations. This was excellent news to me because our office in Finland was small, with just over 10 people working there, so I would’ve had limited opportunities for advancement.
At OP, Jenna’s function was merged with life insurance.
- At OP Life Assurance, I worked first as a claims handler and then as a claims expert. Though I could, as an expert, take part in a range of interesting projects and operational development, after a couple of years I again felt the drive to learn new things. For quite some time I had dreamt of taking up a slightly more technical role and I decided that it was time to test my wings on that side as well. Since last summer, I’ve been working as a software robotics designer in Development Management, says Jenna.
A designer makes preliminary studies for robotics processes and looks for places where robotics could be put to use. They spend about half of their time in the technical implementation of robots, or modelling in other words. The boring routine tasks are given to robots so that the personnel will have more time to concentrate on actual customer service and on the things that create added value for customers.
Apply even if it scares you
Jenna says that her career jumps have always been spontaneous, not based on any years long plans.
- A jump into something new has always given me a sinking feeling in the stomach. Applying alone has often made me wonder: what will the others think and do I have what it takes? Yet each time the change has been worth it, and the fears existed only in my head.
Jenna believes that having people with different backgrounds is a benefit.
- Luckily, my current superior trusted, when recruiting me, that I’d learn the technical skills and use of the tools needed in my role while working, and indeed this is what happened. There are many technical experts in my team and I’m not even trying to vie with them in technical skills. Instead, my own long history in business brings a different perspective and knowhow to the team. When you have the right attitude and are willing to work to achieve your goals, you’ll do well in even surprising places. Not once have I felt like quitting even though learning new things has been challenging as well. A wonderful team of coworkers is what has carried me through tougher times. They are always there to help and offer laughter therapy, that is if you are into bad humour and corny jokes.
Learning new things takes an effort but is always much more rewarding than any routine work.
- Especially the technical challenges of my current job are very interesting, and when you figure out a solution to a problem, the sensation you get is awesome. I have to admit, though, that when I modelled my first robot I thought a few times that I was in over my head and doubted whether I’d ever learn modelling. Then when you gradually untangle the knots, start to know more and hit on new ideas, it’s really motivating. This builds up your self-confidence too, Jenna opines.
Indeed, Jenna encourages anyone interested in a career move to think whether robotics could be an area where they would like to enhance their competencies.
- The development we do is motivating also because we work close to the business divisions and often see the results of our work quickly and in a concrete way. Many people might find software robotics a somewhat alien and frightening concept, so it’s nice to see people getting excited when the robot is ready and its benefits become tangible.
- I definitely encourage people not to hesitate to apply for both different types of training and new jobs if they’re interested in learning new things. When you read a job ad, you often pay attention only to things that don’t match your current skills, and the threshold for filing the application can be high. Even so, you should shake off the traditional Finnish modesty for a second and boldly boost your skills and personality because it’s often the attitude that counts. If my career path from behind a bar desk to the world of robotics does not prove this, I don't know what does then, Jenna concludes.