Family, full-time work and Master’s degree – mission impossible?

Vaalea kuva, jossa on kynä ja vihko. Vihossa on teksti "yearly planner".

Studying for a master’s degree was a dream of mine for several years. Years passed and I waited for the right time to apply – which ironically occurred when I was a mother of a one-year-old. Now, with hindsight, I would ask myself again whether it is a good idea to start studying while suffering from severe sleep deprivation. During the entrance examination interview, I was asked how I was going to combine a balanced family life, a demanding full-time occupation and master level studies. Optimistically I said that “when there is a will, there is a way”. I was admitted to SAMK, and the studies started nicely with a great group of fellow students. Then life happened; unexpected illness, changes in private life and suddenly I struggled to find the time and energy to follow the planned pace of the studies. Eventually, I had to enroll absent and apply for more study time. It definitely was not how I planned my own studies to go.

When I finally felt like my life and health were back in balance, I decided to continue my studies. While working full time, and all of a sudden having a family of six, it again felt impossible to find the time to focus on my master’s thesis and finish it before the end of my study period. During 2022 Christmas break, I made one of the best decisions so far and asked my manager for a four-month study leave to write my thesis. My employer and colleagues were incredibly supportive and a month later I found myself writing an out of the office message to my Outlook. The adult education allowance made it possible for me to take a clear break from my work and focus purely on my thesis.

Knowing that the schedule was tight and that I had no other choice than to finalize everything by the summer holidays, I made myself an ambitious schedule – which by the way did not take into consideration possible covid or stomach flues which of course visited our family during my study leave. Almost every morning, I headed to the campus and worked in the library for six to eight hours. For me it was the best place to write as pertinent books were close by, and there were no distractions such as undone domestic chores tempting me to procrastinate. My thesis was my full-time work for four months. Establishing good study routines helped with time management.

I thought I had a clear plan for my thesis, but I soon understood that I needed to re-evaluate the objectives. First, it felt pointless and a waste of time but soon I noticed how crucial it was to have a proper plan. My thesis allowed me to explore topics which were not directly related to my own daily work. When doing the literature review, I realised that the topic was timely. I became thirsty for knowledge. There were days when I felt like I was drowning in the abundance of information, and I struggled to narrow down the topic. It was important for me to clarify what was actually relevant to the study, and what was only interesting to myself and had to be excluded from the thesis. Even on the very last weeks of my study leave, I had not found the common thread to tie all the information together and the thesis seemed like an unfinished puzzle. Once I found it, I started critically narrowing down and removing irrelevant text. While it at first felt terrible to press delete and remove text to which I had put so much time and effort, my master’s thesis finally started to make sense and develop its final shape.

I was happy to return to my daily work after my study leave. During the spring of 2023, I had learned so much about the thesis topic that I was inspired to look at supply chain challenges with a new perspective. In 2024, we have read a lot about the political strikes which have caused significant supply chain disruptions or how the Red Sea crisis has forced companies to reorganise their logistics. Now, I immediately evaluate the impact of these events and whether companies are resilient enough. My level of curiosity – and knowledge – has increased.

When I received the email informing me that my master’s thesis was given a certificate of honour in the Osaaja 2023 competition and I was asked to do this writing, I felt emotional, grateful and honoured. My studies did not go ideally according to the planned schedule, but I did not quit. Instead, I rose to the challenge and with hard work succeeded. To me, my thesis symbolizes perseverance and determination. I am thankful for all the support and guidance throughout this journey. If you are in the middle of writing your thesis and feel lost, take a deep breath and ask for guidance, do not despair.

Pauliina Peltomäki, kasvokuva

The author Pauliina Peltomäki graduated in June 2023 (MBA) from Business Management and Entrepreneurship programme. She works as a Strategic Buyer (indirect procurement) for Kongsberg Maritime Finland OY. After saying “this is it, no more studies”, she found herself googling “doctoral studies” on her graduation day.

Pauliina Peltomäki’s thesis Enabling Growth through Improved Forecasting and Collaboration was awarded in the Osaaja 2023 thesis competition. See the thesis.

Article photo: Pixabay/JessBaileyDesign