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

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

My long journey towards a Master Degree


I am Habib Adnan Habib Al-muhanna, born in 1972 in Baghdad, Iraq, an electrical engineer, finished my undergraduate education in 1995 in Baghdad, obtained a post graduate diploma in Energy Management in 2014, and a Master degree in Engineering from Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK) in 2018. Since 2010 I was employed as an official in the government in Iraq, my current post is an engineer.

The beginning of the journey. I believe that I started my efforts to obtain a Master degree in the middle of the 90’s in the last century. I tried to achieve that goal in Iraq and abroad.

At the middle of the journey, Dalarna / Sweden. In 2006, I was close to study for a Master degree in Sweden after I got an admission from Dalarna University, but I couldn’t get a student visa.

Through the journey, Special day in Tehran. It was in 2016, the day that I went to the Finnish embassy in Tehran, for confirmation of identity. At that day I woke up early in Mashhad, flew to Tehran and flew back to Mashhad at night. That day was one of the hard-to-forget-days for me for number of reasons. It was an important step in the application process for the Master Degree Programme.

End of this journey. Graduation in 2018. writer with diploma

Goal and Motivation. I believe that it is an important thing to seek knowledge, but also, and probably more, important is the motivation(s).
There is a big difference between someone who seeks postgraduate education just for personal social and financial benefits, and someone who does that for such benefits and for other reasons, too, like participating in doing good things for others.

Appreciation. Reaching the goal, that I worked for for a long time, and managed after many attempts, meant a lot to me. I am grateful to my family and to every person who had a role in that achievement, especially my tutors in my dear SAMK.

Ambition, probably another journey. It is also important to use that degree and that knowledge efficiently for doing useful things in the personal domain and for other people. That is another goal, and probably another journey, too.

writer indoors in front of a door and flags

Habib Adnan Habib Al-muhanna
Master of Engineering
Electrical Engineer, works in Baghdad / Iraq

Finding Serendipity

I am a physiotherapist. I’m not a man of religion, nor am I a mathematician. Life, however, will face you with opportunities, from which you have to choose. Some will lead nowhere, some will offer you change, but only a handful will be significant. Out of those only a few will lead to happiness.

I would like to mention four personal ones, which have happened during my 37+ years on earth.

1. I was a 21 years old paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Force, and it was my 3rd year of service. Unlike my previous years I was now serving under a Major who I have found to be unsuitable for the job. I was his radio man, and therefore had to spend my entire time beside him. I had a few more months to serve, but every month in that role was feeling to me like four. A deep voice inside of me called me to try and find a creative solution.

One day, I overheard the Regimental Adjutant talk to a colleague about the opportunities to fly and work in a summer camp for children in the US, as a part of the service itself. “When opportunity knocks”, I thought, “one should answer”. I immediately applied for that program, not thinking that there is a chance I would be invited to one, two and then three exams, only to find myself teaching music to children in a summer camp in Arizona, 4 months before my release date.

I had made good friends there, who offered me to return after I was officially released. And so I did.

’When opportunity knocks’, I thought, ’one should answer’.

2. After working there for a few months, I met up with a good friend and we decided to travel together in Asia. We flew to China, and headed to Tibet. Back in those days it was almost impossible for foreigners to enter that region. After a long trip to the check point, we understood there are not too many options for us, and decided to skip Lhasa and head to the opposite direction – south, toward Laos.

In Laos I met a Finnish girl who ended up being my girlfriend. After a year and a half of flying on the Tel-Aviv-Helsinki line, we decided to move in together. I wanted to become a physiotherapist. There were plenty of options to do so in Israel, but that same old voice called me to look for a program in Finland. And so I founded myself living in Pori for 4 years.

3. I was a basketball fan since I was 13. The red flags of Hapoel Jerusalem Basketball Club decorated my room walls while growing up. I used to follow them in rain or shine, thick and thin. I was 30 when I was sitting in the staff room of the health care center I was working in, and heard my colleague talk about an opening junior physiotherapist position. “It is now or never”, said the voice, “now or never”. So I applied. And found myself occupying my dream job.
Hapoel Jerusalem BC

After finding my professional path, it was time to put an emphasis on even more personal issues.

4. I was 35 years old and dating online a lot. Some may say too much. So when a girl with no picture in one of those websites approached me, I would usually politely decline. On one magical late night, and after a very friendly approach, for no real reason, the voice (who was quite tired at the time) said “hey, really, why not?”.

I have been the Head Physiotherapist for Hapoel Jerusalem Basketball Club (2014/15 Israeli Champions) since 2014, and I am married to Fay, my late night-online-no picture love. We’ve just had our first baby boy.

Life will hand you the cards.
Listen to the voice.
Don’t be afraid.
Choose your path.

Yannai Barak SAMK alumniYannai Barak
Head Physiotherapist for Hapoel Jerusalem Basketball Club
Bachelor of Health Care (Physiotherapist, degree programme in Physiotherapy)

Main photo by Bernie Ardov

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat – Complacency did

I’ll start by taking a moment to talk about something I know extremely well: Marketing.

If you ask a modern marketer what is one of the biggest challenges they face, most of them will list the following: Keeping up with latest trends and technologies.

See, already today, the tech stack is endless; And more platforms are born every day. At the same time, the buying process is changing from linear to non-linear. From logical to jumpy, messy, and unpredictable.

The power has been shifted from companies to consumers as the internet serves as the ultimate catalog to self-serve and to self-educate. For us, marketers, all of this means that we have to find new and more efficient ways to cater to the customers in whatever platforms or devices they are on, at any particular time.

We have to be able to serve customers on their terms and not ours.

What’s this have to do with learning?

Simply put: If you want to stay relevant, you have to be willing to put in the work and learn whatever comes your way. And that, my friend, has been my biggest realization – Continuous learning and self-development is the key to sustainable success.

Not knowing is ok, too.

Don’t be fooled by the “read it and repeat it” concept. It is not impressive to sound like your source of knowledge is coming directly from Google or Wikipedia. There are times that Google comes in handy – but many, including myself, find it refreshing to hear someone admit, “Hey, I don’t know the answer to that, but I am willing to find out for you!”.

Don’t be afraid to admit not knowing all things. Admitting actually empowers you; It gives you the permission to move forward, to pursue the right answer by creating, testing, learning, and adapting.

Admission is power, because one day a strategy works, and tomorrow something new comes along. We are in constant flux, so to say, and there is no room to remain stagnant.

If we live in a world where information drives what we do, the information we get becomes the most important thing. The person who chooses that information has power. – Seth Godin

Curiosity is a superpower

In all this, I am glad to say that I have always had a curious mind. I just never realized how big of an advantage it gives me, until now, of course.

I never thought learning could be a superpower, but here I am, enjoying the ride of never ending self-education. It took me a while to realize my passion for learning, but today, I treat every moment and every meeting as an opportunity to listen and learn.

”Most of the successful people I have known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” ― Bernard M. Baruch

Taking action

Understanding the need for learning and acting on that need are very different. Which is why I want to give a couple of ideas on how to keep on learning while being busy building a career. Here are my favorite things to do to keep me up to date with the latest tech and tactics.

I listen

I am OBSESSED with podcasts. I am also obsessed with learning from others (this requires listening… just saying).

I fill any “downtime moments” with valuable content. Podcasts are great because I can listen to an episode or two while driving from one meeting to another. Another reason why they’re so great is that they vary in length – You can choose one that fits with your travel schedule. Oh, how convenient!

I read

When I say I read, I don’t necessarily mean books.

The Internet is filled with in-depth articles and blogs. You can become an expert on any topic by searching and consuming online materials. It is all out there for you. All you need to do is get it!

Pro tip: If you really want to be on your A-game, then choose the best magazines and content providers in your field and make sure you see their posts first. Almost all social media platforms allow you to give priority access to your newsfeed.´

I network

I seek out exciting events and seminars. Seminars, for one, offer great content. Secondly, they offer an excellent opportunity to connect face to face with other influencers. The key is to have a clear strategy: Are you going there to learn or to connect or, perhaps, do both?

Networking can also mean active participation in various social media groups. Actively commenting and asking helps you to build a personal brand. It helps you to make your name known, and the next time you approach a prospective client, they just might remember you from a conversation you had earlier on Twitter.

I build and test on my own

I have always upheld a website or two. Fiddling with sites has allowed me to test and try all the newest tools before offering to use them in client’s project.

I’ve also learned many crucial skills by diving deep into a challenge, testing solutions, and building the final solution by myself.

For me, the best way to approach this is to read a few articles about a certain theory, like growing your blog audience. Then, I’ll just repeat and adjust the steps mentioned. Sometimes I have to reverse-engineer something. This way, I’m able to check if it actually works.

Conquering new ground boosts your confidence and, most often, you get to be the first to pitch new solutions to clients… Which leads to my next point.

I pitch beyond my comfort zone and rise to the challenge

There will be a time when you have to face a client asking you “if you can deliver” on your promise. Those are the times to take a breather and deliver a confident “absolutely” topped with a smile. To fulfill big promises might take up a bit more of your time, but what a way to grow, am I right?!

In conclusion, the sooner you consider learning as a life skill, the sooner you start finding success in whatever you do.

Just one more thing. I listed my favorite podcasts for learning below. They offer inspiration, lessons from life and, most importantly, they offer valuable information. Enjoy the short video I made for you!

PS. If you want to get to know me a bit better, visit for more insight.

Joonas Villanen SAMK alumni Joonas Villanen
Bachelor of Business Administration (degree programme in Innovative Business Services)