Meet our alumna! Megan combined natural resource management and policy in her studies


Name: Megan McCormick
Study field: Forest Sciences and Business; Forestry Policy and Economics
Graduation year: 2011
Employer and position: Pöyry Management Consulting, Bioenergy Analyst

Hi Megan, how did you end up in Finland?

Recently after having graduated from my Bachelor’s degree at Towson University in Maryland, USA, I was researching my opportunities to continue my education abroad. At this time, some mutual friends of mine had studied abroad in Finland and introduced me to their Finnish friends, who informed me that pursuing a Master’s degree in English was possible, and I decided to look into that option. The conditions were (nearly) ideal: a developed country, the program in English, low registration and tuition fees and an opportunity to travel.

You studied at University of Helsinki in the master’s degree programme of Forest Science and Business. What motivated you in your studies?

I decided upon this programme, due to it’s relevance to my previous degrees in Environmental Studies and Political Science. This programme seemed to combine my interests in natural resource management and policy. I was especially motivated by the flexibility in designing our programme to our own interests. I was encouraged to supplement courses from the University of Helsinki also with the Helsinki School of Economics and was able to find many professors that had deep practical knowledge in my fields of interest. The level of expertise and flexibility in determining my own path were highly motivational.

How did the studies support your employability aspect? Where you did your internship and what kind of experience was that?

I focused my studies and thesis topic on issues that seemed to be growing in importance in the real world. I wanted to see the impact of projects, financing and political action on achieving targets and my ability to contribute to positive change. I did my internship at the Finnish Forestry Research Institute (METLA), and it was a great experience because I was given a great deal of responsibility from the start and learned a lot about project management and participate in dynamic discussions by experts from around Europe on forest inventory methods, such as remote sensing, and statistical methods. Despite that these were not my primary areas of interest, it gave me the opportunity to network in my field and introduced me to the working culture in Finland. After the first months of internship, METLA asked me to stay on with them until the conclusion of the project that I was involved in. I spent over a year working with the same team and learning and growing under the supervision of world-class experts.

How did University of Helsinki provide you with support, advice and guidance?

The University of Helsinki has a variety of support mechanisms, from the program coordinators to the career services department. Often students aren’t aware of the full spectrum of services. The programme coordinators were helpful in offering suggestions for places to do internships and suggesting the appropriate professors to turn to for thesis supervision.

What concrete benefits have you gained from your international background?

Energy and resource intensive industries are facing new risks and opportunities as resources are scarce. Therefore, a global perspective for resource management is an asset for risk management and innovative solutions that few businesses can afford to overlook. Additionally, I typically find it an advantage to be a native English speaker, as international companies based in Finland are keen to present a polished and professional front to their clients.

And disadvantages?

Networking and project involvement can be limited when Finnish is the dominant language. Therefore, the scope of my involvement is diminished at times. I don’t let that discourage me, however, because I continue to improve my Finnish and find ways to contribute to projects in other significant ways.

What kind of plans do you have for the future in Finland?

This year, I am eligible for my Finnish citizenship. Therefore, my major goal of the year is to continue to practice my Finnish language skills in order to pass the language test requirements and obtain dual citizenship! Otherwise, I continue to work in the same company for the last three years and develop my career competencies here.

Have you taken part in alumni activities?

I visit the University during the introductory courses of the International master’s degree programme of Forest Science and Business to give a short presentation to the incoming students about life in Finland after graduation. I mainly focus on the type of work I do now, to give them an idea of what they might like to do in their career. It’s great, because I enjoy my work and like to share my experiences about it!

Any good advice for the readers?

Take an active role in mapping your career. Only you can know what truly inspires and motivates you. Therefore, discuss with your professors what kind of opportunities await you outside of the University and make a list of the skills you will need in your career of choice.

Be active and get to know people in your field. Take part in student-organized events and use those opportunities to talk to people about their academic and career related activities. You never know how one acquaintance or one conversation could lead you into your next great opportunity.

When in Rome: I encourage everyone to embrace their own culture and shine as the beautiful individuals they are. Our differences allow us to contribute in unique ways and add value in problem solving situations. However, I would also encourage you to respect the Finnish way of life and make an effort to learn some of the language. Doing so will ease your transition and your life here, and it will also earn you the respect of your Finnish counterparts. You may plan to leave Finland after your studies, but bear in mind that life holds many surprises for you! Also, your future employer in Finland will be impressed with your efforts, even if you do not speak fluently. Regardless of your future plans in Finland, learning some of the language will open doors to you also. The real hidden gems in Finland are reserved for those that aren’t afraid to venture out of their comfort zone!