Kaksi henkilöä työvaatteissa katsoo kameraan.

From thesis to expertise: Valmet’s journey with an international graduate – Essential tips for successful collaboration

Mohan Chand Gurajala, a student originally from India at Aalto University, completed his thesis for Valmet and subsequently secured a job with the company. The supervisor of the thesis—and now colleague—Juhani Salonen, appreciates the fresh perspective the young international expert has brought to the team.

Three years ago, Valmet's Line R&D department in Jyväskylä hired a multidisciplinary group of three students from Aalto University to work on their theses as part of a 3D fibre technology development. One of the selected students was Mohan Chand Gurajala, who was studying in the Industrial Engineering and Management master's programme at Aalto University.

The thesis workers were chosen through an anonymous selection process, meaning details such as the applicants' names or ages were not visible to the company's representatives.

"When the selected names were revealed, I couldn't pronounce any of them. I consider the process good because different backgrounds could have unconsciously influenced the choices. We genuinely got the best applicants," says Juhani Salonen, industrial design manager at Valmet.

"I was really happy about the thesis work placement. It was the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and making contacts with companies was really difficult," recalls Gurajala.

This contact proved very beneficial; after the thesis project, Gurajala was hired as a development engineer in the Jyväskylä unit that had commissioned the thesis. He and Salonen, who was the supervisor in the thesis team, now work in the same team.

Kaksi miestä kävelee lumisessa maisemassa.

Cultural shocks are unavoidable. Mohan Chand Gurajala and Juhani Salonen enjoy the Finnish April weather at the Valmet Rautpohja factory area in Jyväskylä.

And how has the international expert fit into the team in Jyväskylä?

"Moving from Espoo to Jyväskylä was almost a bigger cultural shock than moving from India to Finland," laughs Gurajala.

"Mohan's diverse background has enriched our team and our work." 

Now, the young man has settled into the Central Finnish work community.

"Mohan's diverse background has enriched our team and our work. All forms of diversity are beneficial," says Salonen.

Of course, there have been some challenges. Despite Valmet's international presence, Finnish is predominantly spoken in the Jyväskylä office, requiring additional arrangements due to the varying language skills of team members. However, Gurajala is eager to learn more Finnish, believing it will open new opportunities and facilitate better integration. “I genuinely feel that learning the language has its own perks,” he says.

Gurajala himself has sometimes found it challenging to understand the more introverted Finns.

"In India, you always get feedback very directly. In Finland, at first, I didn't know at all whether I had done my job well or poorly."

In any case, he believes that by maintaining an open, curious and unbiased attitude, one can thrive; nowadays, Jyväskylä truly feels like home to him.

The two colleagues now share a common 'hobby': submitting ideas to Valmet’s innovation disclosure system. Over the past three years, the duo, along with other colleagues, has submitted a total of 14 ideas, six of which have been rewarded as patentable by Valmet's intellectual property rights experts. Several more are already in the works.


Tips for companies for hiring an international student.


Tips from an international student for companies.

Text: Sini Kaukonen
Photos: Mervi Kuoppamäki, Valmet

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