Alumni story: My journey to entrepreneurship

I’m Sandra Lusmägi, a graduate of Metropolia Business School. I started my studies in International Business and Logistics in 2013 and graduated in the summer of 2016. I am from Estonia, a small country very close to Finland, with a similar language and culture as Finnish, but still it was a big decision for me to leave my country of origin and start my life in a new place. The decision to come to Finland and the wonderful experience of being a student at Metropolia truly transformed my life and play a big role in my journey to entrepreneurship. I am now the founder and CEO of an international recruitment platform for students and graduates.

Having my own company was never really a plan, more like a wild dream. Even though I was a careful dreamer, I always felt my ambitions were too big for Estonia, I didn’t feel I belong to that society. The decision to move to Finland seemed enormous at that time, when my worldview was quite limited because I had not seen much of the outside world. So the time I started my studies at Metropolia, I was more focused on a getting a good job after graduation, but I, like many of my peers, had no clear idea what I would like to do. The three years worth of lessons and experiences shaped my character more than all my previous life experiences combined.

My introduction to the startup world is very much thanks to Metropolia Business School. The school offered some free tickets to Slush in 2013, this was during my first semester of studies. When I applied to study, I made a promise to myself to make the most out of this experience if I get a study place, so to keep that promise to myself, I always said yes to any new experience and was quite the activist throughout the years. Slush is now a worldwide phenomenon, a startup conference of massive scale, growing from 5500 visitors in 2013 to 17 500 visitors in 2016. Getting those tickets in 2013 opened up a whole new world for me. I was so inspired by the incredible ambition of these startups and by ability to not only think big, but to act on those ideas and bring them to life. These startups and their founders I discovered thanks to Slush became my role models. I learned a lot about new technologies and trends of the future, the words like disruption, venture capital,unicorns and exits were like learning a new language and discovering a new culture. A place where I felt I finally fit in. I have kept going back to Slush every year now, and in 2017 I will be there to represent my own startup Wanderwork, that is pretty much a dream come true for me.

I get asked a lot about where I got the idea to create Wanderwork and it always goes back to my experiences as a student and living in a foreign country. By the time I was done with coursework and it was time to do the work placement, I already felt like a global citizen. My network was full of people from all over the world, I had been on exchange in Hong Kong, and my worldview had expanded a lot compared to when I just started out. Because of all the positive experiences and changed mindset I wanted to do something to help others experience similar things. Doing my internship at a startup accelerator gave me the final confidence boost to start my own project. I wasn’t looking for an idea, instead, I saw a problem: searching for internships abroad is difficult – so I decided to create a platform for students and graduates to help them start their international careers.

Wanderwork got started by connecting the dots and having a strong vision. For me that vision is that the students of today are the talent of the future. There will be a massive demographic shift in the coming years and the war for talent will intensify. I believe education is the ultimate equaliser. So with Wanderwork, we are giving an equal opportunity to students and graduates from all over the world to find internships and jobs. Right now we are facing an issue of asymmetric information – jobs and  potential workers might not be located in the same geographic location, yet it is easier than ever to move around. A student from Germany can just as easily work in Finland or in Italy. The free movement within European Union is something that is still underutilized by young people, simply because they don’t know information about the availability of jobs in other countries. There might be more paperwork involved with going outside of EU, but it’s certainly a possibility, and we hope Wanderwork can help out students to find relevant information and opportunities anywhere in world. When it comes to employers, they want their positions filled by qualified people, so I think the world is moving in that direction that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what matters is the skills and your motivation to perform really well. Wanderwork is connecting adventurous young professionals with globally minded companies. It is not just a business, it is a movement – it’s about empowering the students to recognize their potential and grow into global professionals of the future.

Although I can say that studying in Finland, especially in Metropolia Business School, has been the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, it led to many discoveries and opened doors, eventually it is up to every person to enter the door themself. This is why I urge every student who is reading this now to not pass up on the opportunities which are presented to you every day. I value education highly, but it’s more than just going to lectures and finishing assignments, it’s about saying yes to more things, being actively involved in extracurricular activities, those are the things that will ultimately set you apart and help you find your path.

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