A summer well spent as a Research Trainee at VTT

Five years at the technology university here in Otaniemi with occasional guest lectures given by VTTers has shaped my perception of VTT as a place where the real experts work and where you go to be at the cutting edge of –in my case- energy systems research. Needless to say, I’ve wished to work here for some time already. The chance to do so this summer made me drop another job opportunity –and you’d think that that high expectations actually makes a real set up for disappointment. However, the past two and a half months have been everything but.

Hands-on work in real projects

During the relatively short time I’ve worked at VTT I’ve had the chance to participate in two very different projects; one where time was of the essence and another which will be more long-running and which has co-authors in other countries as well. The first project was a summary and comparison of the different impact assessments made by EU member states regarding  the EU 2030 energy package, and I got to write the parts concerning a couple of the countries. I was surprised to be given that chance and responsibility right away and even more surprised when I to my delight saw that I am even mentioned as a co-author! That exceeded my expectations of what a summer trainee gets to do.

The second project which is under work right now is part of the IEA’s Nordic Energy Technology Perspectives 2016 book and concerns urban energy use in the Nordic countries. Here I am collecting and compiling basic data to assist the other team members in their writing of the chapter.

The greatest part about both projects is that I am being paid to read about interesting things and in some cases dig into questions I’ve long wished to know more about. The challenges are perhaps putting the findings into words, and more acutely into perspective; when you are only just beginning to read about a different country’s past and present energy politics, it is sometimes hard to know what is relevant or which earlier, national or international, agreements might lie behind a certain decision or make another one moot. However there is plenty of support just a few desks away if you just ask for it.

A glimpse in to research work

In addition to training different skills when working on different projects I feel like this summer has been a good intro to what research work is like; sometimes you have to make the most out of what you have and compile something useful in a short time, and on other projects you have more time and many international partners to bounce ideas off, discuss things –and to wait for.

After seeing only two projects I am obviously not really in a position to judge, but it seems like all projects are different. That’s usually right there at the top of the list if you ask people what they want from a job: they want varying work, project work. What’s delighting is also the coffee brakes during which news regarding energy politics are discussed and I can pick the brains of Finland’s leading energy specialists if I like to!

What makes a good working life?

As a young person on the verge of entering into the workforce I’ve found myself contemplating working life all the more often during this past year, and even participating in projects and programs where it is discussed. It seems to be something of an ongoing trend right now to ponder what work should be like; the talk of autonomy at work, of mobile work, of what makes a good working environment –and obviously I can’t help but use my current workplace as a reference point.

I am in awe at how well we summer trainees and master thesis workers were received and taken care of. Everything from the introduction to practicalities to the warm welcome into the VTT Young Professionals network –thank you VTT YP for all your events! It is great that there are so many so that everyone truly has a chance to attend at some point, even during the summer when I was expecting social happenings at work to be a bit toned down due to holidays!

Not to mention the everyday life at the office, where the Energy Systems team has been remarkably welcoming, and I say remarkably because it is no easy feat to make new people, especially persons you know will not be employees for more than a few months, feel like a part of your group of long-time colleagues. The work community in the team in which I work has been more supportive and open to new members than in other companies where I’ve worked before.

The culture is inclusive, and I’ve felt appreciated even before “proving myself” at work. I’ve been given a good amount of responsibility and even grown to like the timecard system –it gives me the autonomy to work late one day and leave early another!

These are exciting times as VTT is learning how to cope with less support from the state and as we recently selected a new CEO –so much about working here is great, but of course there are always inspiring role models out there (Google’s creative Friday!) and new heights of excellence to be reached as a company. All I know is, I’ll be sad to leave and I’ll be following the news on how things are developing at VTT for a long time after my employment here ends in September!

A big, warm Thank You to VTT and all VTTers for this summer!

Amanda Björnberg

Research Trainee

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