Sebastian's story: a working life decathlon with people and influencing processes at its core

At the age of 7, I took part in my first training with Jyväskylä field athletes and I couldn't have imagined where it would take me. My journey with different people and diverse processes began at Harju's athletics field.

Detective, taxi driver, decathlon athlete and a coach

My childhood dream professions were a detective or a taxi driver. The inspirations for these professions came from films, Donald Duck’s Magic Cape, and the desire to have a great car when I was old enough. Over time, and with sports hobbies, my future work interests changed direction slightly, but the idea of a journey and an idea of a kind of detective work remained.

As my decathlon training became more and more intense in my teens, my thoughts about future work shifted to what kind of place of study would allow for professional training. As a resident of Jyväskylä, I was lucky because my hometown had the University of Jyväskylä Faculty of Sports Sciences, coaches, and training conditions suitable for decathlon. Indeed, this equation was sufficient to guide where my interest in studies and future work should be directed.

Towards studies – running, jumping, and throwing

The dream of studying sports science came true when, after high school and the military, I started studies in Sports and Health Sciences, specialising in sports coaching. This made it possible for me to fully invest in sports while securing preparatory studies for the profession. It was amazing to be on the national decathlon team, to challenge my own limits, and to study a profession that combined theory and practical themes at the center of things that interest me.

At the final stages of graduating, my decathlete career ended, which freed up time and energy for me to expand my studies from the field of coaching into areas such as social media, journalism, adult education, and management. Alongside my Master's degree in Sports and Health Sciences I have studied another degree’s worth of other interesting topics. My university studies have not followed a straightforward sequence that proceeds according to an anticipated plan. They have been more a learning and evolving process that has been meaningful to go through, which holds true even now that that I am an alumni.

From conveyor belt to management teams

Alongside goal-oriented sports and continuous learning, I have always had a firm connection to work. I have been writing, teaching, and coaching ‘here and there’. During a student exchange in England, I also got to work on a conveyor belt in soap factory. I am grateful to have had this experience and I try to remind myself that the realities of work and progress do not always include the hype or the technological advancement that you hear about in seminars, during enthusiastic conversations in bars or in managerial updates.

After graduation, I have been employed by the following organisations: University of Jyväskylä, Keskisuomalainen Oyj, SUL, KIHU, Tapiola Pension, Tapiola, LähiTapiola and currently Humap. All of my work engagements have been related to goal-oriented learning processes where a group of people from different backgrounds and skills have strived to do something meaningful and impactful. My job roles have included themes such as coaching, well-being at work, development, communication, leadership, business, strategic change, and renewal. All in all, I have had almost 30 different job titles that I have received a salary for.  A kind of decathlon of working life, you might say.

Life lessons and free time

What have I learned? On one hand, people are very similar, but on the other hand, everyone is unique. We require security, acceptance, and we want to have faith in tomorrow and inspiring dreams. We long for meaningfulness and sense that our uniqueness contributes and drives impactful cooperation and services. 

What else have I learned? A coach and a leader are servants whose job it is to strive to influence the conditions that enable development and a journey toward goals. At the same time that we may have legal and administrative managers, we can each be leaders of our own work. With good energy and an active approach, each employee makes a significant contribution to the development of common goals and customer service.

On a common path to growth

I feel strongly that I have been able to express and apply myself in most of my work tasks. I use my personality and try to connect with the people I work with. My work in the development and management of various organisations is extremely rewarding, but of course it requires counterbalance and recovery. I get new energy from my family, our dog, exercise, outdoor activities and learning about various, sometimes surprising, areas of life. I strive to ensure that, through our common actions, we are making a better world every day; one discussion, a meeting, and a moment at a time.

I explore entities of work and life through my writing. Kun kiireestä tuli kupla (When rushing became a bubble - 2009), Viivan alle (Below the line - 2015) and Elämäni ottelu – urheilijan tien ja työelämän yhteiset pisteet (The game of my life – the similarities between working life and an athlete's career 2020) are my published books. In their own time and contexts, they describe phenomena that have interested me, and through which I have sought to stimulate debate. Our relationship with time, fairness, and learning journeys are the core themes of those books. Referencing these themes, I also engage in conversations in LinkedIn and Twitter.

Towards personal and professional growth

I encourage everyone to look for (and hopefully find) those areas of life that really interest them. I believe that through our own strengths and passions for things, we can work wonders together. Diversity is an asset and having a responsible set of core values is a competitiveness factor.

For my part, I look forward to my Business Coaching studies that will begin soon. I feel that as a continuation of previous professional studies, this process brings together topics that I believe in and that are of interest to me. I have also been thinking about a new book project that combines the themes of collaboration and leadership in a new way. Time will tell what happens in this regard.

Sebastian Siukonen