From municipality employee to working in a start up

Satu Turula applied to Pioneers to expand her sustainability knowledge and experience an international placement in a different professional environment. She completed a placement at Biomimicry Frontiers, a sustainability consultancy in Berlin, where she immersed herself in the world of start-ups for the first time.

“Pioneers was a very positive experience which benefitted me personally and professionally. If you’re thinking of applying, do it! I would recommend it especially if you’re a bit more shy –it’s a great opportunity to try out something completely different in your career and meet new and interesting people.”

Satu Turula, Pioneer 2020

With previous experience working in the environmental sector – and a job working on sustainable public procurement at the City of Helsinki, Finland – Satu Turula decided to apply for the Pioneers programme after hearing about it from a colleague: “They were especially positive about their placement and we had a Pioneer complete a placement here before I joined. I only heard good things about the programme and thought I would be a good fit, as I had the relevant work experience and study background.” 

Satu was keen to gain more experience in sustainability and broaden her horizons: “Throughout my career I have considered the environmental crisis from many different angles and I wanted to gain new experiences, tackle challenges, expand my network and find out whether I would enjoy working abroad.”

For her placement, Satu went to Berlin to work for Biomimicry Frontiers, a sustainability consultancy providing support on biomimicry, a practice inspired by strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges. “It was a totally different working environment,” says Satu. “I had little experience of the private sector and zero experience working for start-ups. I learned a lot about how they function, their working methods and I really enjoyed the international environment, engaging with experts in different fields. Also, my public sector expertise was really appreciated by the start-up.”

One of Satu’s favourite aspects of the placement was working closely with her host, Asha Singhal: “I really clicked with my host – she went beyond all my expectations – and we learned a lot from each other. We worked together very effectively, using feedback loops on a daily basis to progress quickly. We share a love of biology, so we found out we had a lot in common. I also enjoyed discussing with her what it is like to be an ambitious young woman working in sustainability”.

During the placement, Satu worked on research activities and communications. She helped developed a business plan for the European market, where Biomimicry Frontiers is building new operations: “We worked closely together to build contacts with organisations interested in the possibilities of biomimicry to help with climate change adaptation,” says Satu. “I used systems innovations tools to identify barriers and thanks to my work, the organisation began discussions with several potential new customers,” she adds.

The placement was Satu’s favourite part of the Pioneers programme: “Biomimcry Frontiers was my first choice for the placement, it interested and scared me at the same time! Working in a biomimicry-focused start-up was totally different to anything I’d done before professionally and I learned a lot about climate change mitigation, nature-based solutions as well as agile working methods. Although I was already a young professional with over three years’ experience – no longer a recent graduate – it was a valuable experience for me.” Satu participated in Pioneers while still working for the City of Helsinki. “I was very busy but I totally recommend it – the programme was totally worth it and I encourage people thinking of applying to make time for it.”