Alumnus of the week, Sirpa Nordlund: The musician turned manager


With a long career as an economist at various technology companies, few are aware of Sirpa Nordlund’s background in music. Her first foray into higher education was in fact at Sibelius Academy’s music education department, where she studied for four years. She’s still an active classical singer, something which has always been close to her heart.

While at the Sibelius Academy, Nordlund also studied several subjects at Helsinki University, including art history, musicology, sociology and economics – but she always felt there was something missing. A practical person at heart, Nordlund felt that university wasn’t providing her with the concrete skills she thought she needed, yet she didn’t quite have the burning passion required for a career in music either. Coming from a line of entrepreneurs, she finally had to admit to herself that a career in business was a natural fit for her, and it didn’t take her long to complete a master's degree in economics.

A change in careers pays off

Taking a different career path after many years of studying was a big step, and it took some courage. For a long time, Nordlund planned to combine music with economic sciences, but eventually the world of high tech won her over and music became a pastime. Nordlund is very pleased with her choice, even if her friends often wonder why she didn’t make a career out of music. ”Economics opened up a whole new world to me. I have absolutely no regrets about changing careers,” she says happily, and is quick to encourage others to boldly follow their dreams.

Currently, Nordlund is employed by Nets, a provider of digital payment services. It’s a highly responsible and demanding job – you have to put in long hours and make yourself available 24/7. But none of that is a problem as long as you enjoy what you do.

‘International’ is a word that keeps cropping up when she speaks of professional life in today’s world. Digitalisation is shrinking the world, and international reach is a must in many industries. Nordlund knows what she’s talking about – her career started at Nokia and eventually took her around the world. Today, she’s settled in Helsinki with her family, but she puts in about one third of her hours abroad. Nordlund encourages students to seize opportunities and participate in foreign exchange programmes or internships.

Music for life, if not as a career

Many students are unsure of what paths their careers will take and what their plans for the future are – something that Nordlund can easily relate to given her background. She thinks it’s never too late to stop and think about what you really want to do with your life, and then strive to achieve it. We only have one life, and even that one’s not forever. According to her philosophy, you have to make your life your own and leave the kind of mark you want.

Even if music didn't become a career for Nordlund, she doesn't think her years at the Sibelius Academy were wasted. Music continues to be a much-loved hobby, helping her cope with emotions and stress, and bringing deeper meaning to her life. Nordlund feels that music has brought her an abundance of joy, especially during some of the more challenging chapters in her life. “Music has saved me a lot of time and trouble, because I don’t need to pay for therapists to listen to my worries. My music is always there for me.”

Text: Eetu Sadeharju
The author is a Sibelius Academy student participating in the student-alumni mentoring programme.