Adapting to a new culture does not mean replacing your own


Shaima Abdelmageed is originally from Sudan but she was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. Shaima came to Finland to study for a Master’s degree and 10 years on, she has been living in Finland for a decade and is now a Finnish citizen. Shaima works as Business Solutions Manager at Auga Technologies.

Shaima Abdelmageed We Work

Tell us the story of how you ended up in Finland?

I have always been self-driven, motivated by my own hopes and dreams, and pragmatic beyond my years. Maintaining any of these traits has led to an interesting journey and got me to where I am today. I came to Finland in 2010 to study for a Master of Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Vaasa. I graduated 2 years later and had been working for a month by that time. I focused on work for the first 3 years; to prove to my employer that they had made the right choice. After my first promotion to the Product Manager role, I switched to part-time work to dedicate more of my focus to my research. The decision was not easy to make, especially because I love my job and enjoy working with my team to find solutions to our customers’ problems. It was however also the best decision because it allowed me to conclude my research and obtain my doctorate degree from the University of Vaasa.

As I started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I decided to begin another challenge, executive MBA at Hanken, which I completed earlier this year. I now work at the same company as a business solutions manager with a complete profile of a technology leader, ready to take on any future challenges.

What has helped you along the way in your professional career in Finland?

I think it was mainly networking that helped get me noticed. I like meeting new people at a professional capacity, and I have had many vibrant discussions at job-fairs and professional mingling events. I rarely shy away from standing out in person or in writing (i.e. cover letters) and that made me memorable – so I used every chance I got to go to an interview, I have had 3 in total before I landed my first job in Finland. And 8 years and two promotions later, I am still working for the same company.

What main obstacles have you experienced?

I’d say the biggest obstacle was getting the attention of the employer; because once you do, it goes down to skills and capabilities. There is a massive amount of CV:s sent every day, and the challenge is to make the recruiter pick up yours with the interest to know more.

Another hurdle can be your mindset. It might lead you to take rejection personally. It is important to realise, that not being invited to an interview or not being selected to the next round is not personal and most importantly, it is not a testament to your ability to land another job in the future. The right candidate is not always the one that meets the required skills and capabilities, there is also the question of being fit for the company’s culture, sharing the same values, and sometimes being enthusiastic about the company’s mission.

What do you see as the main value of international professionals working in Finland?

Stronger together is not an overused cliché anymore – we are in fact stronger when we group our efforts and focus on the same goal. Think about rebuilding the economy after COVID-19, and how fast that could be achieved if we infuse international talents into the workforce in Finland? The potential is limitless!

It is like dipping your toes in an endless pool because borders will no longer define the limits. It is a tool to maximise talent utilisation and boost the Finnish economy with all that it needs, not just to bounce back but to succeed in the rear lights of COVID-19. With the imported talent, Finland can bring back production to the homeland, cover the shortage in medical staff, end the dilemma of seasonal work, accelerate growth and start exporting again.

How would you comment on the language matter, how has the languages you speak helped you?

In my field of Information Technology, English is the main language. Being fluent in English has helped me a lot, it is very appreciated when it is the only common language. I only needed to learn Swedish to bond with my colleagues and perhaps get some of the jokes exchanged over lunch.

What is your message to international job seekers in Finland?

I have a few tips to the international job seekers, although it usually comes down to adopting a positive and healthy attitude.

– Optimise your CV to be concise and to the point, no one really needs more than one page.  Always write a cover letter, not to elaborate on your CV, but to tell more about yourself and why you are the right fit for the job – think of this as answering the question; tell me more about yourself and why should we hire you? Do not be afraid to stand out in your letter, this is your chance to shine!

– Train yourself to accept rejection, because it will happen. When it does, see if you can get the reasons behind it so you can work on them.

– Be authentic to who you are as a person, it will show if you are not. Remember that adapting to a new culture does not mean replacing your own.

– Do not just apply to any job, try to have a plan as to where you want to be in 2, 5, and 10 years from now. Then decide what role would fit in that journey, because if all your steps are in the right direction, you will get there eventually. Be selective!

What is your message to companies employing people in Finland? Why is diversity important in your opinion?

If you are wondering whether introducing diversity into your company would compromise the company’s culture, you got it wrong! Your company’s culture has nothing to do with where the employees come from, but rather where you as a company belong. Accepting and embracing diversity is your first step towards unlocking the limitless potentials of that endless talent pool.

Diversity is our way to ensure equality & equity; making sure that applicants are given a fair chance at a position regardless of your gender, ethnicity, and persuasion. Screening only for skills & capabilities and being fit for the company’s culture to give the world a chance to come together as one.

I have discussed the concept of the world as one human body in an article titled “Once upon a time… Life!“, which I have quoted here above as well.


If you are an international professional living in Finland, you can register your CV with Pointer Potential here.

More than 400 000 people with an international background live in Finland. In Helsinki alone, every sixth person has a background other than Finnish. The We Work-series shares glimpses of the real-life stories of international professionals living and working in Finland.

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