| 13.01.2021

Hanken alumna Johanna Karanko shares what she has worked with during the past month

Johanna Karanko, 52, graduated from Hanken in Helsinki in 1993 with Management and Organisation as her major. Since September 2018, she has been working as Finland's Consul General in Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, the first Covid-19 case was discovered as early as 22 January and everyday life changed rapidly. Meetings, seminars, fairs and conferences were initially cancelled, but eventually the events were moved to digital platforms. 

"Since September, we are back to live meetings and it seems as if we are now catching up on everything that was postponed last spring and summer", says Johanna Karanko.

Karanko was aiming for an international career early on and thought she would work in an international company. 

"I graduated from Hanken at the same time as Finland was hit by a severe recession. My first job was for six months for a market research project at DHL International. As the situation on the labour market continued to be poor, I went to Spain on an Erasmus exchange as a licentiate student to become fluent in Spanish."

In the winter of 1994, she moved back to Finland and got a job as a coordinator for international relations at what later became Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. Two years later, she was recruited to the Foreign Ministry's diplomatic course, the so-called Kavaku training, with two other Hanken alumni. 

"In total, we were 13 economists out of 28 who started the training that year because of the emphasis on export promotion. I am still on this path and have now represented Finland as a diplomat for over 24 years." 

Finnish embassies and consulates have played an important role during the current global crisis. 

"The embassies have been Finland's eyes and ears that have informed the country's decision-makers about the situation around the world; about other governments' decisions and what stimulus packages have been launched. We have also helped Finns home when the air travel connections have not operated normally."

Companies in Finland have experienced declining export markets during the pandemic, not in the least in Southeast Asia. Here the embassies also play a role. 

"Through Team Finland, we help Finnish companies with operations in Asia to balance the negative economic effects of the pandemic."

Hong Kong has been shaken by riots in the past year, but the city also offers quiet areas. 

"I enjoy walking in Hong Kong's many nature parks. Only 25 percent of Hong Kong is built on and 40 percent are nature parks. As a diplomat, we are in one place three to four years and I want to see as much as possible while I’m here."

The interview was conducted in October 2020 and it was published in the Hanken magazine 1/2020, that came out in the end of November 2020. You can read the Magazine via this link.

Text: Johan Svenlin